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Break out the white gloves

Museum teaches to preserve personal histories for future generations

Tread of Pioneers Museum curator Katie Peck demonstrates the correct way to preserve textiles for future generations.
John F. Russell

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Tread of Pioneers Museum curator Katie Peck and her mother already have started the long process of labeling their family photos for future generations.

“Although now it seems obvious who is in the pictures,” she said, “it won’t be in 100 years.”

Every year, the museum offers a free workshop to teach people how to preserve their precious family heirlooms – items such as photos, scrapbooks, china, furniture, silver, important documents and newspaper clippings. Among the lessons are how to properly handle and store such items.



“Things will break down with time, and human contact speeds up the process,” Peck said. “You don’t necessarily have to wear white cotton gloves. You can use latex gloves or wash your hands a lot before touching these items.”

The staff will offer a small inventory of archival equipment for purchase and a list of resources where you can find items such as acid-free pens for writing on the backs of photos and sleeves for preserving important photos and documents.



The first step for preserving photos is writing the names, dates and other identifying information on the back of each photograph with an acid-free archival pen.

“We will discuss the importance of scanning photos into digital files and making prints that you can pass around the family and make fun albums with,” said Candice Lombardo, executive director of the museum. “The reason why you scan the photos is because the organic material will fade and deteriorate over time, and it is the only way to surpass that.”

Some recent photographic processes are worse than those used at the turn of the century, so the age of the photograph is not necessarily a good indication of how long it will last.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when storing heirlooms is keeping them in their attic or basement.

“Those are the worst possible places because they are not heat controlled and basements are damp,” Lombardo said. “We offer this workshop once a year so people can meet directly with the museum staff and ask questions and see the methods hands on.”

The museum gets calls year-round about what to do with inherited items.

“People think of them as a burden because they don’t know what to do with them or how to store them,” Peck said. “The process can be fun and connect you more to your family and past and future generations.”


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