How to Store Antiques and Heirlooms

Family heirlooms and antiques are more than just things. They’re the silent matriarchs and patriarchs that tie generations together. The stories connected to these pieces remind us of where we came from. Damaging them can feel like losing part of our own history. This is why properly storing family heirlooms and antiques is essential in order to preserve them for generations to come.

Here are some tips for storing your heirlooms and antiques in the best possible way.

Documents & Photographs 

Letters, books, marriage licenses, birth certificates, deeds, and photographs are all common examples of family heirlooms. Always keep your antique documents in a dark, dry place. Paper items tend to be the most delicate and can easily crumble at the slightest touch. Try to minimize the frequency with which you handle them and remember to use white gloves to reduce oils and moisture from transferring to the paper.

Store your important documents in acid-free and pH-neutral folders, envelopes, and boxes specifically made for archival purposes. Since even the most diligently cared for documents sometimes deteriorate, you may want to carefully make high-quality copies. These may not hold the same value as the originals, but at least the information and sentiment will stay intact.

Quilts & Textiles 

Remember that fabrics were created and processed much differently in the past. Be cautious when handling these items, as even textiles that appear stable can quickly dissolve into dust.

Always store your antique textiles on solid, flat surfaces laid with archival quality paper. Never use rubber bands, paper clips, tape, or anything not approved specifically for antique storage. These often prove detrimental.

When you are preparing quilts for storage in your self-storage unit, there is a way to fold them to help prevent soil buildup, discoloration, and wear along fold lines. Fold quilts into thirds, placing a roll of acid-free paper along and under each fold. Now fold the quilt again into thirds, toward the center. Place a roll of crumpled acid-free tissue along and under each of these two fold lines.

Artwork

Throw that plastic wrap away and let your artwork breathe. Tightly wrapping paintings can trap moisture and cause tons of damage. Instead, gently clean away any dust with a microfiber cloth and then use acid-free boards to separate and protect each piece.

Artwork should always be stored off the ground. Art also stores best at 40-50% humidity, about 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and away from any direct sunlight. That is why it may be wise to choose a climate controlled unit for your antique and heirloom storage solutions.

Wood Furniture 

Prior to storing family heirlooms like antique wood furniture, carefully clean your piece with a mild cleaner like dish soap. Toothbrushes are fantastic, gentle tools for getting into crevices and tricky spots. Allow it to completely dry, ensuring no leftover moisture.

If furniture can be taken apart, take each piece off and wrap smaller pieces separately with bubble wrap. Take a full inventory – screws, washers, etc. – and ensure that nothing gets misplaced in the storage process. Keep the inventory list with the stored furniture. 

Once everything has been taken apart and is ready for storage, cover it with soft but heavy cloth materials. This provides protection while still letting your furniture breathe, making sure no moisture is trapped.

Silverware & China

To avoid chipping and breakage of your fragile heirlooms, we suggest purchasing a quilted china storage set. Choose a set that best fits your antique dishware in order to eliminate extra room for slipping and sliding. Then carefully wrap each piece in acid-free tissue paper, a layer of bubble wrap, and snuggly place the china in each compartment.

For your silverware, wrap each piece separately in acid-free tissue paper. Placing them together can cause scratching. Purchasing bags specifically made for silver storage provides an extra level of protection, further minimizing tarnishing risks.

Never store your items in the basement. Accidents happen in even the driest spaces, and minor flooding often means irreversible damage. Basements and attics are well known for mold, mildew, bugs, and other forces notorious for destruction. If you’re looking for a place to store your heirlooms and antiques in Jackson, Tennessee, call the professionals at Markham Self Storage. We offer affordable storage units with the security features you’re looking for in a self-storage facility.

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