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Tips to Prep Chapter Houses for Summer

As the school year winds down, ensure your chapter house is set up for success. With fewer people coming and going (or none at all), it’s important to consider a few extra details and take necessary precautions. You want to protect the home and the materials within it, including your history. 

To help make that process easier, we’re sharing a few tips to get your chapter house ready for the off season. If you love a good checklist, we have that for you here.

Clean and Declutter

Take stock of what you have and what you need to keep for preservation purposes. While we can’t reliably determine what will be important in years to come, we can make some informed decisions.

With that in mind, here are a some examples of things to keep an eye out for:

Look for anything moldy. Mold will endanger all of your historical materials — stop it in its tracks and get rid of moldy materials as soon as you discover them.

  • Assess your duplicates. If you have fifty copies of something — or even five — select the three in the best condition and toss or recycle the rest. We’re preservationists, not hoarders.
  • Review non-original, widely available material, such as unannotated old but not rare books. You can do a quick search on World Cat to see how many library copies there are. If they’re widely available and not essential to telling your chapter’s story, donate them.
  • Consider if there are items likely duplicated in other collections or would be a better fit for another organization. If it doesn’t directly mention your chapter, look into donating to your HQ’s or university’s archive.

Protect Against the Elements

Fires, floods — they happen when you’re there and when you’re away. They can cause irreparable damage to your historical materials.

We highly recommend forming an archives disaster plan, which you can dig into here. For a quick run-down, we have some highlights:

  • Inspect the property for potential fire hazards, such as frayed electrical cords. To be especially cautious, unplug all appliances if your house will be empty. If your house will have some members residing over the summer, unplug all unnecessary devices.
  • Ensure you have enough fire alarms installed in the proper locations, replace the batteries and test them.
  • Check your pipes and faucets for any leaks. A little drip here and there now can add up over the summer!
  • Take a close look at your windows, doors and roof. Look for cracks, punctures and damaged seals that might let in rain or moisture on a hot, humid summer day.
  • Elevate your files and boxes that hold your historical materials. That way if the worst happens, your legacy has some protection.
  • Take down or cover any framed photos hanging on your walls or sitting out on shelves. You may want to soak up that summer sun, but light can cause significant damage to composite, photos and documents when directly exposed.

Secure Against Theft

Empty houses attract unwanted attention. From pranks to break-ins, theft can rob you of so much more than your material goods. When it comes to history, your precious items tell a bigger story. That’s priceless.

There are a few things you can do to prevent theft:

  • Use a light timer — even if your house has some residents over the summer. It’ll make the space look more lived-in and less susceptible.
  • Check your locks and latches. You would be surprised by the number of people who check doors and windows just to see if they’re open or poorly secured. Make sure everything is closed and will stay that way. 
  • Put valuables out of sight. This includes your iconic chapter memorabilia, like trophies, and composites. Tucking things away can help deter break-ins that snowball into larger theft and vandalism.
  • Inform campus security and local contacts that your house is either unoccupied over the summer or with limited occupancy. That way they can help keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
  • Set your alarm system to away, if you have one. Also let your alarm company know that the number of house residents has changed. Be sure your local contacts have the most up-to-date alarm code.

Get Proper Packing Materials

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. So as you’re storing your historical materials, which include this year’s items, do so thoughtfully.

We have some tips as you put things into storage:

  • Use acid-free boxes and folders. This will help extend the life of your physical materials. Hollinger Metal Edge is a good resource for those. Pro-tip, carefully remove staples and avoid paperclips. They can rust and cause damage to paper and photos.
  • Consider also using waterproof bins to protect against moisture intrusion.
  • Invest in a fire-rated cabinet or safe to store your chapter’s oldest and most valuable items.

Document the Year

There is no better time to preserve history than as it’s happening. You can so easily lose track of time and forget the details. You will absolutely thank yourself in the future.

We have a complete guide for how to save your chapter’s history here. Let’s do a quick summary to help brainstorm:

  • Consider what physical and digital items communicate your chapter’s experiences this past year. The recruitment campaigns, formal invites, trip photos — they capture a particularly special period in your life and the legacy of your chapter. Be sure to save those for future generations.
  • Work with a team and assign a project lead to get things done and stay organized. It takes a village to save history, but you want to keep things consistent and in order.
  • Make sure you’ve backed up your work. We recommend the physical item, cloud-storage and a hard drive. That way if something happens to one, you have a copy.

Digital Preservation

While all of the above helps to protect the tangible items that communicate your story, digital preservation is the only future-proof solution. Summer can be a great time to take on a digital preservation project. With fewer people in the house, it’s much easier to coordinate and get things done quickly. Plus, it’ll give you peace-of-mind during the next break. 

As always, we’re here to help.  


Summer Prep Checklist for Chapters

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