How to Preserve Band Flyers

I often think about how I stumbled into my profession. Becoming an archivist wasn't calculated but something that I moved towards inadvertently. I started my first archives project before I even knew what an archivist was. 

The project was preserving my husband‘s band flyers. Bill Florio was part of Bugout Society, an infamous New York hardcore band in the 1990s. (In another band, he plays live every Thursday at 11 pm EST on The Chris Gethard Show on TruTV.). 

His bedroom wall was covered with band flyers. They were a preservation nightmare: folded, torn, and crumpled; brittle due to poor quality paper; and exposed to direct sunlight. The worst part was that they were stuck to the wall with mounting putty which caused an oily residue to soak through the paper.

Flyers are ephemera: they are meant to publicize an event and not necessarily to be kept beyond it. They are primary sources that provide a peek into the New York hardcore scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They show what bands played together, the venues that were popular, and the concerns of the time. Their aesthetics are important too: the artwork had to be bold enough to catch your eye, and the black-and-white graphics had to be easy to replicate on photocopy machines. 

I knew these flyers were important to him, and to the history of the music scene in New York City. I decided to preserve them for him as a present. I carefully pried the flyers off the wall, trying not to further damage them. I kept the tears as they were because to fix them would cause further damage. I also tried to remove tape where I could; if it was more damaging to remove the adhesive, I left it intact. Flyers aren't meant to be pristine, so the patina of their damage was authentic. I bought an archival-quality binder with a slip cover to keep out dust and light, and I arranged them in order in the binder. I bought something similar to the binder below; click on the title to learn more. 

Archival binder and slip case

I later digitized the flyers and displayed them online. (You can learn more about digitization projects in my book, Managing Image Collections: A Practical Guide). The process was easy, inexpensive, and can be easily repeated for items that matter to you. 

The NYHC flyer collection can be seen in whole on my Pinterest board. A few of my favorites are below: 

Part of the mission of Creating Family Archives: How to Preserve Your Papers and Photographs is to bring archives to the people. Perhaps you're not interested in your genealogy or family history. The collections that hold the most meaning to you could be ephemera related to bands you've been in or watched live. The punks who regularly attended ABC No Rio or the Sunday matinee at CBGB's may have become your real family. Whatever your passion, preserve it!

In the coming weeks, I'll be archiving his zine collection too. So if you're into punk-related archives projects, you won't be disappointed. 

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To learn the preservation secrets used by libraries, archives, and museums to protect their priceless materials (that you can also use for your family heritage items), read my book: 

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