Caring for Family Treasures


Museums, libraries, and archives are places where we can go to see amazing treasures that are collected, preserved, and presented in the public trust. They are not, however, the only place where these treasures exist. Most of us have things – photographs, letters and cards, paintings, furniture, jewelry- that we cherish. We want to see them preserved for our own enjoyment, but also for the enjoyment of generations to come. This guide is intended as a resource for those caring for their own personal or family treasures. Recommendations included in this guide are adapted from the strategies used by professional conservators and collections care professionals to care for collections in museums, libraries, and archives.



Caring for Family Treasures is an abridged version of a series of blog posts entitled, “Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Caring for Family Treasures” written and published in 2020 by graduate students in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). Blog posts were published weekly on the program website in the spring and summer of 2020. The full, original series can be viewed here: In the words of the original authors,

“The central importance of cultural heritage to foster joy and well-being and to connect communities. All objects, whether in museums or personal collections, can transcend borders. They act as windows to—and voices from—the past as we collaboratively work toward a better and more unified future. As conservators, we are committed to preserving all collections, including those that may be marginalized, hidden, or underserved, and the goal of the Family Treasures series is: to put the power of preservation into everyone’s hands and homes.”

In 2024, the blog posts were edited and compiled into this guide by staff at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) to support a series of workshops hosted jointly by CCAHA and the Centro de Conservación y Restauración de Puerto Rico (CENCOR). All images included in this guide are courtesy of the original authors and contributors.


Topics Covered

  • Photographs
  • Family Albums
  • Documents & Art on Paper
  • Books
  • Pests & Preventive Conservation
  • Water Emergencies
  • Rugs & Carpets
  • Upholstery
  • Small Needlework
  • Quilts & Bedspreads
  • Clothing
  • Ceramics
  • Basketry
  • Glass
  • Metal Jewelry
  • Plastics
  • Paintings
  • Wood Furniture
  • Gilded Frames
  • Musical Instruments

Download the full guide in English and Spanish by clicking the links below.