How to Preserve Holiday Heirlooms

By Denise May Levenick

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Holiday decorations and heirlooms on a white background.

The holidays are a special time of year. No matter what you celebrate or how you celebrate it, you likely have many special heirlooms that have been held and cherished by your family for years. You want to preserve these heirlooms so that future generations can enjoy them as well. Below are some steps you can take to ensure that your holiday heirlooms can endure many Decembers to come.

1. Plan Ahead

When you’re unpacking holiday decor is the best time to think about storing your decorations post-festivities. Note storage boxes needing replacement so you can take advantage of holiday sales on archival supplies, and plan to give away any extra or unsentimental decorations.

2. Choose a Safe Location

Although you might store lights and garlands in the garage or basement, those aren’t the best spots for treasured heirlooms. Summer heat, winter cold, moisture, pests and other hazards can turn paper and fabric decorations brittle and cause glass to fade and oxidize. If storage space is limited, separate special items, like menorahs, crèches and handmade ornaments, to keep inside your home.

3. Use the Right Materials

Bread-dough snowmen and pasta angels are doomed to early demise as the food decays. Cross-stitch, porcelain or vintage glass baubles are likelier to survive the ages. Any item will have better longevity if carefully wrapped in white, acid-free tissue and stored in a clean, dry container, such as a divided ornament storage box. Inexpensive plastic bins are a good choice as well. Store boxes off the ground, away from sources of moisture.

4. Say No to Newspaper

Don’t store treasures wrapped in newspaper. Not only is the cheap newsprint paper highly acidic and damaging to things it touches, but it also loses its cushioning properties as it degrades. The ink rubs off, too. Instead, use acid-free white tissue paper, such as Gaylord Archival Acid-free Tissue, or polyester craft batting from a fabric store.

5. Pay Special Attention to Fragile Items

Individually wrap holiday figurines in white, acid-free tissue paper and place inside a sturdy plastic or cardboard box. Cushion the space between items with polyester batting.

6. Salvage Broken Items

Are you hanging onto beloved glass ornaments that are chipped or broken? Arrange them together in a bowl with the damaged parts hidden. Add tinsel or silver garland for extra sparkle, and display the bowl where it’ll catch the light.

7. Preserve Holiday Linens

Store linens and Christmas stockings in a clean, dry location, preferably inside your home. Wrap stockings in white acid-free tissue paper, and place in an acid-free box or tissue-lined drawer. Don’t wrap in plastic. Moisture can get trapped inside and cause mildew and mold.

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Ready to pack up your holiday decorations? Learn the best way to display, clean and store your old vintage Christmas ornaments.
Heirloom linens can tell a wonderful story about your family’s history. Here’s how to preserve your antique lines for generations to come.