Care for Family Heirlooms

Edited by Nerissa Avisado, Lynn, Eng, Chris Stipe

Heirlooms are the valuable possessions that have been passed down from one generation of family to the next. These keepsakes may not always cost a lot actually; it is the sentiment of a person or a clan who owns it that makes it valuable. These heirlooms help the younger generation develop an understanding and deep connection with their ancestors. It provides a way to feel the family history. This is the reason why it is important to learn to care for family heirlooms and to preserve them for the next generations.

To preserve the value of these heirlooms, they have to be properly taken care of in order to defy the trials of time. One of the first things you must do is to make an inventory of memorabilia you can leave or pass on as legacy to future generations.

The Best Family Heirlooms. Have you inherited any of these heirlooms?

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  • Jewelry
  • Stories
  • Furniture
  • Quilts
  • Weapons
  • Letters and Diaries
  • Photographs, Albums and Scrapbooks
  • Cookbooks and Recipes
  • Clocks and Watches
  • Musical Instruments
  • Books, including the Family Bible
  • Cars
  • China/Silver Wares
  • Military Relics
  • Trophy's and Diplomas
  • Clothing
  • Dolls and Toys
  • Christmas Decors

Why Are They Considered Family Heirlooms?

  1. 1
    They represent family wealth
    They are valuable, and like jewelry, they have to be saved, preserved and cherished.
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  2. 2
    The story behind them can be regarded already as history that evokes priceless memories.
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How to Care for the Family heirlooms

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Start caring for these possessions now. They entail a lot of work from retrieving, cleaning, repair and restoration to storage or display. Find out various ways of caring for heirlooms so you can enjoy them for more years.

  1. 1
    Discovering artifacts and possessions in the house gives your family a clue to your ancestors and to your past.
    1. You have heirlooms waiting to be unearthed.
    2. Try the different places to dig up mementos from the past - attics, libraries, old chests and armories.
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  2. 2
    1. Look for signs of infestation. Holes are positive proof. Pests thrive in furniture, fabrics, clothing, paper and photos. Refer to your pest control expert to eliminate the problem.
    2. Documents, books, photos, and works of art done on paper are fragile when wet. Handle with caution. Release the edges of prints and paper objects from mats and their frames, if you can, to dry it.
    3. Photos with mud on them can be cleaned with running water but do not rub the surfaces.
    4. Dry clean or wash fabrics and carpets as you normally would.
    5. Wipe dry and brush off dust from furniture and paintings. Furniture finishes and painting surfaces develop white haze when they get in contact with water and humidity. Do not attempt to restore them, but refer to a specialist.
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  3. 3
    Repairing and Restoring
    1. Don't attempt to fix it even if it's broken. Your findings include a smudged or dirt/dust-covered painting, a ripped photo, or broken and fragmented vase.
    2. It may look uncomplicated to fix it, but often, putting it back together does more damage than good.
    3. Consult an expert to restore valued items.
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  4. 4
    1. Wrap up heirlooms in acid-free sheets like a tissue paper, washed muslin, a washed cotton or cotton polyester.
    2. There are heirlooms with metal accessories. Before you wrap them, unfasten the metal first.
    3. Wrapped pieces are ideally kept in acid-free containers.
    4. Use a bureau drawer. Wash and dry it first. Varnish the drawers with polyurethane before lining with paper or sheets. For liners, use acid-free paper liners and for added protection, line again with cotton or muslin papers. If your home easily accumulates dust, heavy liners of polyethylene, Mylar or fiberfill can be used for another lining.
    5. Don't wrap heirlooms in plastic, Styrofoam or anything made of wood, like cardboard or regular tissue paper.
    6. Heirlooms should be stored in clean and dry areas that are cool and have good aeration.
    7. Control the temperature. A temperature of 64-72 degrees F is appropriate with a relative humidity of about 45-55 percent.
    8. Don't store heirlooms in attics, as it is too hot up there, or basements, where they may develop mildew.
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  5. 5
    1. When displaying fragile heirlooms, keep them far from moist and warm areas of the house. The part of the house where you feel comfortable is also the spot for your treasures.
    2. Other cool areas like hallways and low-lit areas are good for fragile items like ephemera and textiles.  
      1. Ephemera are accumulated items made of paper and can be discarded.
      2. Examples are business cards, political campaign materials, movie posters, etc.
      3. Included here also are greeting cards, promotional hand fans, etc.
    3. Install lights in display cabinets to accent the items. In a damp room atmosphere, turn the lights on to prevent humidity.
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  6. 6
    Documenting and Recording
    The family heirlooms will arrive at a wear and tear stage, which is all the more reason for you to make a record of those available possessions.
    1. Visit the Heirloom Registry and find out about your family treasure.
    2. Make an inventory list of all family heirlooms. This includes identifying and photographing every item.
    3. Include a story or description about each one, if you know, including the condition, who made it, who purchased it, date of purchase, who used it, what material is it made of, and importance to the person who owns it.
    4. Connect with relatives. Tracing the family tree is also a way to discover all the living relatives and ask about your findings. They probably can help supply some missing information if they see the object. They may even turn over and share other treasures they have to add to the family heirloom.
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How to Pass on Heirlooms

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Attention parents and grandparents! Heirlooms you are leaving or want to pass on to your children or relatives can either end treasured, a source of conflict or taken as baggage.

These are important steps you can take before passing down an heirloom.

  1. 1
    Make sure you own it
    Attach a description to the item. This way the recipient appreciates it.
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  • 2
    Write a story about it
    It helps to enlighten the recipient about the sentimental value of the item to you. You can also decide who is going to receive a particular family treasure.
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  • 3
    Remove the burden
    1. While still living, you can decide and assign who your heirloom will go to.
    2. For items you are undecided about, ask if anyone of them wants to have it.
    3. If nobody wants it, donate it to the local historical society.
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  • 4
    Talk about the good old days
    Bring out the items and find out what the family members can recall about it. There may be shared memories in a particular item, but they may also solicit different reactions, one of laughter or one of disgust. Then you know who to leave it to.
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  • 5
    Preserving your giveaways if you're giving them later
    Learn the right care if you're storing them for the meantime. Don't save everything for the future generations.
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  • Tips, Warning and Safety

    • There is such a thing as an Heirloom Allergy.
      These historic items are not safe from abrasive cleaners. Avoid using glue, adhesive staples, labeling stickers, paper clips and staple wires. Don't write with pens and markers.
    • Low humidity affects items like paintings, wood and paper.
      They shrink, become brittle and crack. High humidity makes metal items develop rust, mold appears on different items and insects start to breed. Buy a hygrometer from a hardware store to measure your humidity level.
    • Valuable objects that are broken or falling apart should be placed inside an open container and properly labeled.
      Seek advice from a repair specialist.
    • When treasures get wet from rain and flood,
      mold formation occurs within 48 hours. You have to work fast. Reduce the humidity and temperature around them while you clean and dry them. If there is already massive mold growth, wear gloves, goggles and face cover for safety.

    If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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    Categories : Family

    Recent edits by: Eng, Lynn, Nerissa Avisado

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