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Keeping Memories Alive: How to Preserve Family Heirlooms

Memories of lost loved ones are often sparked by the presence of something which once belonged to them. Your grandmother’s wedding ring reminds you of how you used to slide it off her finger and try it on your own. Your great-grandfather’s pipe brings back the sweet tobacco smell that filled your nose whenever you hugged him. Old photographs stir up smiles and tears as you see the faces of relatives once more.

Mementos are powerful things with incredible stories. But what should you do to make sure they’ll still be around for future generations to enjoy? Here are our ideas to help you preserve your family heirlooms for years to come.

Handling

Dust, dirt, and oils from your hands can damage or ruin antiques. You should always handle them gently and with clean hands. To further ensure a clean touch, invest in a pair of white cotton gloves to wear as you examine the items. Hold pictures and papers along their edges rather than down the middle to prevent smudges or crinkles.

Cleaning and Repairing

Wipe down items with a clean rag to brush off dust. If mud is caked on, try removing it with a little bit of water, but avoid vigorously rubbing it. If you discover damage that you would like repaired, it is best to talk to a conservator before trying to fix it yourself.

Documenting

Physical objects can’t last forever, but words can. Take a picture or scan an item and record the memories you have attached to it. Ask relatives to share any information or stories they can to enhance the significance of the heirloom. Do some research online or at your local library to learn more about the specifics of each item. You may stumble across how best to preserve it in the process.

Storing

Keep keepsakes in safe places. Always check storage areas for mold, water, glass breakage, and any holes through which rodents or bugs could crawl. Dampness and humidity can damage fragile items, so basements, attics, outside walls, and any heat sources should be avoided. Instead, aim for storage areas with a stable environment, filtered air, and a temperature no greater than 72° Fahrenheit. Be sure to wrap items in acid-free paper and keep them in acid-free containers. If you can’t find an appropriate location in your home, consider storing smaller heirlooms in a safe deposit box at your bank.

Displaying

If you put photographs, textiles, or artworks on display, make sure they are hung on or placed near the wall that receives the least amount of direct sunlight. Further reduce exposure by framing artifacts behind ultraviolet light-filtering glass and periodically rotating out items on display for those in storage. An additional option to consider if you’re still worried about potential damage is to frame copies rather than the original keepsakes.

Appraising

Although most heirlooms are treasured purely for sentimental reasons, some may actually be worth a considerable amount of money. If you think you have something valuable on your hands, contact an expert to have it appraised, and record the approximate value alongside the artifact’s history.

Keep your memories alive by protecting your family heirlooms and treasured possessions with a homeowners insurance policy from Madison Mutual. Call your agent today to make sure your valuables are properly insured or visit www.madisonmutual.com to learn more.