As our Veterans pass on it is important to preserve the photos, documents, letters, uniforms, insignia, personal items, war souvenirs and other artifacts for future generations to see and learn about what life was like for these Soldiers. Every item has a story to tell. With artifacts now almost 80 years old proper care and preservation of these items is essential if they are going to last. Veterans and family members have several options:
1. Pass on to other younger family members who appreciate the significance of the items and will care for them.
2. Donate to a Museum or the 509th Parachute Infantry Association.
If you choose to keep items in the family it is important that you take the time learn about how to protect them. I cannot go into detail here but I can provide a few pointers for you to consider.
1. Climate control is the single most important thing that you can do to preserve an artifact regardless of what it is constructed of. Specifically temperature and humidity must be monitored and maintained at a specified level. Ideally tempurature should be at 70 degrees F and humidity at 50%. This is also the hardest and most expensive for the average person to set up.
2. Fire, hurricanes, tornados and other natural/man made disasters is also important to consider.
3. Handling of artifacts can cause damage through the oils that your skin leaves when you come in contact with the artifacts. That is why you see museum curators using acid free gloves when they handle anything from papers to weapons in a collection.
4. Avoid exposure to direct light natural and man made sources will cause fading of inks and dyes as well as damage the integrity of the material. There are special lights that can be used that will not damage artifacts if you are trying to display an item. Do the research.
5. If you have items you wish to display in a shadow box such as award documents, medals, photos and etc. There are cases that are made to help preserve artifacts. The three things to look for are a way to seal the case on the back, acid free material used where artifacts are mounted inside, and ultraviolet protective (UV) glass. These requirements will be a little more expensive but will increase the life of an artifact.
6. Several Soldiers still have their 201 file (Military Records) these are a wealth of valuable information not only on the Veteran to whom they belong but also can help others learn more about their family members service. These documents however are often found packed in a file with edges hanging out. As a result the edges become frayed and the ink either has faded in places or has imprinted onto the next page it was pressed against. To reduce further damage and to make them more accessible, buy acid free document protectors and carefully individually place the pages inside. Then place the document protectors into an album. As an option you may want to consider scanning in each page into a computer, this way you can reference the scanned images rather than handling the documents and potentially causing further damage.
7. Artifacts made of metal, wood or fabric should also be protected. Avoid the temptation to clean and polish everything. If you must, do the research! Many cleaners that we use today can still be harmful. Whatever you find experiment first on a similar material or in a hidden spot. If you are trying to remove rust remember that cleaners may cause damage to painted areas. Be patient, work slow and methodically. State art, textile and historical museums often have preservation specialist that may be able to provide tips.
8. Finally make sure that valuable items are documented and insured to protect from theft.
The best way to preserve artifacts is to donate the artifacts to a reputable museum or the 509th Parachute Infantry Association. This is highly recommended in that it will be properly preserved and will remain with the 509th to be enjoyed by future generations of 509th Soldiers. Once artifacts are received by the 509th PIA they will be cataloged. Based on the artifact and its history it will be sent to be displayed at either of the three following locations, the 509th PIA Museum in Punta Gorda, Florida; Headquarters 1st Battalion 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Polk, Louisiana; or Headquarters 3rd Battalion 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Richardson, Alaska. Help the 509th Parachute Infantry Association preserve the history of this great unit!
FINALLY A WARNING!
While there are several honest collectors, reenactors, living historians, researchers, book writers and other people out there who make contact with Veterans to thank them and learn more about what it was like to serve in the 509th, there are also unfortunately several dishonest collectors, reenactors, living historians, researchers, book writers and other people out there who will befriend a Veteran or family with the eventual goal of obtaining rare artifacts. They will promise anything to obtain these artifacts even offer to buy them but will turn around and sell the item for a huge profit. Even worse there are a few cases in which they will visit a Veteran to check out what artifacts they have and will return at some point in the future and steal them with other valuables. Also be wary of people who identify with a museum. Anyone can establish a museum or non-profit organization. If you are thinking about donating to a museum do some research and ensure that it is a reputable museum and that the person is actually a representative of the museum authorized to receive artifacts.
If you have any questions about the above information please contact the webmaster at the e-mail below.
©2006 509thgeronimo.org. All Rights Reserved.