Preserve Family Books, Bibles, and Bound Works

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Bound Books 2By Mary V. Danielsen of Documented Legacy

There are two trending topics in the conservation of family books, Bibles and other bound works. The first is how to preserve the materials properly so it can be shared with future generations and the second deals with their duplication for other family members.

We’ll talk about this topic for the next two weeks. This week, open the dialogue about creating a family archive with your extended family members. All the items don’t need to be stored in the same home, but information about the various works can be shared with each other.

Families are often interested in ensuring that the person with physical possession of important works of family history is storing them properly. They want the information accessible and in good condition should they need to review it. As well, there is increasing popularity in creating high-quality duplications of these works to be shared across generations.

These printed materials don’t have to be commercially published works of great notoriety, but rather collections that are important to your family. They were held by your ancestors and for that reason alone they are important. As such, they are of great notoriety to you and are certainly worth the investment of time and resources to preserve.

By way of example, family books can be any printed books or volumes that were collected within a family. Bound works can be any collection of printed materials, including compilations of letters, scrapbooks, unpublished manuscripts, journals, recipe card files and other materials. Many households have that one book or Bible given to them by a family elder.

By way of example, when my family was settling my mother’s estate she had a large collection of books about cats that filled an entire bookcase. Many of them referenced my grandfather, who was a mobile veterinarian in New York City between 1917 and 1981 and wrote two books himself. The books, most now out of print, were distributed among the family. We used our Flip-Pal® mobile scanners to scan the cover image, the title page and the Library of Congress information. If there was single page that mentioned him, we scanned it. The images were compiled so that we could create an inventory in a simple pdf format to share with the entire family, including grandchildren. We even took a photograph of the bookcase. That makes us all feel connected back to the entire collection that once stood in my mother’s home

Bound Books 1Make a list of the important books and printed works in your home. Review their conditions. Does anything need to be repaired? Assess what you have to share. Talk about it with family. Ask others what they have in their possession that can be shared with you.

When you open the  conversation about sharing family history across households you’ll strengthen family ties and add value to the history. This step will evolve over time and you’ll have fun talking about family facts and tidbits you’ve discovered along the way. For instance, you may find tiny messages stuffed into the pages of a Bible or notes written into the margins of great grandma’s favorite cookbook. An unpublished manuscript of poems written during a turning point in someone’s life may suddenly shed light onto a piece of your history and instantly becomes the most valuable thing in your home.

Move quickly to create a preservation plan for these materials.

You’re creating a library of sorts. While everyone will not want everything now, you just don’t know who will begin a family project tomorrow. Often times a family will have one person who spent years conducting genealogy research, dutifully compiling it onto bound volumes and then stored it with other records and materials. That’s it. In preservation circles we hear it all the time that no one else in the extended family has a copy. People are hesitant to ask for duplication. There is a great threat of extinction with the family’s most valuable heirloom: its history.

Where you store and how you store these works are important to their preservation.

Conservators recommend storing your important books and printed family documents in an upright position. Handle each of them separately, in individual categories. Don’t store them in the same box or on the same shelf without considering whether there is enough room to protect them. Even space on a shelf that allows volumes to shift or lean in one direction will aid in its deterioration. Give them a special place to be protected away from other items you use often.

While you’re reviewing the condition of your materials, look at the factors that may aid in their deterioration. Books tend to fade and chemically deteriorate faster in unfiltered light, especially old leather-bound books that fade and crumble. Dust and dirt attract moisture. Sometimes just sitting on a shelf allows dust and grease to accumulate on book bindings and the text block. Shake out loose dirt with a soft bristle brush. Pests, such as silverfish, love to graze over time on tasty pages. Sometimes they’re attracted to the corrugated cardboard boxes that people tend to stash in the attic. Their demise is also greatly affected by household pollutants, such as smoke, fluctuations in temperature and humidity, gravity and poor handling. Store your important books and bound works away from excessive heat or water sources.

When duplicating your works decide how important the item is to the preservation of your family history. (For instance, do you want to duplicate it to make a canvas print for the wall or archive it for perpetuity and future projects?) Decide whether to scan it at 300 or 600 dpi. If an item is of high importance convert the jpeg to a tiff file in your photo editing software. Save that version as the master file scan and never edit it. Always make a copy when you want to edit or create something with it.

Back up your work. In next week’s blog we’ll discuss ways to rehouse old books and resources for custom book containers.

Tip: Store a pair of white cotton archival gloves in an envelope nearby your family books and bound works. Make a habit of handling them carefully.

Tip: Use your Flip-Pal mobile scanner to duplicate the notes and messages you find while you’re cleaning your book collection and making an inventory. Create a fun family update on Throwback Thursday or Family Friday. They’ll enjoy the progress of preservation.


4 Responses to Preserve Family Books, Bibles, and Bound Works

  1. Rhonda Madison June 18, 2014 at 11:51 pm #

    Thank you for your reply to my question about where to store the books, etc that have been scanned. Is a website a good idea like dropbox, flickr or google+? I don’t know if they are good places to store the scanned pictures, books, etc so they would be accessible to everyone? Thank you again.

    • Gordon June 29, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

      Rhonda, we included some information to this week’s (week 26) post on Gatherings about online sharing sites. It has a printable PDF to pick one that meets your needs.

  2. Rhonda Madison June 11, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

    I’m wondering if you have a suggestion on where to put pictures and documents that have been scanned so that current and future family members have a place to go to see this items. Thank you.

    • Gordon Nuttall June 13, 2014 at 9:24 am #

      Thank you. We’re tackling this very question with many families now preparing for reunions, graduations, anniversaries, other celebrations and genealogy research trips this summer.

      We like the idea of having one location where people can view everything, keeping it accessible to others. Perhaps one family member can be the custodian family archivist, who carefully stores all the books and records in a bookcase. Find a space in your home where these books and documents can live that is out of direct sunlight and away from heat or water sources.
      Even if family books and records are held by different households, you can still create a family history library with digitization. Create a master list of what exists and where it’s housed (who owns it & where does it live today?). Bring multiple family members are then involved in the digitization process. You’ll add to the value to preserving family history.

      Once you’ve digitized your important documents, make copies for other family members by duplicating them onto an external hard drive. This is a smart move for two reasons. From a disaster prevention standpoint, there is more than one copy in existence. Secondly, you can make duplicates as you can afford to do it. Family members will then have the information at their fingertips. Creating a routine to update that information periodically becomes fairly easy.

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