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Looking after inherited books and photographs

Tips from Anne Bancroft

I recently interviewed Anne Bancroft, Senior Books and Paper Conservator at the V&A Museum in London on the Journeys into Genealogy podcast (you can listen to the episode here or click on the image).

She has lots of tips for looking after items you may have inherited.

Firstly treat them with respect and it goes without saying that they could be fragile and need handling with care. 

1 Think carefully about where you will keep them 

If possible avoid basements/cellars/attics. They should be away from damp and excessive heat or cold. Also out of direct sunlight as this can bleach paper/cloth/photographs and cause them to fade or degrade. Keep away from any insects, mice or moths to minimise potential damage. 

2) Gloves or not?

Your hands should always been clean and dry when handling old objects. Generally when handling paper it is better not to wear gloves as your dexterity may be affected and you could damage things unintentionally. For items such as photographs or objects with metals or plastics, thin surgical gloves are recommended. This prevents oils from fingerprints leaving permanent marks. 

3) Support fragile objects

If you are unrolling an object such as a paper family tree, do it slowly and gently and use something like a glass paperweight to anchor it as it opens.

Books can be supported using something like a book sofa and if you do not have one of these then rolled up towels work well. 

4) Keep away from food and drink

Foods or liquids can become ingrained into the surface of an object and this can attract mould and insects.

Getting help - The V&A Museum

The V&A Museum has a good guide on how to care for your objects here:

You can also write in with your enquiries. The contact page shows individual department contacts here


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