Tips & hints


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Packing      Storage      Digitalisation     Transcription 

How packed documents properly?

Correctly packaging archive items offers protection from light, dust and mechanical damages. It can even prevent more major damage from water or smoke gas from fires. Correct packaging therefore extends the lifespan of historical documents! Nevertheless, archives can also be damaged by the acids contained in paper, by the formation of mould, or by ink corrosion. However, the majority of damage to archive material is caused by poor storage or transport.

The first step is deburring demetallisation. For the various archive items like papers, films, photos and other media it is first necessary to remove damaging substances such as metals, adhesive residues and plastics. Most of these things can often be removed without damaging the materials using simple tools, for instance with a small knife or spatula.

When removing them it must be noted that joined items can still be stuck together after removing a staple or paper clip and should not be prised apart. In this instance it can be helpful to simply number the pages with a soft pencil (HB, 2B). Acidic transparent pockets must also be removed! Particular care should be taken when removing old adhesive tape. That can very quickly cause mechanical damage. Archive-friendly binders and adhesive tapes can be used as a substitute for the previous material.

The items are then transferred to acid-free portfolios. Specialist retailers offer various materials in many different sizes. If not only A4 items are being indexed but also folio formats (approx. 21 cm x 33 cm), uniform packing in larger envelope portfolios is advisable.

Special storage media are offered for photos, ranging from "simple" envelope portfolios and divisible photo boxes to PAT-tested plastic sleeves that are then stored in acid-free folders.

The archive items in the portfolios are then packed into archive boxes. Pre-stapled archive boxes and self-assembly packaging material is available. A differentiation is made between archive-approved ISO 9706 and accordingly tested, acid-free DIN 16245-A boxes. It is particularly important to ensure that the boxes used are stable. Triple-wall packaging materials naturally provide better protection than double-wall boxes.

Text for download please click here: "Introduction packing (pdf)

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How superimposed valuable papers best?

It is very difficult to find a one-size-fits-all storage solution for archive material (papers, films, cassettes and other storage media) because each medium and each material requires different conditions. One medium can sometimes be made up of several different materials. Light, air purity, temperature and humidity are the main factors that can affect archive items.


Almost all materials are light-sensitive. UV and infrared radiation damage the archive items. Colour photographs change colour, paper documents disintegrate, writing and images fade. It is therefore important that the archive materials are protected from light as much as possible. Opaque packaging is advisable and in the event of frequent use the documents should be handled in rooms with little or no daylight. 

Air purity:

Heating air and engine and machine exhaust contain contaminants. Private premises rarely have filter systems suited to such conditions. It should therefore be ensured that the archive items are not stored close to contaminants or machines and devices that emit contaminants, e.g. in boiler rooms or rooms adjacent to them.


The lower the temperature, the slower the archive item ages. Chemical and biological decay processes slow down in line with the temperature. Film, photo and audio mate-rials should therefore be kept as cool as possible. Each reduction of 5°C halves the decay rate and thus doubles the lifespan. Where possible, items should be stored below 16°C, ideally at about 5°C.

The following temperatures are recommended for archive rooms:

Winter: 15 °C–18 °C

Summer: 20 °C–22 °C (by no means above 26 °C)

Temperature plays a major role where relative humidity is concerned, because the two factors are interdependent. The lower the temperature, the less damp (water vapour) the air absorbs. In the event of a sudden temperature drop to dew point within seconds, for example on cooler wall areas, water vapour condenses. This can significantly damage documents. Major temperature fluctuations should therefore be avoided!


Water is the most common cause of damage to archive items. In a room with high humidity (a relative humidity of 60 % and above), the risk of mould increases. There are however materials where the risk of crumbling increases if they are stored at very low relative humidity (below 35 %). However, the general rule of thumb is: the drier, the better.

The following relative humidity values are recommended:

Winter: 45 % - 55 %

Summer: 50 % - 60 %

Text for download please click here: ”Introduction storage (pdf)”

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How to digitize photos and documents?

When digitalising photos, postcards and papers, a conventional scanner generally suffices if the resulting digitalisation[1] does not have to fulfil any "higher requirements" regarding resolution. Media that are larger than standard A4 or A3 scanners should be digitalised by an expert service provider.


Firstly, the technical settings of the scanner need to be configured.  Saving in "raw" or "tif" format is preferable to saving in "jpg" format. To avoid having to repeat scanning several times and to ensure an optimum result, as high a resolution as possible should be used. In addition to high resolution we recommend using the colour preset, even for black and white scans. The various black, brown, grey and white shades form a very individual composition which can be reproduced only badly if at all by a black and white scan. The same is true for documents that are reproduced much more "naturally" by a colour scan. This does however also produce larger files!


The next step entails the preparation of the originals to be scanned. We recommend numbering original images and photos. If they are already archived it makes sense to use the signature as the file name. If the objects are not yet labelled, this should be done with a soft pencil on the back, e.g. using continuous numbering.

If you want to scan an album with several photos on one page, the pages of the album should be numbered first, followed by the individual photos. Only then can the scan process begin.


It is important to ensure that both the scanner and the originals to be scanned are free from dirt. This should be checked repeatedly when scanning numerous pages or photos. The use of cotton gloves is recommended. Anti-static cloths and a brush can also be helpful.

The items to be scanned are first placed on the surface of the scanner. Avoid placing the image or the paper entirely in the corner of the scanner, as the edges of the images are then often not scanned. It must also be ensured that the items are as flat as possible. Once the preview mode displays the image, the area to be scanned is determined. It is important that the image is scanned with a sufficient border and a certain "room for manoeuvre". That way the scan can also be used to reconstruct the original state, to calculate the size and, in the case of a copy, to reproduce a largely "authentic duplicate". If the image was not lying entirely straight on the scanner, with the border you then nevertheless do not lose any elements when editing - rotating - the image!

If the photo is very detailed, for example showing a large group of people or if particular objects are of interest, those sections of the image should be scanned specially with the highest resolution possible.

Upon completion of the scan process, the files then have to be correctly saved with an appropriate file name and label. To enable a search by date as well as by keyword whilst also ensuring that the saved files can be sorted according to date, the following allocation of a file name is recommended:

Year_Month_Day_Place_Keyword (e.g.: 2014_08_15_Cologne_Digitalisation)

Special characters and spaces should definitely not be used because they are not always recognised by all systems and when overwriting or recovering data the file names may become "jumbled". 

Text for download please click here:  "Introduction Digitalisation (pdf)"

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How transcribed ancient writings?

The cursive forms taught in the German-speaking world from the beginning of the 19th century until around 1925 are recommended introductions to learning German script. Anyone who is already familiar with the "Kurrent" letters will have less problems getting to grips with newer forms such as "Sütterlin" or "Offenbacher Schrift".All German cursives have a four line system which categorises the letters in groups with ascender, corpus and descender.






Special features

The s forms:

Two different s forms are used; the long-s s and the rounded or "final-s" = $. They are used as follows:
- the rounded $ (s) is only found at the end of the word or syllable
- the long s (s) is used in all other cases
In addition, there were also the sz (ß) and the double ss (ss), which was often written with a combination of long s and rounded $. s$ (ss) is often incorrectly transcribed as ”hs”, e.g. the name Ehser.


Ligatures (joining letters – two letters are merged into one character): 

- ch (ch), ck (ck), sz (sz) and the st (st).

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Possible Confusions

- e (e) and n (n)
- g (g) and p (p)
- u (u) and n (n). The u (u) the generally differens from n (n) with a small loop above the openeing; this loop varies from person to person!
- d (d) and D (D). The lower case d (d) only has one pointed foot, but is otherwise not distinct and therefore sometimes hardly be differentiated
- B (B) and L (L). The B (B) has a small loop at the bottom end
- R (R) and K (K)
- N (N) and St (ST)



An orientation aid for lower case letters is the categorisation of the various letters using ruling.
- Lower case letters with descender are g (g), j (j), p (p), q (q), x (x), y (y) and z (z)
- Lower case letters with ascender are b (b), d (d), k (k), l (l), round-s $ and t (t)
- Lower case letters with ascender and descender are f (f), h (h) and s (s)
- Lower case letters with no ascender or descender are a (a), c (c), e (e), i (i), m (m), n (n), o (o), r (r), u (u), v (v) and w (w)



Harald Süß – Deutsche Schreibschrift Lesen und Schreiben lernen, Knaur Verlag, 14.99 Euro (the 2007 edition also contains an exercise section which otherwise costs an additional € 9.99). All standard copybooks with the four line system are suitable for practising letters; expensive exercise books are not necessary.


Internet address: (Tablets, rules, reading exercises and a concise overview of the history including literature
references etc.)

Text for download please click here: "Introduction Transcription (pdf)"

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