Having family heirlooms is such a treasure. However, because the items are so valuable, they also come with a tremendous amount of responsibility. To preserve these keepsakes, they require proper care. Once you get familiarized with proper care methods, you will find the process of caring for valuable items isn’t as daunting as you might have once thought. In this post, we will take a look at all the steps you should take to properly care for family heirlooms.
Start by asking yourself a few questions. This will allow you to organize your thoughts and help you strategize how to properly care for your family heirlooms. How many valuable items do you own that will need to be cared for? What kinds? Is anything already damaged and if so, can it be fixed? Next, get everything organized. If you have many family heirlooms that need to be taken care of, organize everything into categories and put them in separate boxes or sections of a room. Using labels may help you identify things in boxes later on.
The environment you store family heirlooms in should be cool and dry. This means that the humidity and temperature in the room the items are stored in should be stable too. Avoid storing family heirlooms in basements, attics, and garages. If you have family heirlooms that are sensitive to light, keep them out of settings with a lot of bright natural light or fluorescent light. If you have no choice but to temporarily put family heirlooms in a setting with bright light, limit the amount of exposure they get to the light. Have the heirlooms been sitting in storage for a long time? Then you should inspect for any pests before removing items. If there are any pests, contact a conservator to handle the problem. Finally, if there is any dust on the heirlooms, use a soft cotton cloth or a soft-bristle brush to carefully wipe off the dust.
After carefully inspecting all the family heirlooms that have been in storage for an extended period, it’s time to think about handling them. Planning to clean the items? Start by thoroughly washing your hands first and avoid using hand sanitizer or lotions (particularly fragrant ones). If you're handling items like paper documents and books, use clean hands. If handling textiles, photographs, or metal items, wear gloves. Finally, if you have to move around any fragile items, do so with firm support. If the items are large, it is especially important to have rigid supports in place and you may need an extra person to help you move the item.
Are you planning to put the family heirlooms back in storage? First, make sure all the items will be placed in a well-ventilated area. Don’t put anything on the floor where valuables could collect dust or get damaged by other debris. If you're putting items in boxes, make sure to choose acid-free boxes (and never overstuff the boxes). Do you have books that are family heirlooms? Whether you plan to put the books in storage or display them on your bookshelf, keep all the books upright and stacked according to height (so they can support each other). The only exception is large, heavy books; in this case, you will want to store the books flat. Another thing to consider is whether you'll be wrapping up items for added protection if you won’t be showcasing them in your home. Like boxes, opt for acid-free tissues and other padded materials.
We have just covered the four basic steps you need to properly care for and store family heirlooms. Now we will look at examples to get more specific. If you have antique quilts, don’t store them away. Place them on an unused bed in your home. Make sure to spread out the quilt completely and lay it flat on a clean white bed sheet. The same can be done with other family heirlooms like tablecloths or other large textiles. If you don’t have an extra bed in your house to do this, gently fold the quilt or throw blanket into a loose roll and carefully store it in an acid-free box. Keep the quilt in a dark environment and limit its exposure to light (since this could cause the textile to fade).
Another example we will take a look at is cleaning heirlooms like musical instruments or wooden furniture. You should never use furniture polish or regular cleaning agents on these items. Just dust all the items with a gentle cotton cloth and if you want to add some shine, use furniture paste wax once a year.