Museum presents home preservation workshop

By Jessica Johnson

May 15, 2014

Most families have photographs, important documents, books, and other items in storage — items that are considered family treasures.

In order to ensure those items will be passed on to future generations, proper preservation is important, so the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History will present a free program,”Trunk of Troubles,” on May 18, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., to help those who attend learn techniques that may assure family heirlooms are preserved for the future.

Heather South from North Carolina’s Western Regional Archives will present her “Trunk of Trouble” program, which deals with basic preservation of paper items, photographs, and books such as the old family Bible. She will also discuss proper handling and storage of items and will distribute handouts to those who attend the free program.

“Trunk of Trouble” is held on International Museum Day, May 18, which provides museum professionals around the world the chance to engage with the public and alert them to the successes and challenges that face museums today, such as preservation issues.

South presented a portion of her program to museum volunteers who attended the annual volunteer brunch held in late April. She was armed with a set of props from her “Trunk of Troubles” along with tips on how to preserve important items, like family heirlooms, in a home environment.

Old photographs can be difficult to preserve, South said, because of the various chemical processes used to develop photographs in the past. Some processes once used eggs and egg whites, which is attractive to bugs. Since old photographs are fragile, it is important to take care when storing them, and South described multiple ways to assure photographs will last for future generations, such as storing in breathable photo storage such as photo boxes, instead of plastic containers which create “micro-climates.”

“With items like textiles, photographs, paper documents, everything is organic, it is always breathing…expanding and contracting, which speeds up the deterioration process,” South said.

South also said that items like plastics are not ideal storage containers. In addition, old and new photo albums that contain adhesive should not be used, since the adhesive can break down and bleed onto photographs. Plastics will age, deteriorate, and break down over time, as well as giving off a chemical gas, which can damage items.

“We’re excited to have Heather back for this public program — she always does such a great job. She was the keynote speaker at our volunteer brunch a few weeks ago, but wanted the rest of the community to be able to hear her talk,” Mount Airy Museum of Regional History Executive Director Matt Edwards shared.

For more tips on home preservation, attend South’s free workshop on May 18 at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

For more information about the “Trunk of Trouble” program, email Amy Snyder at or call the museum at 336-786-4478.

Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 and on Twitter @MountAiryJess.