Course:3: Processing
Lesson:Lesson 3: Preservation
Topic:Loose Paper

Loose Paper


  • Support the records on a stable surface when they are being moved.
  • Remove the entire folder from a box before looking for an individual document.
  • Do not lean on or write on top of records.

Processing Tasks

Unfold items that are folded; remove items from envelopes. Use a “bone folder” to smooth out folds. These are available through archival supply companies. If the fold won’t “unfold,” don’t push it! Call a conservator or professional archivist before proceeding!

Resources icon

The National Archives provides a handy list of  do's and don'ts in document handling. Click here.

NEDCC's site offers Removal of Damaging Fasteners from Historic Documents. Click here. See also Surface Cleaning of Paper. Click here.





staple remover with "x" through it


 Remove paper clips and staples.
staple removalstaple removal





Use a “spatula” to lift the staple back and front. These are available through archival supply companies.


Stapled or paperclipped groups of documents can be held together using inert plastic clips.
Fastening papers together with plastic clips



plastic clips
 Here's a closeup of  plastic clips.


If the materials are dirty, use dust brush to gently remove excessive dirt and dust.
dust brush





Refolder using alkaline, archival quality file folders. Select appropriate sized folders that are larger than the documents.
archival quality folders



Definition icon

Alkaline: A substance whose OH- concentration exceeds its H+ concentration, imparting a pH greater than 7.


Folders should not be overfilled.
Properly filled folderoverfilled folder





The folders above left are properly filled; the folder above right is too full.


Tip icon

Try not to put more than 1/2 inch of paper in a folder.

Label folders using Number 2 pencil.
labelling folders

#2 pencil


Place folders in archival quality, alkaline boxes. placing papers in box



Boxes should be full, but not packed tightly. The box below is packed too tightly – see how it bulges and causes the documents and folders to bend.
too-full box



Note any badly damaged items and place them in separate folders to protect them.
document burned at edges


If the damage is caused by mold, mildew, or mice/ insects, remove the item and check with a professional before you put it back in with the other documents!




Do not use pressure-sensitive tape for mending.
damage to document through use of tape

Resources icon

To learn more about mending, see "Repairing Paper Artifacts," by Sherelyn Ogden, Head of Conservation, Minnesota Historical Society. Click here.