The Old Thermos

A Superintendent I worked with one time told me he loved his Thermos. I asked what was so special about it. He replied that it kept his coffee hot in the winter and his tea cold in the summer. I said, “Sure, that’s what it’s for”. He looked at me and said, “How does it know?”

My attic has the opposite effect. It keeps my stuff cold in winter and hot in summer. These wide changes in temperature and the humidity fluctuations that go along with them can be very damaging to older documents, newsprint, color and black & white photographs, textiles and porous artifacts like wood. Documents and photos will curl, photos will stick together and/or fade, pests can attack them or use them for nests, and they will be covered with dust.

So my advice is to move your historical material to a location in the heated/cooled part of the house or building in order to help with its preservation. And call HeirShare ( to learn about storing it in acid-free envelopes and containers. While you are at it, you will learn about other steps you can take to conserve your family history.

Family documents and images give shape to our lives and reflect who we are: personalities, interests, values, activities and relationships.

Adair Watters

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