Microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, algae and moulds are highly proficient at colonizing artistic and architectural heritage. The irreparable damage they cause to unique artefacts results in immeasurable cultural and societal losses to our shared cultural heritage, which represent an important social and economic resource for Europe. With the overall aim of preventing fungal deterioration of paper artefacts, we report the use of magnesium oxide nanoparticles (MgO NPs) of average diameter 12 nm as potent antifungal agents against fungi commonly found colonising paper heritage: A. niger, C. cladosporioides and T. reesei. Dispersions of MgO NPs on original 18th century paper samples from the Archives of the Spanish Royal Botanic Garden were effective at preventing fungal colonisation without altering the appearance of the paper artefacts. Importantly, MgO NPs also inhibit cellulase activity in the filamentous fungi T. resei and A. niger, two of the principle biodeteriogens of cellulosic materials. In addition, our report provides three simple new procedures for studying the fungal colonisation prevention properties of nanomaterials on paper samples. Overall this opens the door to the use of colourless, low-cost, and scalable nanomaterials for preventing biodeterioration in cellulose-based artefacts.