A recent Arizona Republic article, “Vinyl Records Are Making a Comeback Across Generations,” is drawing attention once again to this classic recording format and its perennial place in the music industry. According to Brian Faber, the general manager of the Zia Record Exchange chain, vinyl accounts for as much as 15 percent of sales throughout their company. Faber added that “it’s a multigenerational thing. Mothers and daughters [are] in the store, both shopping for vinyl.” This resurgence of interest in vinyl recordings may have a significant impact on the value of your personal collection of albums, posters and other antique items too. If you maintain large collections of vinyl records or antique playback devices, storing them in the right conditions and protecting them from extremes of heat and cold can preserve their value in the modern marketplace.
Preserving the Historical Record
The Library of Congress maintains an extensive repository of cultural treasures at the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation; more than six million vinyl records, films, photographs and paper items are stored in this facility under highly controlled conditions. According to the Los Angeles Times article, “Library of Congress Builds the Record Collection of the Century,” the repository is “kept at 50 degrees and 35 percent relative humidity to prevent materials from degrading.” These carefully controlled temperature and humidity conditions have been found to extend the life of these valuable materials. In some cases, the items stored in the Packard Campus are the sole remaining copies of historically significant records, films and manuscripts. Maintaining these items properly is essential to ensuring that they are available for researchers, historians and future generations alike to enjoy.
Putting these lessons to work
Most of us do not own one-of-a-kind vinyl records, movie memorabilia or other unique items like those found in the Library of Congress collection. Preserving your own collections, however, can ensure that these treasured items remain useful and retain their value. The Library of Congress offers a number of tips for preserving vinyl and magnetic recordings and playback machines; these strategies can help private collectors maintain their record albums and players and preserve their value and usefulness. Some of the suggestions offered include:
• Vinyl records should be stored upright and organized according to size; different sizes should not be stored side by side.
• Hands should be washed and dried thoroughly and free of any lotions or other substances before handling the paper sleeves or albums.
• Records should be handled by the edge or center label only; avoid touching the grooved portion of these fragile materials.
• Polyethylene sleeves can fit inside paper sleeves to protect the surface of the record and reduce deterioration of the vinyl over time.
• Record players and turntables should be kept clean and maintained according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
One of the most important elements, however, is consistent temperature control in the records’ storage environment. In many cases, self-storage facilities can provide that consistency for these valuable collectible items.
Packing and moving records
Wooden packing crates designed specifically to hold vinyl record albums are available from a number of specialty vendors and online shipping companies. These boxes can double as storage boxes upon arrival at their destination and are rugged enough to stand up to repeated use. For a less expensive solution, consider reinforcing a small-size moving company box with bubble wrap and tape. Be careful not to overfill these boxes; the goal is to provide an environment in which albums can sit upright and on edge without pressure or crowding inside the box. When possible, move records and playback equipment in climate-controlled conditions or in the passenger cabin of the moving vehicle. Bubble wrap and loose packing around the albums can often help to absorb any mild shocks or impacts that may occur en route to the new location.
Self-storage companies typically offer air-conditioned or climate-controlled units designed specifically to preserve fragile and delicate materials like record albums, sleeves and playback machines. By maintaining these items in the right temperature and humidity levels, you can ensure that your classic record collection can retain its value and provide enjoyment for you and your family for many years to come.
You can find a climate-controlled self-storage unit near you by searching online.