Just the other day, we got another call from a customer who said his diploma has turned yellowish and has brown spots on it. This question arises occasionally, so here is a bit more about why it happens and what you can do about it.
Typically, problems like yellowing and brown spots are caused by age and acidity. Sometimes, especially with older diplomas, the paper used to print the document may not have been acid-free. So over time, the acidic content creates yellowing and brittleness. The good news is, over the couple of decades, most diplomas have been printed on acid-free stock. Even if the paper is acid free, if it has been improperly framed or stored in contact with non-pH neutral materials, or if it has been exposed to extreme heat or humidity, your document can be damaged.
You have a couple of choices if your diploma is damaged. If the damage is significant, the most cost-effective approach is likely to contact your college or university and request a replacement diploma. To do this, locate your school’s web site and call or email the Registrar’s Office, as this department most often handles replacement diploma requests. You may even be able to search for your school name + “replacement diploma” and go directly to a site with more details. For example, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California at Berkeley have great direct links to request a replacement diploma due to damage or a name change. There are some typical requirements in obtaining a replacement diploma. You will be required to provide proof of identity, and you may need to return the damaged diploma. There will be a fee for the replacement document, typically around $50-$100.
If you are attached to your original diploma and don’t want to settle for a replacement, you will need to enlist the services of a conservator to give you an estimate on repairing it. These conservators are specialists and often work on historic documents and fine art restoration, so they have the skills to do the job right, but their services can be costly. There is information available to explain what to expect in working with a conservator. For a referral to someone in your area, contact: AIC, 1156 15th Street NW, Suite 320, Washington, DC 20005-1714; Phone: (202) 452-9545; Fax: (202) 452-9328; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also submit an online request to AIC for an appropriate conservator in your area, and be sure to specify that you have “books and paper” and an “unbound document” for restoration, with material type of “paper.” At the bottom of the form, you are able to narrow your search geographically.