Saturday, February 11, 2006

 

How I Store Comic Strips Part I

One of the questions I get asked a lot is "How should I store my comic strips?" In this series of posts I'm going to endeavor to answer that question as best I can, but first a caveat. Although I have a huge collection and I do my best to store the material so that it will not deteriorate, I am admittedly not a professional archivist. Some of what I do might well make a serious preservationist give me the ol' "tsk, tsk", but I'll tell you on the points where I know that my methods are less than optimal.

For this reason I'm titling this essay as seen above. I don't want to give the impression that I'm expounding on anything more scientific than my own philosophy of newspaper storage.

The basic answer to the newspaper storage question is quite simple. All newspaper should be stored with three basic elements in mind:

* Cool
* Dry
* Dark

Heat, humidity and light are the enemies of newsprint. High temperatures and high humidity accelerate the aging of the paper, first turning it off-white, then eventually brown and then brittle. The first two factors, though, are lightweights compared to the aging power of light. Light can turn newsprint brown and brittle in practically no time. If you find that hard to believe, leave your daily newspaper out in the sun for a few days. Even that much exposure is enough to start the yellowing process. Give it a few weeks and you'll have a newspaper that looks like George Hamilton after a month on Waikiki beach.

So the first and foremost rule is that you should keep your comic strips out of light - direct and even indirect. Newspaper that is put on display may be a joy to behold, but the joy is fleeting. Soon that lovely Little Nemo Sunday tearsheet that you paid out the nose for will look like an old grocery bag. And not only have you lost something of beauty, but you've reduced the number of surviving examples, of which there are precious few to begin with, by one more.

In addition to keeping your newspaper out of light, you should also avoid storing it in places that have high heat or humidity. Newsprint that is stored in the temperature extremes of an attic will just as surely turn brown and brittle as if it were sitting in the sun, albeit at a much slower pace. Basements are almost universally humid, and that not only ages the paper quickly, but it also stimulates the growth of mold, which considers damp newsprint a gourmet delicacy. We've all found old newspapers stashed in these places, and rarely have they survived in decent condition.

For temperature and humidity, the best place to keep your newspaper comic strips is in the same environment that you prefer to live. Moderate temperature and humidity do not halt the aging process, but they do make it about as slow as is practical for the fan and collector. Assuming you don't have the facility or wherewithal to keep the material in an ideal environment (which is more like 50 degrees F and about 40-50% humidity), the living areas of your home will do just fine. The only other requirement, then, is to keep them out of the light. A closet or cupboard or a closed box work fine.

Tomorrow: Part 2 - Another Enemy of Newsprint

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