Saving Stuff

This weekend I made quite a few trips to my parents’ attic as we prepared for Meredith and Nevin’s party. Each time I went upstairs, something intriguing caught my eye. One was a text book that had disengrated to the point that I could not tell what it was from the cover. I opened the book to discover maybe a dozen loose pages from an old atlas, along with several much smaller pages of aboriginal drawings that must have originated in another book. This is the only evidence my dad has of his great-grandfather Thomas Baker attending the Masonic Institute in Germanton in the mid-1800s.

The second trip produced a first edition issue of the Germanton School newspaper from 1940. It was just sitting there at the top of the stairs by itself. I took it downstairs to show Dad my discovery. As we read through the articles we realized that my grandmother, Edith Watts, and grandfather, Roger Merritt, were both on the editorial board. It was an original and aside from a wrinkle in the middle, it was in great shape. At a loss for what to do with it, I placed it under the lid of the scanner to help flatten it out.

What do we with all of this stuff? I know that there is a lot of interesting things under the piles in the attic and the basement. But how do we save it so that it doesn’t become dust before we even realize that it is in there?

Fortunately I discovered some of the answers today at The Reynolds Center, which houses the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. As part of a book tour for Saving Stuff, Don Williams discussed why stuff falls apart and some simple everyday ways to address these issues. He directly answered several questions we have faced, including how to prevent furniture from fading, where to store pictures, and how to protect the old text book. Now, where do we start?

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