How to store a newspaper

How to store and preserve newspapers

Storing a newspaper is particularly challenging due to the paper stock newspapers are printed on. Newsprint paper is manufactured to be cheap and disposable, and as a result - not made to last.

Generally newsprint is formulated with large percentages of un-purified wood pulp which contains impurities, such as lignin, that remain in the paper after processing. These impurities, when exposed to UV light, fluctuations in relative humidity, and atmospheric pollutants, result in discoloration and acidic reactions to the paper. old newspaper

Acidity causes the bond between paper fibres, such as cellulose, to weaken and break apart, and is the major reason the paper becomes brittle. You can read more about acid free paper on our blog here.

What's the ideal storage environment?

Preservation of newspapers requires a stable environment to help prevent this degradation, a recommended storage set-up would be along the following lines:

  • 15-20 degrees C. (stable temperature i.e. not near sources of heat like radiators)
  • 35-50% relative humidity (RH)
  • Protection from UV light
  • Storage in acid-free materials.

Environmental and humidity monitoring and control equipment is available from Preservation Equipment, Prosorb humidity control cassettes can help manage humidity levels.

Clean before archiving

Removal of surface oils, dirt, dust and debris can help prevent further damage ocurring when newspapers are stored. Oils from skin deposited when handling can discolour paper, and attract insect pests. Use a document cleaning pad to gently clean the surface of the paper if the paper is in generally good condition - very fragile or valuable newspapers would require the attention of a qualified conservator.

Repair tears

Small tears in the newspaper can be simply repaired using an archival quality mending tissue, like this repair tape. It's important to use acid free materials when making a repair. Normal self-adhesive tapes will dry out and yellow over time, leaching into and damaging the newspaper and accelerating deterioration. Badly damaged and valuable papers will require the attention of a conservator.

Why use newspaper boxes?

Newspapers should be stored flat, and protected within a rigid box or folder. Using one of our newspaper storage boxes allows you to lay the newspaper flat, and with its fully telescoping lid, the box will prevent damage caused by UV light, as well as excluding dust and pests. The metal edged newspaper boxes are not glued, edges are fixed using metal strip. The metal strip, as well as being a far more reliable fixing than glue, means that there are no sources of acid at these joints and they can be safely stacked. Our newspaper storage boxes are also acid free and contain a calcium carbonate buffer for protection against migrant acidity. Migrant acidity sources include any item stored in contact with your collection, for instance neighbouring boxes or even the shelves themselves. Added protection for contents may be provided by interleaving the newsprint with thin sheets of buffered tissue. The buffer, as explained above, prevents acidic migration.

Newspaper Sizes

There are a number of formats used historically in newspaper publishing, in the UK the 'Tabloid' (280 x 430mm) and 'Broadsheet' (375 x 597mm) formats are the most popular, with some using the 'Berliner' (355 x 520mm) format which is in-between the two. An L-velope allows for differences in thickness and number of pages, where a sleeve or pocket may be more suitable for a mounted cutting.old newspaper

How to protect newspapers that are handled?

Never laminate or use ordinary pressure sensitive mending tape on papers you want to preserve. Protective, archival quality, clear pockets and L-velopes are available to protect items that require more regular viewing or handling. These are made of acid free polyester (also known as Mylar or Melinex).

Ultimately, the more often a newspaper is viewed, the harder it will become to preserve it. Simple steps such as having clean hands or wearing clean cotton gloves, ensuring the newspaper is fully supported, and re-folding gently along the centre-fold, are very important and shouldn't be overlooked.

For newspaper storage boxes - click here

For clear newspaper storage pockets - click here

For humidity control equipment - click here

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