When you have completed your transcript and annotations, you have to decide what to do with the original manuscript you worked from. You may have albums in which you have lovingly stored your birth, marriage and death certificates and you have scanned photographs and brief documents into your computer files.
But these diaries or letters are altogether more bulky and may not readily lend themselves to such treatment.
The professionals, by whom I mean the likes of the British Library, will conserve them carefully. In the case of diaries they are usually already in a bound book, but letters are mounted with a strip of plain paper down one side such that the successive strips of plain paper can be bound into a book. With bookbinding now so expensive, you may not wish to go down this route, but putting each sheet into a double-sided, acid-proof acetate sheet such that it can be bound loose-leaf may be a practical answer.
Whatever you do, do not make any use either of rubber bands (which rot and stick to the pages) or paper clips or staples (which can rust and damage the pages). Store the documents in a dry place and not in a garage or outhouse, or a loft, where the atmosphere will probably be rather damper then your own house and which may be home to mice or other creatures which eat paper!
By now your house is probably overflowing with family history material, and if you really cannot accommodate the original material, you should consider giving it to someone who can. This may be a relative who has an interest equal to your own and a larger house. Or if the material is very much concerned with one place, a local county record office may be glad to receive it, either as an outright gift, or on loan (which would enable you to take it back at some point if you really wanted to). If you have a good transcript and annotation – and perhaps also an index – giving up the original letters or diary may be less of a wrench, since you can still go back to your transcript as you continue to discover more about the diarist or letter-writer and his or her friends.
Even if you are able to keep the diary or letters, you may still wish to benefit other researchers, and in so doing make yourself available to others researching your family. If the documents are of wider importance than your own family there may even be a case for publishing them, perhaps through your local history or family history society. Alternatively, you can do this by putting a transcript of the diary with the annotations in (say) a county record office. However, if you do not own the diary or letters yourself, you should first seek the permission of the person who does before taking this step.
If you decide to deposit your transcript in this way, it is probably wise to protect yourself against others ‘pirating’ your research for some commercial publication of their own. The simplest way to do this is by a copyright notice. This is in the form of a statement prominently placed at the front of the transcript showing the copyright symbol with your name and the year – John Smith 2005 – followed by a notice to the effect that the original document (if it is yours), as well as the transcript, annotations and index (if you have completed one) are all your copyright, and may not be copied, or reproduced, or made available or transmitted over the internet in any way without your prior written approval. To make it feasible for someone to contact you to seek your permission, you should also give your address.
Enjoy your diaries and letters!