“Acid Free, Worry Free,” Ensign, Apr. 2006, 70–71
Permanently preserving records was of utmost concern even anciently, when words were engraved. Jacob recorded, “But whatsoever things we write upon anything save it be upon plates must perish and vanish away” (Jacob 4:2). Though we don’t engrave our records today, we can still take some precautions to preserve our documents. As an archive preservation specialist for the Church, I recommend the following preservation tips for journals and other important paper documents.
Pens. Use waterproof, fade-proof pens when handwriting any information.
Paper. Use acid-free, lignin-free paper. Most modern papers are expected to last quite a while, but bond paper is still considered to be the best.
Digital. Don’t expect digital documents (computer generated) to last. Currently, it is safe to assume that “modern” storage methods—hard drives, floppy disks, compact discs, and other digital media—will be outdated after 10 years. Even with saved backups, the best option is to print your word documents onto acid-free paper with an ink-jet printer using pigmented inks (nonpigmented inks are not permanent) or with a laser printer.
Storage. Since direct contact with nonarchival items can harm your documents, protect them in containers made from archival materials. Boxes, folders, and other paper containers should be acid and lignin free. Polyethylene plastic containers are also good, especially if you are preserving photos. Plastic sleeves should also be polyethylene, polyester, or polypropylene—never acetate or vinyl. Also, when possible, avoid using vinyl three-ring binders. Store items in dark, cool, dry areas. Avoid contact with sunlight and fluorescent lighting and areas where water may be a concern. Storage conditions are especially important when you consider today’s current household printing methods. Ink-jet-printed documents will smear when wet, and laser-printed pages will stick together under hot conditions.
Though paper isn’t as permanent as the ancient plates, we can still prepare lasting records in the hope that “our children will receive them with thankful hearts” (Jacob 4:3).
Chris McAfee, Spring Creek Second Ward, Springville Utah Spring Creek South Stake