Proper Storage of Antique Maps

Congratulations! You've got a priceless artifact in your possession. But until you can properly display it in your home, you must keep it in storage. Below are some useful and practical tips and hints to keeping that antique map in splendid condition. Let's go!

First, a little history. Through research we've learned that in general, there are two types of maps: those made before the 19th century and those made after the 19th century. What's the difference? Paper produced before the 19th century had a rag pulp base, meaning it had a higher fiber content. But during the industrial revolution onward, maps were produced by machine in factories with wood pulp. Wood pulp, unfortunately, is heavily acidic. Because of its acidity, over time maps turn brittle, are stained easily, and yellow.

Note: When handling your map, either wear white cotton gloves or just make sure your hands are thoroughly clean. The oil from our hands seep into the fibers of the paper causing it to soil.

Now that the history lesson and health note are out of the way, let's get down to the details about storing your map.

It is recommended that maps are stored in a low light area, lying flat, with low humidity, and in an acid free container. Maps should not be stored above 70 degrees Fahrenheit; below 70 degrees is your ideal temperature with humidity below 60 percent but more than 40 percent. Do not store in attics or basement or in the way of direct sunlight. UV rays are harmful to the paper's fiber and glass only protects some UV rays.

Remember, you should store your map flat. Do not fold and do not roll if not necessary. Research highly suggests placing map(s) into some type of acid-free bag or folder. You can find links to those supplies here:

If you come across tears or cracks in your map and don't want to go to your local conservator, you may also try document repair tape. Make sure it is acid free. Ordinary Scotch tape contains acid and will yellow over time. If you don't want to attempt a restoration task by yourself, please do contact your local conservator. You wouldn't operate on yourself if you knew you had appendicitis... Right?

Once your map is safely in its acid-free folder or bag, lay it flat in some type of flat filing cabinet. Such cabinets are available through several art retailers.

Furthermore, if you're looking to mount your own map, make sure you are using an acid-free matting board and avoid adhesives at all costs. Again, if unsure of what you're doing, contact your local framing expert.

Here are more helpful resources for storing your treasured map:

  1. The Prime Meridian: Antique Maps and Books
  2. eHow
  3. Grace Art Conservation
  4. Antique Map Collecting Tips
  5. American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works
  6. Old World Antiques
  7. Antique Maps 4 U
  8. Antique Map Restoration Services
  9. Lineco

The advice on this website is provided as a courtesy for informational purposes only. “Storage Tips” are offered as-is and no warranty is expressed or implied. For more information, see StorageFront’s Terms and Conditions.

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