FAQs: Caring for Family Papers

I have a damaged document/book. How can I have it repaired?

We recommend you contact a conservator, who will assess the item and then offer various conservation treatment options to help preserve the item.

I would like to display in my home; could you advise me how to do so?

Ideally display a copy and store the original in safe, dry, dark, cool conditions using acid free packaging material. Do not photocopy historic documents (which will expose them to damaging levels of light) but take a digital photograph in good natural light without using a flash. To prolong the life of paper objects on display use these guidelines:

  • Minimise exposure to light (which causes paper to discolour and some inks to fade): avoid display near windows or lights. Consider the use of UV filtering glass if framing original pieces as this will block the most damaging wavelengths of light.
  • Display in cool stable temperatures: avoid hanging on the interior of external walls or locations near radiators, windows or fires. (Central heating usually provides overly warm and fluctuating temperatures which accelerate the rate at which paper becomes discoloured and brittle).
  • Choose dry environments as moisture encourages mould growth and causes paper to warp (avoid hanging pictures in bathrooms or kitchens, for example).
  • Aim for stable environmental conditions; fluctuating temperature and moisture levels are usually more damaging than ones which are consistently unsuitable. Something to remember is that modern houses can be very dry and very warm which is also not ideal.
  • Make sure mounts for original pictures/photographs are made from acid free board and that the picture does not come into direct contact with the picture frame or the frame’s backing board (which are usually made from acidic materials).
My books have a white fluffy appearance on the surface. What shall I do?

Mould can growth rapidly on books and paper if they are stored in warm and humid conditions. If you suspect you have mould growth, it is best to remove the items from the space and consult a conservator in private practice for preservation advice.

How should I store my family papers?

It is important to keep rare and fragile documents in acid free folders and boxes in a dry place, away from direct light or heat sources.  For more advice, see the following links:

I have an old photograph, but it is very faded. Is it possible to have the image restored?

The fading of the original old photograph is irreversible but many photographers now provide a digital restoration service, producing digitally enhanced copies of faded photographs. To find out more about photograph preservation, read the British Library’s Preservation Advisory Centre’s booklet.

Does the library offer a conservation service to the general public?

National Library staff cannot undertake conservation projects for private individuals. If you have valuable items in need of repair you should contact a professional conservator working in private practice. A list of practicing private conservators in Ireland is available on the Irish Professional Conservators’ & Restorers’ Association (IPCRA) website and the ‘Conservation Register’ lists conservators working in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.   See the links below:

I have an item and I would be interested in donating it to the library. Is that possible?

We are immensely grateful to the donors who have contributed so generously to the development of the national collections. Selection criteria for donations are set out in brief in the leaflet Treasuring our Heritage: Donation of Materials to the National Library of Ireland. Please consult the following link on our website to find out more: http://www.nli.ie/en/how-we-acquire-our-collections.aspx

Damaged spine and sewing
Damaged spine and sewing
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