It’s hard to believe, but the academic year is coming to end, meaning that sorority and fraternity chapter houses are once again preparing to pack up for the summer. Universities often provide checklists for Greek organizations to ensure that the universities’ assets are protected, but what about the assets of the Greek organizations? What steps can you take to ensure that your years of memorabilia make it through the summer storage months intact?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — the three biggest enemies to preserving history are what I like to call the three Fs: floods, fires, and forgetting. I’ve written separate blog posts on each of those topics, but here are highlights specific to Greek chapter house concerns:
In many cases, you’ll be packing up your chapter materials and memorabilia and storing them somewhere other than inside your chapter house. Whether in the house or off site, store them in waterproof bins and keep them several inches off the floor to prevent flood damage. In addition, store them away from windows, as windows could leak during a storm or as a result of a broken windowpane.
Once an item is burned, it is gone forever, so think carefully about where and how you store your historical items. If possible, invest in a fire-rated cabinet or safe for your chapter’s oldest and most treasured items.
As you’re packing up this past year’s materials, take some time to make any explanatory notes to store with the materials. If you have group photographs, for example, store them with lists of which members are depicted in the images.
A fourth significant threat to the preservation of your chapter’s history is sunlight, especially during the summer months. While it makes the house cozy, try not to leave precious photos and documents hanging on the walls over the summer — store them along with your other materials so that they aren’t bleached out or otherwise damaged by sun streaming through windows. Even if your framed items aren’t in the path of any sunbeams, we still recommend taking them down and storing them to extend their longevity.
Packing materials aren’t necessarily a threat to your items, but using the right ones can make a big difference in protecting your treasures for the long term. Archival storage boxes and archival pencils are examples of simple items you can purchase to help you treat your materials with extra care and reduce the likelihood of damage during storage.
Summer is a busy time at HistoryIT because our chapter clients ship the past year’s materials to us so that we can digitize and create a tagged and categorized digital archive for them. That way if a fire, flood or robbery take place in the future, they will have digital access to their materials instead of losing them forever. We then return the original items to the organizations in time for them to display and use them during the fall recruitment season.
If you’re ready to digitally preserve your chapter archive in a digital museum, you can learn more about our packages specifically designed for Greek chapters at historyit.com/chapters.