Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Saving An Old Journal

First let me apologize for leaving so long between blogs. We have been having glorious weather here and since we don't always know how long it's going to last here in the Pacific Northwest, I must confess I have been taking advantage of it and neglecting my blog!

Today I want to respond to a question I was asked about how to preserve an old journal. The first thing to remember is that two of the biggest contributors to the deterioration of old documents is acid in the paper and the oil from our hands that can transfer dirt onto the paper. Light and storage conditions, such as humidity, also contribute to deterioration.

To protect your documents from the oil in your hands I recommend wearing clean white cotton gloves. If you absolutely cannot find a pair of cotton gloves then make sure you wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling your old journals or documents.

The first thing I would do is make a copy of the journal. If you can open the journal flat without damaging it then use a flatbed scanner to make copies and preserve it digitally. If you cannot lay it flat enough to scan then enlist the help of a friend and take photographs. Have your friend gently hold the journal open as far as possible without damaging it and take photographs of the journal pages. (Make sure your friend wears cotton gloves or has washed and dried their hands thoroughly before starting) You may need to use a camera that has a macro setting in order to get clear pictures. Experiment with different camera settings and lighting to find what works best. The idea here is to have a backup that you can use for reading or scrapbooking to avoid excessive handling of the original.

Once you have made a copy the next step is slow down the deterioration caused from acid in the paper. To do this you need to deacidfy the paper. You could also get a ph testing pen or ph testing strips to test if the paper really is acidic but usually if I haven't purchased the paper myself and know 100% that it's acid free then I assume that the paper has some acidity to it. If there are already signs of yellowing and deterioration then you definitely want to deacidfy it. The best way to do this is with a product called Archival Mist from EK Success. This is not a cheap product but worth every penny when it comes to preserving handwritten journals or documents from our ancestors. A small bottle goes a long way and if you can't find it at your local scrapbook store there are lots of places online to get it. The materials in Archival Mist are non-toxic, non-hazadous, non-flammable and odor free. The solvents will not dissolve or affect inks, colors or adhesives, however, I always test a small area just to make sure the inks will not be affected. Follow the directions on the bottle and let the pages dry thoroughly before continuing.

Once you've made a copy and deacified the journal you want to store it safely. Keep old journals and documents in a cool, dry, dark place. In the case of something precious like a journal I would also place it inside an archival safe bag first. Again, if you cannot find archival safe bags locally then a search for "archival bags" on the internet will find several suppliers.

Thanks for stopping by


  1. I don't have a journal, but I have a very elaborate and colorful family record sheet from my husband's mother's family, which records three or four generations of that family. It is in terrible shape. I'm thinking of getting color copies made. I'd have to take it to Staples or somewhere like that, because it is just too big for home or library copiers. I think it is in survivable enough shape for such handling, with me standing over the clerk's shoulders to supervise! (grin) I am also thinking of taking digital photos of it, but I also want the copies made to scale. I am planning on making one for me and one for my sister-in-law, as I think she would be happy to have it.

  2. Hi Sue,

    Thanks so much for the information! It's exactly what I was looking for.


  3. you can get archival mist at Michael's and wait for the 40% off coupon