How to Protect and Preserve Journals for Generations

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Written By Daniel

Avid journal writer and founder of JOURNLING.

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As someone who has completely filled 35+ journals, it matters to me that these books are preserved. In fact, we have had to move out of our house for three months while it was being remediated.

Having a serious house issue, especially one in which you have to move all of your belongings out for an extended period of time, gets you thinking about the safety, protection, and longevity of the things you own.

Journals are so special, and yet so vulnerable. I’ve just spent hours taking photos of my grandfather’s writings so that I will have a copy, but the originals have to go! They literally smell bad and while we are purging the house of potential damage, loose-leaf paper is a prime target.

This process of photographing so many pages got me thinking about the longevity and survivability of my personal journals. My oldest is almost thirty years old! And we don’t even keep them in the house anymore. They’re stored in tubs in the garage or attic. Those uncontrolled climates are even more unpredictable.

So how do I keep my journals safe? Is there a better path than digitizing? While I love the search function, it’s nice to have some things remain analog.

This guide will walk you through five effective strategies to ensure your journals stand the test of time.

1. Use High-Quality Materials

When considering how to preserve journals, the first step is to start with high-quality materials. This means choosing acid-free paper, which prevents yellowing over time, and using ink that is less likely to fade. It’s a small investment that can significantly extend the lifespan of your journal.

Tips on Choosing the Right Materials:

  • Look for acid-free or archival-quality paper.
  • Opt for pens with archival-quality ink.
  • Consider the durability of the journal’s binding.

2. Store Your Priceless Journals Properly

Understanding how to preserve journals effectively involves more than just careful writing; it’s also about how and where you store them. Exposure to light, humidity, and extreme temperatures can degrade paper and ink over time.

How to Store Your Journals Properly:

  • Store journals in a cool, dry place.
  • Avoid areas with direct sunlight or high humidity.
  • Consider using air-sealed archival boxes for extra protection.

3. Handle with Care

A crucial aspect of learning how to preserve journals is handling them properly. Regular handling can cause wear and tear, especially if not done carefully.

Best Practices for Handling Journals:

  • Always have clean, dry hands when handling your journals.
  • Open the journals gently, avoiding stress on the spine.
  • Use bookmarks instead of folding pages.

4. Digitize Your Journals

In today’s digital age, one of the best ways to preserve journals is by digitizing them. This not only acts as a backup but also minimizes the need to handle the physical copies frequently.

Tips for Digitizing Your Journals:

  • Use a high-quality scanner for clear, readable images.
  • Store digital copies in multiple locations (cloud storage, external hard drives).
  • Regularly update digital formats to current standards.

5. Check and Clean Them Annually

Understanding how to preserve journals is an ongoing process. Regular maintenance is key to ensuring they stay in good condition for years to come.

Maintenance Tips for Longevity:

  • Annually check your journals for signs of wear or damage.
  • Dust your journals and their storage area gently but regularly.
  • If damage occurs, consult a professional conservator for repair options.

Things To Consider

If you digitize your journals, either by scanning or transcribing, consider the possible consequences of storing sensitive data online. Anything that can be hacked will eventually be hacked. If not by humans, then eventually by AI. In the process of learning about humanity, every single digitized record will eventually be accessed one way or another.

Consider storing your digital data on personal servers or external hard drives. No matter what medium you choose, make at least two copies as hard drives have been known to eventually lose function. Consider transferring files to a new external hard drive every 3-5 years in order to prevent permanent loss.