Deteriorating newspapers

August 24, 2010

We are in the process of evaluating the space we have left for archives and special collections.  At this point we have shelves full of acidic newsprint in the form of old bound newspapers.  They have all been microfilmed and we don’t let anyone touch them because they are falling apart.

If you are in the same situation, are you committed to keeping them?  Why, or why not?  I know you’re out there. :)  As always, any help or ideas you can give.

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6 Responses to “Deteriorating newspapers”

  1. HeatherP Says:

    We didn’t keep ours. For the most part, it was a good decision, but there are days that I wish we had because occasionally you get that microfilm date that’s blurry or the very edge was cut off or that picture that was microfilmed is too black and white. Plus an old newspaper is great for exhibit.

    In retrospect, we would make the same decision again for the reasons you state above (space, fragility of the papers). Maybe save a few for exhibit value?

    Good luck!

  2. Jim Says:

    Hi, Linda,

    I would say, “It depends.” (Disclaimer – we have no space crunch yet, so I haven’t had my hand forced.) I am assuming that these are local newspapers (rather than copies of NY Times or other large, likely digitized paper).

    If they are brittle to the point of unusability (literally unable to turn a page because the page breaks), then definitely toss them. If in poor shape, but not totally gone, then perhaps a local historical society or other repository might be interested in taking them off your hands. No one actually likes working with microfilm, so having the paper available somewhere locally might be a nice option. Another possibility would be to sell them; I believe there is an historic newspaper dealer in Williamsport, PA that buys and sells. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

    We have some newspapers that are quite unique (though microfilmed), and they have been used by faculty and students for research as well as for exhibits, so we’re holding on to them for now. I have, however, prioritized which titles will be the first to go if/when space becomes an issue.

    One final thought. If you do toss them, save one bound copy that you can use to demonstrate the fragility of old formats. It’s always fun to take a page and crumble it up in front of people to make the point about the damage due to age, chemicals, etc.

  3. Kim Laird Says:

    We’ve either gotten rid of ours or will. space is at a premium. Like the other poster, I’m often dismayed by some of the microfilming, like one newspaper which redid the first three pages six times, and then the next three pages six times. Very discouraging to use microfilm that’s done that badly. :/


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