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Preserving Memories of Florida State University

A project of
Special Collections, Robert M. Strozier Library,
Emeritis Alumni Society
Sesquicentennial Committee


*This information is available in booklet form. To request a copy, contact the FSU Sesquicentennial Office.


The day-to-day life of Florida State University and its students, faculty and staff is revealed more by the mementos someone is motivated to save than by official documents and relics.

Our purpose is to help alumni and others slow the aging process of those souvenirs and to encourage their eventual placement with the university so they can be professionally tended and made available to researchers and scholars. Details about donations and considerations are on page 14 of this pamphlet.

To cover the range of materials used in creating these keepsakes, we asked FSU experts in several fields for advice. Our thanks for their help. Their names, addresses, E-mail addresses and telephone numbers begin on page 16. They will answer specific questions.

Lucy Patrick, PhD
Special Collections
Robert M. Strozier Library

Mary Lou Norwood, Class of 1947
Emeritus Alumni Society
Sesquicentennial Committee

April 2001


The best and easiest way to preserve and conserve mementos is to store them and do so properly. Recommended conditions for most materials are quite close to those we maintain in our homes _ moderate temperatures and humidity and bug-free environment. Keep them in the air conditioned and heated spaces: No attics, basements, garages or storage sheds where extremes in temperature and humidity promote mold, mildew and insects.

Keep your mementos clean and don't let dust, grime, oils or stains build into a hard to remove coating. When sorting and handling your keepsakes, always have clean dry hands. Clean cotton gloves are added protection. Also be sure the work area is clean and free of food or beverage residues. Don't smoke. As more materials are harmed by light than not, limit exposure to bright light or sunlight. Avoid bare wooden shelves and drawers.

Identify and document your collection. You are the best, perhaps only, source of much information. You know the who, what, when, where and why that no one else does. Create a list of your collection and add information that is not obvious from the object itself. If you plan to donate your collection to FSU at a later time, tuck notes of that intention into its storage containers so survivors know your wishes.

Behind the professional recommendations of archivists and conservators is practical knowledge and common sense. Take time to apply yours, or to get help. Above all, do no harm.


This is highly subjective and usually determined only by the importance an object has for the collector. However, some of the questions an archivist might ask are: Is it identifiable? Is it rare? Does it typify an era or a process? Does it reflect a change or evolution within FSU? Is it associated with a famous person or a major figure in FSU history? Is it related to an event that will be of interest years from now? Does it evoke strong emotions or sentiments? Is it part of a series?

This last is a factor about which FSU archivists are very anxious. Someone may be inclined to toss a solo issue of a periodical that completes a series already in the archives. Or perhaps something within one person's college years may tie together events that come before and after. If in doubt, save and discuss it with an archivist.


Paper things are among those most frequently saved and also among those most prone to rapid aging. Their own acidity causes darkening and prolonged strong light causes fading. Commonly used fasteners (paper clips, staples, pins, and rubber bands) inflict rust, cuts, tears, stains and gummy residue. Sticky tapes and glues offer a feast for insects.

To slow aging, store papers flat in dry clean boxes, albums, drawers and closets away from light and in the recommended home environment. Remove rusty fasteners. Bend paper clips open, don't slide. Pry each leg of a staple open with a thin dull knife. Remove a pin with needle-nose pliers. Do not repair tears with regular sticky tape (use archival tape or leave it alone). Don't try to remove tape or glue (leave it to a conservator). Don't use self-stick notes as they leave traces of residue.

Major paper and office supply firms now offer a variety of archival and acid-free products. A ream of acid-free paper (about $5) is useful for organizing and for storage. Acid-free sheets interleaved with very acid ones such as newspapers or clippings will retard the spread of acid. A sheet folded over several related papers can keep those items together and be held in place by a paper clip without the metal touching the original items. A similar technique can be used for labeling. Use file folders for thick stacks of papers.

Today, plastic sheet protectors offer a safe system for a thorough reorganization of personal mementos if you opt for that chore. The protectors and loose-leaf view binders to hold them are promoted and labeled as non-stick, acid-free and archival. Read the packaging labels carefully to be sure of your selection.

However, don't try to resurrect items pasted or glued into old scrapbooks or albums by changing over to new ones. More damage can be inflicted very quickly than by allowing the slow deterioration to continue.

Papers that are aging rapidly can be photocopied to save the information. In fact, using the contrast and intensity adjustments on modern machines, copies are frequently sharper and more legible than originals.


Books, like their owners, do best in the recommended dry, clean, bug-free environment of moderate temperature and humidity, away from prolonged exposure to strong light. Do not dog-ear pages or use any object as a bookmark that will cause stains or imprint damage.

On open shelves, books should be kept dusted and upright, either by their own number or bookends. Books, such as annuals or yearbooks that are too large for shelves or cases, should be placed on their sides on flat surfaces. However, avoid placing them where they may be used as a coaster for drinks or other social hazards.


Photographs are perhaps the most revealing of commonly saved souvenirs. Despite recent electronic tweaking, a sharp picture with good identification is, indeed, worth many words.

Properly stored, black and white photographs are very durable. Sepia-toned and colored prints and slides are less so. The recommended moderate clean storage environment applies with stress on protection from strong light and moisture. Light causes fading and moisture causes emulsions to melt and become sticky.

Photos should be kept in individual envelopes in boxes or in albums with corner mounts. The truth is, few are so kindly treated _ nor are their negatives, which should be in individual sleeves in boxes. Handle both prints and negatives by the edges or wear gloves to avoid oily fingerprints.

The very size, shape and nature of slides usually force some organization. Keep them free from dust and light in their own boxes, sleeved pages, projector trays or carousels. Slides and negatives are film and thus very sensitive to high temperatures. They do best in dark cool to cold storage.

When light, moisture and fingerprints are controlled, photos are long lasting despite casual sorting. As with paper items, photos glued into scrapbooks or albums should stay put and the books kept in a stable environment.

The historic rather than sentimental value of an old photo lies in its identification. Unknown people against unknown backgrounds at unknown times tell very little to those lacking personal knowledge of the people and occasion, information usually known only to the saver.

Use a soft lead (No. 1) pencil and minimum pressure to write along the edge on the back of prints or write only a number and use it to give full data on a catalogued list of photos. Numbers on the frames of slides also enable cataloguing.

Copying or transferring original photos by ink jet and laser printout or onto videotape and CDs has not proven as permanent as anticipated. So keep those original prints and slides in a safe place and manner.


Television and electronics added new items and new initials to memorabilia. Once a few families filmed such special events as graduation. Now camcorders are commonplace and FSU provides video productions on VHS tapes for alumni to play at home on their VCRs. DVDs are here and growing rapidly.

If you have 8mm or 16mm films, the ease of viewing through your television set makes copying on tape or disc attractive. However, do not toss the film but keep it on labeled reels in boxes in cool, dry dark storage. Videotape is definitely not permanent and DVD is still too young to judge, even though the FSU Film School's archivist thinks it may well prove very durable.

For videotape add one rule to the recommended environment: Protect from magnetic fields and vibrations. Do not store on top of or near television sets, loudspeakers, electrical machines and motors or even video cassette players.

Keep labeled cassettes rewound in their labeled boxes, upright like books, heavy end down. When viewing, avoid as many of the special commands such as freeze-frame, pause, etc. as you can. Damage can occur where the tape is stopped and skip-scan hastens dropout.

Videotape only lasts a few years and every playing is wearing. Consider dubbing viewing copies from a master, also copying deteriorating tapes onto new tapes.

DVDs (digital video discs) are here and you don't need a new television set to enjoy the sharper image, just a DVD player. Keep your old VCR to play videotapes. When DVD recorders enter the mass market, use your VCR to transfer videotapes to the more durable discs.

Meanwhile, store those new DVDs upright in their sleeved boxes in cool, dry places.


All elements of the recommended environment apply plus a cardinal rule: Never hang framed items where they are in sunlight for even part of the day. They will fade.

Objects such as diplomas, awards, watercolors, etc. framed long ago before the importance of acid-free backing boards and matting was understood may now show brown spots (foxing) or darkening (acid burn). If the memento is highly valued or perhaps a professional credential, the simplest solution is to ask a frame shop to reframe it using acid-free archival materials. At the same time, consider replacing the glass with ultraviolet-filtering Plexiglas for greater protection against fading.

Should reframing seem too much and if the item is not glued in place, carefully remove it from the frame and the acid-laden board and matting. This should slow the deterioration. Then store the object flat between sheets of acid-free paper or inquire at the frame shop about glassine, a neutral paper that may be useful in storing this and other keepsakes.


Breakage is the greatest danger for china and glass. For once, light is not the enemy. Indeed, when these objects are displayed, light adds sparkle and beauty.

If select keepsake pieces are part of your décor and outside special cabinets, choose safe placements away from busy spots. Do not hang cups and mugs by their handles: This is the major way they get broken.

Keep china and glass clean. Letting liquids stand or grime accumulate for long periods will create a ring or crust that takes potentially damaging cleansing methods and materials. Very hot water is one cause of crazing on china. Soaking for long periods and use of abrasive powders or scrubbers can cause surface damage. For general cleaning use warm water and mild detergents. Dry with a soft cloth instead of air-drying.

For storage other than in display cabinets, cradle clean pieces in soft stable material in boxes on sturdy shelves.


Silver tarnishes. Accept that fact and concentrate on ways to slow the process and the easiest ways to remove it.

Cups, goblets, trophies displayed in the open air tarnish the quickest. Those enclosed in glass cabinets tarnish slower and those stored away from the air wrapped in tarnish-resistant cloth or in drawers and chests lined with this cloth discolor the slowest.

The lighter the tarnish the easier it is to remove with the readily available polishes. Heavily tarnished pieces may even require professional services. The fewer times an object is polished, the longer it lasts, so weigh the value of display against the longevity of storage.

For long-term storage, wrap the clean silver in several layers of new white tissue paper and then in antitarnish paper. Secure the package with a tie of string or ribbon, never a rubber band. Rubber is anathema near silver and can cause deep etching. Some authorities say placing small blocks of camphor gum (available at pharmacies) in storage units or display cabinets slows the tarnishing.

To clean silver use a good name brand of polish and rub it briskly but not harshly over the surface with all strokes going in one direction. Remove the polish by washing carefully in warm soapy water, then rinse and dry with a soft cloth.

Use that soft cloth to handle pieces after they are polished. Silver is so susceptible to oils and acids that the staff of FSU's Museum of Fine Arts always wear gloves to work with silver objects. The director says a thumbprint can etch into the surface and erode it forever.


The primary enemy of relics made of bronze, brass, copper and other metals is dust and grime. Once allowed to accumulate into a crust, it is difficult to remove without causing damage to the surface below. And again, the best and easiest care is to keep displayed objects clean, to thoroughly clean objects before storing them and to use soft cloths or gloves to handle them.

Brass and copper, like silver, are most attractive when kept shining. Good specialized polishes are readily available. Bronze acquires a patina with age that should not be removed but objects placed on display need dusting regularly. Use soft cloths or gloves when working with all metal objects to avoid the transfer of the hands' natural oils and acids.


Emblem jewelry such as fraternity, sorority, honorary and activity organization pins and keys are among the most distinctive and cherished keepsakes of college days. Care is easy. Keep items clean and in padded containers. There is a good choice of cleaning agents made expressly for jewelry.



Again, it is much easier and safer to store than to display but either way, the area should be the same recommended environment _ moderate, clean and bug-free.

To display fabric pieces, avoid direct light, active fireplaces, air vents, kitchens or bathrooms. Vacuum and dust occasionally. If it's framed, choose acid-free backing and ultraviolet-filtering Plexiglas.

For storage, be sure fabrics are clean and free of pins and other metal objects. Support folds with acid-free paper or materials such as washed cotton sheets and pillowcases. The work area should be free of food, drink, smoke and pets and you should be free of rings and jewelry that might catch threads.

Line storage boxes or drawers with acid-free paper or those washed cotton sheets. Don't pack tightly, cram or seal with plastic. Avoid such handy materials as newspapers (very acidic), dry cleaner bags (very unstable) or stick-ons (gummy residue).

Identification tags can be made of cloth handwritten with permanent ink, then hand sewn to the fabric. Do that writing away from your primary work area.


Placing FSU materials with Special Collections gives donors assurance or secure storage and handling. More important is preserving their historic value to scholars and researchers.

Prospective donors are encouraged to make contact and generally discuss their collection before weeding and sorting. Donors will get tips on packing and shipping, on reviewing materials and on donor/archive agreements.

Not everything can be accepted, but the chance to review is always welcome. In some instances, collectors may opt to maintain ownership but permit photocopying of papers for archival and research purposes.

For information about donating or related activities, contact Dr. Lucy Patrick, Head of Special Collections.

There are other repositories on campus. The Alumni Association offers storage and hopes to expand collection and display activities in its future home. The History Department's Institute on World War II and the Human Experience seeks related artifacts, and the Reichelt Oral History Program wants your memories through taped interviews. Contact the FSU Museum of Fine Arts if you are considering placement of art objects.


Dr. Lucy Patrick, Head
Special Collections
Strozier Library
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-2047
Telephone 850-644-3271
E-mail: lpatrick@mailer.fsu.edu

Dr. Allys Palladino-Craig, Director
Museum of Fine Arts Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1140
Telephone 850-644-1254
E-mail: apcraig@mailer.fsu.edu

Richard A. Travis, Archivist
Film School
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-2350
Telephone 850-644-0693
E-mail: rtravis@filmschool.fsu.edu

Clarice S. Dalton, Manager
Textiles & Consumer Science
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1492
Telephone 850-644-2498
E-mail: cdalton@mailer.fsu.edu

Dr. William Oldson, Director
Institute on World War II and
the Human Experience
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-2200
Telephone 850-644-9541
E-mail: wolson@garnet.acns.fsu.edu

Dr. Robin Sellers, Director
Reichelt Oral History Program
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-2200
Telephone 850-644-4966
E-mail: rsellers@mailer.fsu.edu

Linda Henning
FSU Alumni Association
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-2610
Telephone 850-644-2761
E-mail: lhenning@mailer.fsu.edu

A project of
Special Collections
Robert M. Strozier Library
Emeritus Alumni Society
Sesquicentennial Committee


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