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Caring for your collections: Physical collections

This guide will help you look after your own books and papers and explain how to get your books valued. It also provides information and links to resources about preserving digital material.

Conservation contacts

Artlab Australia

Artlab Australia provides a team of qualified conservators who specialise in preservation and conservation services for works of art and historic items. Consultation days are held throughout the year.

Phone: (08) 8207 7520

At the State Library of SA

Senior Conservation Officer
Phone: (08) 7424 6192 

Useful websites

Book binding

Book binding demonstration at the State Library, 1988. (B 49456)


People often seek advice on how to take care of cherished personal items, handed down through the family, which they hope to pass on in good condition to the next generation.

This guide provides some practical and simple advice about how best to care for your personal records, along with links to more in-depth information for a range of formats, and businesses that provide conservation and archival products.

General care of your collections

Use only:

  • Acid-free containers
  • Polypropylene sleeves
  • Acid-free paper, tissues and cloth
  • Soft pencils approved for writing captions on back of photos


  • Lamination
  • Sticky tape and glue 
  • Writing with a ballpoint pen
  • Mounting items with glue onto cardboard or masonite
  • Sticking post-it notes onto actual items as they may leave a sticky residue
  • Old style plastic sleeves, which will cause documents and photographs to fade and discolour rapidly. They may also make removal of your item difficult, due to internal adhesion.
  • Sunlight or bright light falling directly onto items
  • Boxes on the floor (keep them above the floor on clean shelving)
  • Extremes and rapid fluctuations of temperature and humidity
  • Dust and pests (insects and vermin).
  • Keeping archival records in old sheds, or under leaky roofing, or in damp, dusty or dirty areas, or without fire protection.
  • Using starch based loose packing materials to protect items from breakage (insects will be attracted to the starch and create pest management problems).

Sensible precautions:

  • Make notes about any items of historical interest, and keep these with the item, or in a safe place, so the information is not lost.
  • Make lists of the contents of boxes and keep them in the front of each box. Label your boxes.
  • Make a list of who is to inherit which items and label them with that person's name.
  • Consider making a bequest or donation to the State Library.
  • Consider whether your archival records may be of interest to all South Australians.
    ~ If so, consider a donation to the State Library of South Australia (see below).


To ensure their long-term preservation and to make them available to the wider community, you may consider donating your records to a suitable archival repository. The State Library always welcomes the opportunity to appraise original records for the archival collections, when they relate to South Australians or South Australia, are of state significance and have enduring research value.

Read more about the donations process and how to submit a donation offer on our website. 

Please note that the Library is unable to accept donation offers without prior arrangement. 

Archival products

These companies are commercial providers of archival products such as acid free photo albums and archival boxes.