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Here are some useful tips for preserving and caring for framed and unframed autographs. For more information, consult the excellent Library of Congress web pages devoted to Collections Care.
Framing autographs allows you to display them for both you and others to enjoy. Framing generally will not harm autographs if it is done correctly. Unless you know how to frame professionally, however, you should not attempt to do it yourself.
Framed autographs, and materials such as photographs that are framed with them, should touch only acid-free, archival quality materials. Glazing should be done with conservation glass, which keeps most of the harmful ultraviolet light from reaching the framed piece.
Since even conservation glass does not filter out 100% of ultraviolet rays, hang framed autographs away from direct sunlight direct and other intense light. Avoid fluorescent lights, which are common in office environments, because they also emit ultraviolet rays. Occasionally rotate the locations of framed autographs in order to vary their exposure to the light.
To minimize problems with moisture and heat, avoid hanging framed autographs on outside and basement walls, above working fireplaces and radiators, and in places with extreme fluctuations in temperature and humidity. A stable, cool, dry environment is best.
Unframed autographs should be placed in cellulose acetate, polyester, polyethylene, or polypropylene sheet protectors or paper folders and stored in albums or boxes.
All storage materials must be acid-free. Acid can easily transfer to an autograph and damage it. In particular, avoid storing autographs with newspaper or magazine clippings. The papers used for newspapers and magazines are made of wood pulp, which has a very high acid content.
Avoid storing autographs with other printed, photocopied, and typewritten materials as well. Ink and toner can also transfer to the autograph document.
A folded letter and document should be removed from the envelope, if it is enclosed in one, and flattened. Prolonged folding can result in deterioration in the folds. Putting the document into a sheet protector helps to flatten it. It can also be flattened on a flat surface between sheets of acid-free paper, weighted down with a book or something similar. Greater care must be used for brittle documents and those that have been folded for a long time.
Remove paper clips and staples from autograph documents. The metal can and does rust, and the resulting stains can damage the autograph.
Be careful about using ring binders for storage. If the autographs rub against the rings, which easily happens on the top or bottom of the rings when a binder is too full, the rings can easily damage the documents.
Finally, as with framed autographs, it is important to keep unframed autographs in proper light, heat, and humidity conditions.
Do not attempt to repair damaged autographs unless you know how to do so professionally. Improper attempts to repair documents can do more harm than good. Above all, do not use sticky, self-adhesive tape. It can stain a document and cause considerable damage in a short time.
For a good overview of how to care for and preserve damaged documents, see Elizabeth H. Dow, Manuscripts: Caring For The Mortally Wounded, 56 Manuscripts 115 (2004). Copies are available from The Manuscript Society.
We are always interested in buying quality autographs. See Selling Your Autographs.
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