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Judith Ring, Director
R.A. Gray Building
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250

State Library
R.A. Gray Building
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250
Mon.- Fri. 9:00am - 4:30pm
Closed Weekends

State Archives
R.A. Gray Building
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250
Mon.- Fri. 9:00am - 4:30pm
Closed Weekends

Capitol Branch
Room 701
The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1400
Mon.- Fri. 9:00am - 4:30pm

State Records Center
4319 Shelfer Road
Tallahassee, FL 32305
By Appointment Only

Preservation and Conservation :


Many years ago, the conservation world thought that lamination was a viable conservation method. Lamination would protect documents from rough treatment and hold fragile items together for posterity.  Alas, the conservation world discovered that the very act of laminating a document did more harm than good and that lamination is not actually permanent. Over time, the layers delaminate, and the document inside slithers out as dust.

Today, the conservation world is much more wary of doing anything permanent or non-reversible to an archival or historic document. Instead of laminating, we now encapsulate.

Encapsulation protects documents from rough treatment and holds fragile items together, but it is also reversible and does not harm the document with use of heat or adhesives.

Encapsulation consists of enveloping a document between two clear pieces of polyester. The edges of the polyester are then sealed or attached together. There are several methods of attaining this – ultrasonic welders, heat welders which touch only the very outside edges of the polyester, double-sided tape, and even sewing. The document itself is held in place by the electrostatic charge created by the two pieces of polyester.

Encapsulation is best used when a fragile document is going to be handled often. The polyester supports the document and protects it from fingerprints, crumpling, and other dangers of being handled. Encapsulation is not a fix-all, nor is it necessarily the best storage solution for all documents.

Encapsulation is entirely reversible; one needs only to slice the edges of the polyester to free the document, and the acid-free polyester will cause no damage. However the static charge can be a problem. Any document with a friable media, such as pencil, charcoal, pastels, colored pencil, etc. can have the media lifted straight off the page when in contact with encapsulating polyester. If a document contains any friable media, it is best to use a permanent paper folder rather than encapsulating it.

Encapsulation also can cause a mini-greenhouse effect if the document is stored in hot, humid conditions or in conditions that rapidly change in temperature and humidity. Encapsulation can accelerate the damage caused by acids inherent in the document, so it is advisable to deacidify items to be encapsulated or to back single sided items with buffered tissue. However colored paper and most colored inks, whether they be printer’s inks or writing inks, will be discolored by the buffer contained in deacidification spray or on buffered tissue. A non-colored paper document with colored ink on only one side will be fine if buffered tissue is laid against the back.

Encapsulation can be done at home for family documents. It is not recommended for photographs. Encapsulation can also be used to protect such ephemera as locks of hair, dried flowers, coins, and the like.

To encapsulate a document using double sided tape

Double sided tape can be used to encapsulate a document. The tape does not touch the document, so acids from the tape’s adhesive will not discolor the item. Still, it is best to buy high quality double sided tape.

Materials needed:

  • Polyester encapsulating material
  • Cutting mat
  • Utility knife
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Straight edge
  • Double sided tape – preferably ¼ inch
  • Weight bag
  • Corner rounder (optional)

Polyester encapsulating material such as Mylar or Melinex can be bought in sheets or even in pre-made sleeves from library and archive supply stores. Conservation On-line ( provides a list of on-line and mail order suppliers. Polyester is available in several different thicknesses. The thinnest of these is 2 millimeter, while the thickest is  5 mil. The thinner pieces are good for encapsulating newspaper clippings, letters, and other single sheets of standard weight paper. The thicker pieces are good for making sleeves that will be reused, envelopes for coins and other heavy items or heavy weights of paper, and for making your own photo corners or pockets in scrapbooks.

Herein be a fragile and important document. Please handle me with care 1) Cut two pieces of polyester encapsulating material (Mylar or Melinex) 1 ½ to 2 inches larger on each side of the document.  One will be the top piece, the other will be the bottom.  Wipe the bottom piece of polyester with a clean cotton cloth prior to placing the document on top of it.  Center the document on top of the polyester.

Document on clear polyester that has been centered on grid lines 2) Line the document up with the lines on the cutting mat.  Use the lines as guidelines when placing double sided tape.  Be sure there is at least a ¼ inch between the document and where the tape will go.

3) Position the tape so it does not extend past the edges of the document.  Do not remove the backing from the tape at this time.  A weight bag can be placed on top of the document to prevent sliding while you are putting the tape in place.

4)  Wipe the top piece of polyester with the clean cotton cloth.  This will build the static charge that ultimately will hold the document in place.  Place the cleaned side down on top of the document and the bottom piece of polyester.  Be careful when putting the polyester on top of the document, as it may pick the whole thing up!  Be sure to remove the weight bag before placing the top piece of polyester.

5) Weight the polyester ‘sandwich' to keep the layers from sliding around.  This will help to ensure the document does not get caught on the tape after the backing is lifted.

6) Roll back one edge of the top piece of polyester, taking care not to crease it.  Remove the backing of the tape.  Drop the polyester into place and use the cotton cloth to smooth it to the tape.

7) Repeat step 6 for the other three sides.

8) Trim edges close to tape with a straight edge and sharp utility knife.  A corner rounder (available at scrapbook or art supply stores) or a pair of scissors can be used to round the corners.

A three sided polyester sleeve can be made using the same steps.  Use only three pieces of tape, leaving one of the long sides open.  One of the pieces of polyester can also be cut a little short, to facilitate the opening of the sleeve. 

Fragile items should never be kept in, or pulled from 3-sided sleeves, as the electrostatic charge will prevent the document from easily sliding back out again.

A 2 sided or “L” sleeve can be made by using two pieces of tape in an “L” shape.  The opening at the corner can be facilitated by cutting one layer of the polyester with a corner rounder or a pair of scissors, and leaving the other corner square.

This design is less hard on documents, as the corner can be lifted.  However, very fragile documents should not be placed in “L” sleeves.

Encapsulations, 3-sided sleeves, and “L” sleeves can all easily be placed into scrapbooks.  One method is to place two pieces of double sided tape on the back of the polyester envelope and tape it to the page.  Photograph corners are another possibility, although it would be better not to round the corners of the encapsulation if this method is chosen.  A decorative method might be to sew it to the page with colored embroidery floss.  Use an awl or a leather punch to make sewing holes around the very edges of the envelope. 

Another method for placing an encapsulation into a binder or scrapbook is to make it longer on one side, and even reinforce it.  Then it can have holes punched for mounting directly into the binder as a page.


Polyester encapsulation material can also be used to make a pocket for scrapbook pages.  This allows the enclosure to slide out easily.  Pockets only have the polyester on one side, the back being the scrapbook page.  This helps to alleviate the electrostatic charge.

Encapsulations can also be matted and framed.  For more information, see: “Archival Matting and Framing Overview.”

State Archives of Florida
Hours of Operation
  Mon.-Fri. 9:00am- 4:30pm
  Closed: Weekends and state holidays

R.A. Gray Building
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0250

(Two blocks west of the State Capitol)

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