Best affordable way to preserve documents?

I have a number of papers that I’d like to preserve from the deterioration of time and handling, including letters written in the 1940s by my father. Just sticking them in a folder is obviously not the answer, but neither is a climate-controlled museum-like environment. I’m sure there must be some sort of acid-free, clear material that protects while allowing perusal. Any experience with this appreciated.

You could use the bags designed for comic books.

This is how the National Archives do it.

I have some book pages printed in the late 1500’s - beautiful caligrapic printing and woodcuts. I keep them in plastic archival bags like the one for comic book mentioned earlier. I sandwich that between 2 pieces of cardboard slightly larger than the page itself and use a rubberband to hold it all in place. Low tech, low cost method to keep them clean and flat.

If you want to display your docs, that’s a whole nuther kettle of fish!

There are a few different way to do this. Depending on the size you can get archival boxes in letter or legal size. I have a couple like these. Then what you do is get archival folders to keep the papers in, basically manilla folders but without the acid. Then use some acid free paper to put between each piece of paper.

The other, more expensive way, is to get archival sleeves. Each piece of paper would get its own sleeve. They will run a buck or more apiece. I believe it’s better in the long run but much more expensive.

I know at the historical society that I work at they use both methods, but for lots of letters they tend to put them in folders. I’ve done both, my older letters that to me are more valuable I have in the sleeves, but I only have 4-5 of those.

Gaylord seems to be the best place to buy stuff at.

Instead of handling and reading the originals, electrostatic photocopies or plain black laser prints on acid free paper are the way to go. (They’ll last longer than the originals in many cases.)

Store the originals between sheets of acid free, rag paper in archival folders in a cool, dark place.

Archival materials are available at places like Michael’s for folks who want their cheesy scrapbooking crafts to last as long as the Dead Sea Scrolls.