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Storing Your Antiques

In general, antiques in storage wear time better when kept in a location that is dark, dry, and cool. The temperature and humidity of the area should remain relatively constant, and special care should be taken to store items susceptible to water damage away from exterior walls and other areas where moisture is common and water accidents are more likely.

Paintings: Paintings should be stored in a location where the temperature and relative humidity remain reasonably constant. Do not store paintings in a damp basement or dry attic, or in a location where they are exposed to direct sunlight. Ideally, paintings should be kept wrapped in plastic to prevent dust and dirt accumulating on them, and sandwiched between two rigid sheets of material such as cardboard or corrugated plastic. Store them vertically in a closet or other area in a central area of the house whenever possible. Paintings may be hung in an appropriate location, though if not truly on display, a protective wrapping is recommended.

Paper Documents and Newspaper: The ideal storage system for paper documents should protect them from light, dust, and physical damage, and keep papers separated from one another, while being designed to minimize the need to handle them during use or retrieval. The easiest way to separate papers is to use acid free tissue, Mylar envelopes, or window mats; the most important thing to remember is that anything you use to divide documents should be plain white and acid free. Read labels carefully, because "archival quality" does not always mean acid free. Be careful not to over stuff storage boxes, but when storing documents vertically, be sure the documents inside do not slump. Fragile pieces, including newspaper, should be stored horizontally. Books should never be stored vertically with the spine on top, as it will pull at the binding. They may be stored horizontally or vertically, as if on a shelf, though be careful to never remove a book from a shelf by the top of the spine. Paper artifacts should never be stored in the attic, basement, or garage, which are all generally too humid. Watch the area for signs of mould or insects. Since papers are especially susceptible to water damage, be aware of the storage area and the possible hazards that could occur, such as overflowing eavestroughs, spring flooding, or a burst water pipe. Storing containers off the floor and leaving at least one inch of space between containers and exterior walls can help prevent most flood damage.

Photographs: Mylar envelopes or acid free envelopes or boxes are the best way to store prints. Write on the back of photos or on the storage envelopes with HB pencil only, as pens can bleed through and damage the print. Photos can also be stored in albums with plastic sleeves. Avoid photo albums with sticky pages, which can stain photos, and over time make removing photos increasingly difficult. As with paper, photos should never be stored in the attic, basement, or garage because of the humidity.

Wooden Furniture: Wooden furniture that will be stored for long periods of time are best served by protective covers, such as an old sheet. Locations with unstable temperature and humidity are not ideal for storage, such as attics, basements, and garages. Fluctuating conditions can result in weak joints, splits and cracks, and finish damage. Do not store wooden furniture next to fireplaces or heaters, and keep them out of direct sunlight.

Glass and Ceramics: The biggest hazard to glass and ceramics is temperature fluctuation. When storing items, keep them in an area where rapid environmental changes won’t occur, which can cause cracking and breakage. Ensure any items that are packed away are carefully wrapped and cushioned.

Silver: Silver items can be wrapped in Pacific Silvercloth, a soft brown flannel-like cloth containing small particles of silver, which will protect the item from tarnish. This is can be a very expensive way of protecting silver. Most people can effectively store silver in china cabinets, and keeping items clean of dust and grime.


Coins and Medals: Coin holders, called "flips", made of Mylar plastic, are the best way to store coins. These flips store coins individually, and have two pockets, one for the coin and another for paper to write details of the coin. Cardboard holders lined with Mylar are also available, where the coin is placed on the plastic "windows." With these holders, be careful to flatten the stables against the card so they do not scratch the coin. One of the easiest ways to protect your coins is an ordinary zip lock bag. If you are going to store your coins in this way, it is especially important to ensure that they are cleaned and dried, and handled with gloves. Medals can also be stored in this way. Though many come with their own presentation case, which are important to the object’s history and value, medals should be stored with, but not in their presentation box. If you are considering a storage cabinet for medals or coins, choose those made of metal or polyethylene or polystyrene. Wooden cabinets emit acidic vapours that can cause corrosion.

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