How to Preserve Your Family Keepsakes

Family keepsakes are some of the most treasured items one can receive. Heirlooms, of all kinds, require unique care and preservation in order to keep them as beautiful and original as you can. There are so many different kinds of family keepsakes, each with their own sentimental and monetary value.


Books are my weakness. I am an avid reader, and I read a lot in my spare time (although my Goodreads book challenge is pretty dismal right now because my reading career has suffered since having a baby). Regardless, books are extremely important to me. I was recently gifted a family Bible from my aunt that belonged to my great grandfather. It’s in terrible condition. The publishing date was in 1890, and it is showing its age. The binding is falling apart, and the pages are dry and brittle. It contains valuable information pertaining to my father’s family, including birth dates, death dates, wedding anniversaries and more. All of these are written in my great grandfather’s hand, and it’s so precious to me. So far I have managed to keep it sitting in a cool yet dry place. The book is very large and heavy, and I have it resting on its side on the top shelf of my bookshelf in my office. Until I can afford to restore it, that is how it will stay. When storing old books, remember to keep it in a cool, dry place and avoid excess humidity which can produce mold and sunlight which can irreparably damage the pages.


My parents have dishes that have been passed down for centuries. There is a large serving platter with a gravy boat, along with a set of matching plates and teacups from the 1700s. My father says that they used to belong to my great-great-grandmother and she used them for everything including laundry. Keeping these plates safe is important to my family, and they keep them in a large china cabinet where they are protected from dust and accidental damage. Another way to keep them safe would be to place them in dust bags and keep them in a wooden box.


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Gravestones age. It’s sad, and unfortunate, but the truth. The newer gravestones are made of granite which is much more durable and will age more gracefully. A lot of the older stones were made with limestone, which will show severe signs of aging after a few decades. My great-grandfather’s stone, actually the same great-grandfather whose family Bible I now possess, is in such a state of disrepair that the names and dates are almost illegible. It is also covered in a fine layer of moss. There are some methods to restoring these older stones, and they involve a scrub brush and some limestone cleaner. It’s best to document these older stones with photography, and possibly a grave rubbing on some paper before the dates and names disappear forever.


Jewelry is another common keepsake that families pass down from one generation to the next. Things like rings their ancestors wore, to brooches, to earrings and necklaces all possess extreme sentimental value from their previous owners. The best way to keep these items safe is to keep them free from dust and oil. Placing them in dust bags and putting them in a jewelry box will protect them from damage from body oils, dust and other things that may tarnish the finish on these pieces. This way it ensures they will be protected for generations to come.


Some families pass down odd objects: old stuffed animals, cassette tapes, dolls and figurines etc. These objects may have been loved by them, but you’re not quite sure how to honor the life they previously had. Most of the time they end up sitting on a shelf, judging you from afar and you notice them once a week when dusting. Placing stuffed animals in dust boxes, or on shelves would be a cute reminder of the people from the past, and a figurine could add a topic piece to a room. Just make sure to keep them dust free!


Photographs are physical evidence of what life was like in the past. They show us visual reminders of how people lived, worked, dressed, ate and how day to day life was. Keeping their physical memory alive is important, and preserving photographs is essential to keeping the visual presence of your family’s history alive.

The best place for original photographs would be in an album, flat pressed so they don’t crinkle, in a cool, dry room. Keeping them from getting humid and sticking to paper is key. Also keeping them out of the sun will minimize damages. I store my originals in an envelope inside of my fire proof safe so they will hopefully be protected for generations to come. It’s also not a bad idea to digitize the photos by scanning them onto a computer. That way you have digital files that can reprinted if you want to display any of the photos or if the originals become destroyed.

I hope some of these tips help you preserve some of the most important pieces of the past.

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