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Mower County Historical Society curator offers tips to store items

Mower County Historical Society curator Jaimie Timm talks about common problems people run into when storing textiles for long periods of time Thursday at the Austin Public Library.

When it comes to protecting your family treasures and storing them around the house, Mower County Historical Society curator Jaimie Timm had one overall motto:

"Do the best you can for what you have with what you have," Timm said.

She kicked off the Dewey Lecture Series on Thursday at the Austin Public Library with the presentation "Preserving memories: Caring for your family treasures." One of the big rules for storing your memories, like wedding dresses, photographs or quilts, is to avoid basements and attics, for the most part. Because if you don't want to live there, your stuff doesn't either, Timm said.

Here's a sampling of her tips:

Common problems


Keeping items in a place where the temperature doesn't change a lot is a good thing. Temperature changes cause expansion and contraction with items.

Changes in humidity can lead to mold and mildew. Natural light can cause items to fade, make them brittle or deteriorate faster.

Clothing, textiles, quilts

Timm recommended storing clothing, textiles, quilts in plastic containers or boxes. Wrapping clothes in tissue paper and storing them as flat as possible also helps.

One thing that really helps is acid-free tissue paper, or acid-free boxes. They're a little more expensive, but they're better for storage. Timm also had a tip about moth balls. "Don't use them," she said. "End of story."

Glassware and china

When washing dishes, use a plastic dish pan instead of just your sink to reduce chips or cracks, Timm said. Get rid of food particles, and soak cloudy-looking pieces in water and white distilled vinegar.

"Avoid the dishwasher if you can," Timm said. "Dishwashers can really do a number on vintage china."


Paper and documents

Once again, acid-free tissue paper helps here, as well as acid-free albums. You can put sheets of tissue paper between pieces of paper to help protect them. Folders, binders and page protectors are also great options. Newspaper is tough because it is so acidic; the best bet is acid-free tissue paper.

"We can't completely stop it from doing its natural deterioration," Timm said.


Photo albums or photo storage boxes work great; make sure to use pencil when writing on the backs of photos.

For digitizing, TIFF files work best because they get more detail than JPEGs. Always make sure to back up anything you keep digitally.


VHS taps hold up better than you might think. The problem is finding a way to play them, so it might be good to transfer your videotapes to DVDs, which some retailers do. CDs aren't as stable and lots of computers now don't have the disk drives to play them. For other files, PDFs are a good option vs. word documents; WAVE files are best for sound. 

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