Preserving Your Family Bible
Example of prior bookworms, Chiswell Bible, Montgomery History Bibles Collection
As with any old book or document, your family Bible can be easily damaged by mishandling, moisture, sunlight, heat, bugs and other pests, and more. Therefore, it is important to take steps to protect it. Preservation does not have to be cost-prohibitive; there are simple things you can do yourself. The Library of Congress and the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works offer valuable suggestions:
Dried flowers removed from Waters Bible, Montgomery History Bibles Collection
The first step is proper handling:
- Be sure your hands are clean and dry before touching the Bible.
- Keep food and drink away from the Bible.
- Support the Bible’s spine when opening it. You can do this by propping it with a book wedge, pillow, large binder, or even a box in a pinch.
- When turning pages, try to only touch the white spaces on a page, not the printed sections.
- Minimize handling of the Bible. Photograph family record pages and other information you may want to refer back to. Generally avoid photocopying pages, as most photocopiers require you to press the Bible face down on the glass, which increases the risk for broken bindings and torn pages.
- Avoid using the Bible to press leaves or flowers, as these items can attract bugs that may damage the Bible.
- Avoid writing, adding self-adhesive labels, or taping or gluing information in the Bible.
- Avoid do-it-yourself repairs, such as trying to fix broken bindings or torn pages. When it comes to family Bibles and other old books, duct tape is not your friend!
Example of a pre-donation DIY repair with tape, Moore Bible, Montgomery History Bibles Collection
Example of a pre-donation DIY sewn page, Chiswell Bible, Montgomery History Bibles Collection
When not in use, your Bible is safest stored in a cool, dry location. Proper storage includes:
- Remove all loose materials between the pages of the Bible, such as pressed leaves or flowers or newspaper clippings that can result in discoloration of pages. You can preserve these items separately, if you wish to keep them.
- Remove any paper clips, other metal clips, and rubberbands.
- Inspect the Bible for active water damage, mold, or bugs. If you suspect any of these, consult with a book conservator.
- Store the Bible in an acid free, archival quality box or tissue paper.
- Store the Bible in a cool, dry place. For many of us, this means avoiding the basement, which may be too humid; the attic, which may be too hot; or, the garage, where it is difficult to control humidity and temperature.
- Store the Bible in a flat position.
Example of archival box and tissue paper for storing Bibles.
In addition to these do-it-yourself preservation techniques, you might also want to consider donating your family Bible to a research repository, such as the local historical society. At Montgomery History, we accept Bibles and Bible records for families who have history in Montgomery County, and we make these records available to local historians and genealogists. Contact the Archivist/Librarian at the Jane C. Sween Research Library for more information.
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