Over the Christmas period this year I was staying with my elderly Grandfather and knowing my interest in the family history, he pulled out a load of certificates and documents from my late Grandmothers side of the family.

Some if them dated back to the early 1800s. I promptly got out my camera to document them and incorporate them into my research.

I am fairly competent with digital archiving and back-ups. Some of the answers in this question have helped in that regard, but it strikes me that these documents are still very legible and (mostly) in good condition.

What I would like to know is:

  • Is it feasible to keep the originals for future generations of my family, or should I just digitise and not worry about the originals.

If not:

  • How should I go about preserving the original hard copies of these when they come into my possession permanently?
  • Are there any procedures / storage environments that an individual can feasibly implement that will ensure their continued survival?

I guess that any answers could also be applied to archiving photographic history as well as documents and certificates, or are there different optimum storage environments?

  • I am adding to this old thread as there is now a free eBook in PDF format available from here. Well worth downloading and reading imho.
    – Colin
    Mar 28, 2013 at 6:13

2 Answers 2


The only items that you might want to scan and dispose of are very high-acid documents, such as newspaper clippings. For everything else ...

Invest in proper containers to store the documents and photographs. For documents, you really want two things: Document boxes and acid-free, high quality folders. I purchased my boxes and folders from Light Impressions about five years ago; there might be other or better vendors out there. These are the same products that university archives use.

Depending on the photographs, you might want (again, high quality) photograph boxes or albums. Get white, cotton gloves for handling the photographs, so that oil from your skin does not get on them.

Store the boxes in a dark, heated and air-conditioned room. Avoid basements and attics, unless they are meticulously climate-controlled.

Good luck! You are very lucky to have these family-history resources available to you.


Definitely preserve the original paper copies as well as making digital copies.

Who knows what digital formats / media will be readable in 100years time. The paper records properly preserved will still be available.

The emphasis here is on proper preservation of paper records and photos. There is a good series of pages about preservation of paper records and digitising them at the US National Archives website here

  • Thanks for that link, I knew they had good pages on digital preservation, but hadn't been able to find anything on preserving and storing originals.
    – AvieRose
    Feb 17, 2013 at 13:35

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