Preserving Revolutionary War Documents


Protecting your Revolutionary War letters and other documents is an easy but important step for collectors. Documents must be protected from light, heat, humidity, and acids within papers themselves. Of course, your collection must be kept safe from your friends, children, and pets as well. Your choice for preservation and display location should reflect that.

Fortunately, paper used in the late 18th century contained less acid than paper used in the early 20th century. Hence, a Revolutionary War newspaper might appear less yellow and brittle than one printed during World War II.

Where to Store Documents

Documents should never be stored in an attic, basement, or garage. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity could both be damaging to your collection. Your American Revolution documents should be kept in an area where temperature and humidity are kept relatively constant.

Keep your documents in an area that will be protected from temperature or humidity fluctuation. If your documents are particularly valuable, it may be worth keeping them in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box.  If the value of your original letters or documents do not warrant that added expense, do store your documents in a dry area that can maintain a consistent temperature.  Finally, keep your documents out of the sunlight.  Sunlight can be particularly damaging to old letters and documents.

How to Store Documents

When selecting your document storage products, focus on acid-free paper conservation products that also contain a buffer. Buffered storage systems, such as paper and matboard, contain a chemical (such as calcium carbonate) designed to neutralize any existing acids within the document. Buffers also contain an alkaline reserve to counteract other acids that could form in the future.

Handling Documents

When handling old letters and documents, it is best to use a pair of white cotton gloves. Even the oils from your skin could be damaging to a very old document.