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A Genealogist In The Archives

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"


DAY #4


Staples, Metal Paper Clips and Rubber Bands

Working in an archive on a daily basis, there is a lot of time spent removing staples, metal paper clips and rubber bands from documents. Why do archivists remove these items from documents? Because they cause damage and sometimes so bad that it can not be repaired.

  • Staples: A stapler is a common office supply that every genealogist has and uses. Using staples to fasten multiple pages of documents together has been in use since 1877 when Henry R. Heyl filed the first patent for the stapler. The metal staples, however, can cause damage to genealogical records. The staples will rust and leave stains on documents and that rust can eat away at the paper. It is highly recommended that all genealogists remove all staples from their documents, ephemera and memorabilia. In place of staples, use plastic paper clips.

Rusty Staple

  • Metal Paper Clips: Another hazard to genealogy records are metal paper clips. Many of our ancestor's records are held together with metal paper clips. The metal will rust over time and stain the documents in such a way that can not be repaired. If the metal paper clips have been attached to the documents for a long time, they may be even be stuck to the documents. Remove all metal paper clips very carefully and replace them with the recommended plastic paper clips. 

Rusty Metal Paper Clip

  • Rubber Bands: These types of fasteners are not used near as much as staples or metal paper clips but they can be just as destructive, if not more. Rubber bands that are wrapped around stacks of documents, old letters or photographs is a disaster waiting to happen. Over time, rubber bands will deteriorate and actually rot. They will stick to whatever they are touching and cause damage. Also, if rubber bands are wound tightly around a stack of old letters the pressure can cause damage to the letters. Do not use rubber bands under any circumstances. If something is to be wrapped around a stack of documents, old letters or photographs, use soft string or yarn loosely around the stack. Better yet, put the items in an archival box, folder or envelope.

Rubber Band Stuck to Document

A lot of time is spent on researching and collecting records on our ancestors. Using items like staples, metal paper clips and rubber bands that can cause damage to these records needs to be avoided at all costs. Future generations will be grateful for the efforts made to preserve those family records.




Legacy Family Tree QuickGuide

"Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist"


  1. I should probably get this quick guide. I inherited numerous family letters about five years ago. I put them in acid free sheet protectors and put them in binders. No staples, no paper clips, and no rubber bands. But, I did get a newspaper clipping fastened to a letter with a strait pin! I got rid of that.

    1. Debra, this is one of my favorite quickguides that I have done so far! I love old letters! I have found strait pins used to hold documents together a lot with my work in the archives. Hope you enjoy the quickguide!