How to Preserve Newspaper Clippings

By James Holloway
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A collection of newspaper clippings is an effective way to record a personal achievement, celebrate a favorite writer, track the development of a particular story or commemorate a historic event. Unfortunately, newspaper clippings are very fragile and will deteriorate and discolor over time unless properly cared for. Properly storing newspaper clippings will keep your collection intact for years to come.

Preservation Problems

Newsprint, the paper used to print newspapers, contains high levels of wood pulp. This paper is very inexpensive but doesn't survive well over long periods; the impurities in the paper react with light and moisture to discolor the paper and turn it brown and brittle. Its high acid content will eventually break up the paper fibers, causing the clipping to disintegrate. In order to maintain newspaper clippings, you'll have to keep them away from potential contaminants.

Preparing Clippings

Preparing a newspaper clipping can remove some -- though far from all -- of the chemicals that can cause deterioration. The Scrapbook Preservation Society recommends letting the clipping soak in a small dish of distilled water for around 20 minutes, then allowing it to dry on a clean, flat surface. Excess heat can cause the clipping to curl; the ideal temperature is around 70 degrees. Once the clipping is dry, spray it with a light coat of deacidification spray.

Display Materials

Mount newspaper clippings on an acid-free, lignin-free page using paper or Mylar photo corners. Alternatively, you can glue a clipping to its page using small dots of water-soluble glue. When the scrapbook is closed, the clipping will be protected from contamination by the archival materials and from light by the closing of the scrapbook cover. This will minimize deterioration and discoloration over time.

Backing Up

Proper preparation and storage of a newspaper clipping will reduce the deterioration of the paper over time, but some is inevitable. To preserve the information on your clippings even if the clippings themselves crumble, be sure to scan, photograph or photocopy the clipping before mounting it. Of course, these forms of data storage have their own preservation problems, but storing information in multiple formats is always an advantage.

About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.