How to Save Your Election Day Newspaper

Here’s what you need to know to preserve your copy of history

Dewey Defeats Truman
The historic photo of Harry Truman holding up a newspaper with a headline that got the election wrong. AP Photo/Byron Rollins
Editor's Note: This story was first published on in November 2008. It has been updated for this election.

The Washington Post sold out of its first run of newsstand newspapers reporting the election of Barack Obama by 11 a.m. on Wednesday. When people couldn’t find the paper in stores and on stands, they went straight to the source, lining up outside Post headquarters, which eventually hung a sign “Sold Out” on its door. Others searched for marked-up copies on Craigslist and eBay. And the scene was much the same in cities such as Atlanta, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Detroit, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, where other papers underestimated (pleasingly, really, as it reassured journalists of the value of the printed word) the number of people that would be scrambling for a memento of the day the United States elected its first African American president.

So, if you managed to snag a copy, what now? Here are some preservation tips from Don Williams, senior conservator at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute and author of Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prize Possessions.

  1. Store the newspaper in an oversized acid-free archival folder, available through University Products, Gaylord Brothers, Light Impressions or Metal Edge, Inc. Ideally, lay it open to its full size, like you would if you were to open it and lay it flat on a table, and interleaf the pages with acid-free tissue paper. Place the folder in between archival foam core or rigid board.
  2. Contrary to popular habit, do not keep it in the attic or basement. Extremes in temperature and humidity aren’t good for it.
  3. Keep it in the dark. Exposure to light only causes fading and the yellowing of the paper.
  4. Be sure that your storage space is bug and rodent-free. Bugs, particularly silverfish, might eat the paper and rodents could use it as nesting material.
  5. To best preserve it, you shouldn’t handle it. So if you foresee wanting to revisit it, or have your children read it, you may want to buy two—one as a usable copy and the other as an archival copy.

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