Monday, September 14, 2009

How To Preserve Letters

World War II era letters offer personal insights into the war from veterans and civilians alike. Unfortunately, old letters can easily be lost or destroyed, but offers some tips for preserving historical letters for future generations:

*Keep letters in a safe, dry place above the floor (to avoid being destroyed by flooding), with moderate temperature (below 72° F), and good circulation. Avoid attics, basements or any room where temperature will fluctuate frequently.

*Make sure your letters are out of both fluorescent and natural sunlight, which can cause fading. Hallways or rooms without windows are best.

*Keep letters away from sources of heat such as radiators, fireplaces, and appliances.

*Keep letters in buffered folders, which can be found in certain office supply stores (Check with your local retailer for information). If the letter is longer than one page, it is best to put each sheet of paper in its own separate folder. However, if the letter is so frail that removing it from its envelope or separating it from its individual pages will cause damage, place everything together in a single buffered folder. (Note: Do not use standard manila office folders, as they are a source of acid.)

*Do not store letters in any kind of wooden container. Boxes or containers for home storage should be low in lignin (a substance that, along with cellulose, provides plants with their rigidity) and buffered throughout. Check with your local supply store.

*Excessive photocopying may fade your letters. It is best not to copy letters at all if they are so fragile that unfolding them and placing them flat on a copying machine will cause damage.

*Never, under any circumstances, laminate a letter you wish to preserve. The laminating process is irreversible and will ultimately ruin the letter.

*Never write on, staple, paper clip, or tape letters. If you wish to put relevant information with the letter (e.g., the date it was written, biographical information about the person who wrote it and/or received it, etc.), write it on a buffered folder or separate piece of paper. Even "post-it" notes can damage letters because they have glue on them that will mar the paper.

*Handle the letter as little as possible. The more it is folded and unfolded, the quicker it will begin to deteriorate.

*Letters should be protected from dust and dirt as much as possible. Proper housekeeping and environmental conditions will reduce the possibility of rodents and insects, which can eat and ultimately destroy your letter.

*Framing your letters will allow them to be viewed without fear of being damaged by frequent handling. It is important to check with a professional framer or paper conservator for the proper materials, as certain types of mats and framing methods can destroy your letter. Also, keep in mind that even framed letters exposed to direct light will fade over time.


  1. Hi,

    My name is Dena Schaffer and I’m the founder of Opening Windows: Virtual Book Tours. Opening Windows is very excited to announce that this November it will be launching the “Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII” virtual book tour!

    Authored by Lois Herr, “Dear Coach” is the story of Elizabethtown College’s, legendary coach Ira Herr, and the men and women athletes of 1937-1946. More than just a collection of letters "Dear Coach" is the scrapbook of an extended family dealing with a war that forced a generation to grow up overnight.

    Congratulations! Opening Windows has hand-picked your website as a potential host for one of the “Dear Coach” VBT’s stops. If you’re interested in becoming a tour stop host please let us know! We’re eager to team up with your blog and create a following for this heartfelt book.

    Dena Schaffer

    Opening Windows: Virtual Book Tours

    P.S. If for some reason you’re not interested in being a host but would still like to follow “Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII” on its virtual journey feel free to stop by the official tour blog! (

  2. Do you know of any national company that will do the digitising for a price? I have so many letters from WW2 and my Grandpa that it would take forever. I am willing to apy to get it done, I just dont know where to start.