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Kevin Airrington is a professional genealogist & historian with 15+ years experience. Specializing in adoptions - It's Who I Am!™
Genealogy Tip of the Day!
Where can I see the old homestead?

There are three sites…one you are probably familiar with‚ it’s called Google earth.  The other two will take further explanation and there is not enough room so I will take you to another page for that.   Check for mapping your ancestors under free tips.  

As a collector of rare books your goal is to keep your collection in optimum shape. You’re careful with dust jackets and protect fragile books with clamshell cases. Even the way you shelve your rare books can impact their condition. It’s important that your home library provides the support and protection that rare books need.

Several people have emailed or called me and asked me about book or document preservation.  This is an important question since many of up have old books and heirloom documents that we would like to hang on to.




Alice from Oregon writes


I have the books wrapped in white tissue right now but was wondering when I give them back to Sandy if I should also put them in plastic zip bags?  I dont want them to take on moisture any more than they have already done in their long life.

Let me know what you think


  1. Definitely Tissue Paper…tissue paper protects your book from taking on acid and destroying the pages.
  2. Store in a dark place out of the light (not in an attic or basement where it would be likely to draw moisture (not on the floor especially a concrete floor as it could likely draw moisture)
  3. Do not lie flat…keep upright (the reason for this is that the books are supported by their own weight and not the weight of other books)
  4. *Do not keep books tight on the shelf allow air  to move all around the book.
  5. Handle books gently (I know you are already doing this.)
  6. I would not put in plastic zip lock bags unless you were transporting them and there was a chance of them coming in contact with a water source.  The reason is two fold.  If there is already moister in the pages you will not see or feel it and it will be trapped in there by the bag and mold will grow.  Second just as you need to protect your book from excessive moisture you also need some moisture to keep your pages from becoming brittle.


*Storing Rare Books Properly
It’s important to store rare books with care; rubbing pulling and pushing can all cause unnecessary damage and decrease the value of rare books and manuscripts. It’s easy to simply place books on the shelves straight up and down but that isn’t always the best position for your books.

  • Avoid letting books slouch on the shelf. Any book with a spine wider than three inches or taller than 18 inches should be laid flat. The bindings of these books sometimes cannot support the spine weakening the spine warping the covers and damaging the pages.
  • Do not stack these books more than three volumes high. Too much weight can warp the covers of the lower books.
  • Give your books a little space to breathe on the shelf. They should be close enough to support each other but not packed so tightly that the bindings are abraded when you remove a book.
  • If you use bookends make sure they are tall enough that your books don’t lean over the top of the bookends. The weight of the book against the bookend can cause damage to the cover.
  • Tall books that are shelved next to short books tend to get warped and deformed over time.  Shelve books by size whenever possible.

Serious collectors know not to let their rare books come into contact with just any old paper as  paper can contain harmful chemicals and acids. But what about the shelves themselves? We often assume that any bookshelf is fine for our books but choosing the right shelving materials will help you preserve your books even more effectively:

  • Institutional libraries don’t use metal shelves because they’re less expensive. The ideal material for shelves themselves is actually metal coated with a baked enamel finish.
  • If metal shelves aren’t an option coat your wooden shelves with a proper sealant to prevent acids from seeping into your books from the wood. The best options are a water-based aliphatic urethane or a clear two-coat epoxy finish.
  • Wood dries out as it ages and the chemicals often used to treat wood also dissipate over time. If your books are housed in an extremely old wooden bookcase they’re likely safe from damage.
  • In locations with high humidity consider ventilated shelving. The additional air circulation can help prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
  • Upright storage means they are not supporting the weight of anything other than themselves (most people tend to stack books when they lay them flat)
  • There is no space around the book to allow them to breath.   Just as it is important to avoid moisture they need some moisture to keep from becoming brittle.  If you want to test this…tape a plastic bag to the outside wall and after a few days check to see if moisture has collected.  Make sure the tape is sealed all the way around the edge of the plastic.  THAT IS WHAT WOULD GO INTO YOUR BOOKS.
  • Make sure you have some space behind the book…there will be moisture that comes through the wall (especially and outside wall)  it needs a place to go rather than into your book.
  • A good rule is to have enough space on top to allow a hand to reach over the top without having to tug on the spine.
  • Use the vacuum tools to remove the dust once in a while.
  • NEVER pull a book out by its spine.

Rare documents

  • Rare documents should be stored flat and never rolled.
  • They should be kept in a dry smoke free environment away from direct sunlight.
  • As with books store your document between white tissue paper to avoid acid.
  • To help keep your document flat use corrugated plastic found in most any office supply or department store.

Where should I take my document or book to have it restored?

This is a question that should not be answered lightly.  Your book or your document means something to you or you would not be asking me this.  First I would recommend that you do your own research into the company or companies that you choose to do the work.  Do not be afraid to ask for references.  Also do not be afraid to to spend the money.  Also you should be aware that there is a difference between a restorer and a conservator.

Book Restoration: I think you will be pleased with the work from: Ace Bookbinding Co. Their work is second to none they have friendly knowledgeable staff and they are affordable. They restore mostly old Bibles but they will do any book any style: hardbound leather soft cloth etc.  Be sure and email them for a quote as often times you will get a better deal.

Document Restoration:  When I had two document that I needed restored I searched from the State of Washington to the State of Vermont.  I learned so much about document restoration it made my head spin.   Quotes ranged wildly from $50.00 per document to over $1000.00.  Some never wanted to even see a scanned image of the document.  Some wouldnt ask me any questions nor would they answer any of mine.   The company I went with is Graphic Conservation Co.  They are located in Chicago Illinois.  While they are not the cheapest company…they are without a doubt the best.  One of their claim to fame projects was the restoration of the 13th Amendment to the United States signed by Abraham Lincoln.  This hit National News.  They will insist you Federal Express your documents to them for inspection and a quotation.  Which is what no other company asked of me.  They provide you with a quote…and an assessment.  Then they ask for 50% down and 50% upon completion.

Again I recommend that you do your own research but if it we me and I was trusting my books and my documents…these are the professionals I would go to.  The other thing to consider is..does your book or your document real need restoring or should it be preserved in its present state.



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