Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Preservation Tips and Techniques Help Club Protect Family Heirlooms

Curator Julienne Crawford gives a presentation
on preserving family heirlooms for the
Heritage Seekers Genealogy Club of Arkansas.

Julienne Crawford picked up an acid-free box. Behind her, a PowerPoint outlined storage materials that would help preserve antiques and heirlooms.

“Light can damage certain material, including textiles, so storing material in boxes away from light is important,” Crawford said. In fact, the State Archives recently ran into the problem of “shattered” silk in a 1913 Arkansas state flag, she said. Crawford explained that not only light played into the silk shattering, but also that historic silks were often processed with salts to make it heavier to be sold by the pound and the salts damage the silk over time.

Crawford, the curator and collections services coordinator at the Arkansas State Archives, recently presented “Preserving Your Family Heirlooms” for the Heritage Seekers Genealogy Club of Arkansas at the Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock. About 22 people turned out to hear how best to care for old family photos, silver, glass, wood, quilts and other artifacts.

Crawford is knowledgeable in the preservation field, said Leeh Wilkinson, a club member who attended the lecture. Wilkinson said Crawford’s tips and demonstrations will help her preserve her own family’s history and heirlooms.

“We all have some things that – whether they are museum quality or not – they are important to us,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson brought her 91-year-old uncle’s photo album, filled with letters, to show Crawford. The letters are from people who were interested in her uncle’s pioneer dentistry in implants, Wilkinson said, but the paper was starting to adhere to the album’s magnetic pages.

Freezing the pages might help remove them, Crawford advised.

Other club members asked about best ways to preserve family quilts. Some quilts have a variety of material that can bleed and fade easily, Crawford said. Quilts should be unfolded and refolded periodically to prevent strain on only one area, rarely cleaned and never hung solely by their corners, she advised. Display time for quilts should be limited and they should be displayed flat if possible or with support all away across the quilt, such as adding a hanging sleeve.

Other tips for handling materials included washing hands frequently or wearing cotton or nitrile gloves; emptying salt shakers of salt to prevent corrosion; avoiding polishing silver, especially with commercial polishes and dips, because it can damage the item and rub the sliver off; and having jewelry professionally cleaned and checked for loose settings.

The presentation was “a good review of all the details,” said Dave Bash, who attended the lecture. Bash said he has done preservation work before and felt Crawford’s advice was spot on.
Throughout her lecture, Crawford repeated an important part of preserving and documenting the history of family heirlooms. Use a soft pencil and write down photo information on old family photos, for example, Crawford said. Sometimes, quilt-makers sew information about their quilts into their masterpieces, which can help later generations research.

Make a list of important heirlooms and write down the history, Crawford said. Whatever the heirloom is, from tea pot to vintage photo, write and keep information about it and its maker or owner, she added.

“The key is to document as much as you can and store the material in a climate controlled area with proper storage material,” Crawford said.

Preservation lectures are often requested by historical and genealogy associations, museums and educational groups and universities. The presentation helps people learn techniques to properly store and preserve historical material, Crawford said. To schedule an Arkansas State Archives speaker, visit http://archives.arkansas.gov/outreach/schedule-a-speaker.aspx or call the State Archives at 501-682-6900.