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Preservation Information

Protecting Documents, Prints, Drawings, Pamphlets, Magazines, Newspapers and Postcards RETURN TO MAIN MENU

Selecting Storage Materials

All paper will deteriorate if mistreated or stored improperly. To provide proper long-term protection, storage containers and enclosures should be made of materials that are strong, durable, and chemically stable, such as the Ultimate Storage Carton (U1215) or Curator Document Cases with Flip-Top (EFD12102). They are made from lignin-free, buffered archival corrugated board.

Since acids cause the breakdown of cellulose fibers in paper and board, storage materials must be free of lignin, ground-wood, and alum-rosin sizing. Acids in poor quality storage materials can accelerate the deterioration of the items they house. The pH of storage materials should ideally be in the 7 to 8.5 range. You may find many types of storage boxes that are archival quality in our Online Catalog under the Preserving button.

Paper can also have a buffer such as calcium carbonate added during manufacturing. These buffered papers have a pH of approximately 8.5 and an alkaline reserve of 2 to 3% to neutralize acid contaminants. It is
preferable to use buffered materials for storage of paper with a few exceptions: blueprints and diazo reproductions; works of art with pigments that react to high pH; chromogenic and dye transfer color photographic prints; albums and collages with wool or silk components.

Single pages do come loose and need to be reattached. The same techniques discussed may also be used with photocopies that need to be tipped back into the volume.

Preparing Collections for Storage

Once you have selected the enclosures and boxes, papers should be prepared for storage. Remove extraneous materials such as paper clips, rubber bands, wrapping material, old folders, and any other material that is not pertinent. If foreign matter (such as pressed flowers) must be saved, place it in a
separate enclosure.

Unfold and flatten papers wherever possible without causing damage to the folds. Remove letters from envelopes. If the paper is brittle or inflexible, it may need to be humidified before unfolding. Remove surface soil with a soft brush. Prints, drawings, and extremely fragile or valuable items should be treated by a conservator.

Isolate newsprint, as it is highly acidic and will stain adjacent paper. Replace newspaper clippings and faxes with copies on alkaline paper or place in a separate envelope.

Note any badly damaged items and place within individual folders, and consider professional conservation treatment.

If it is necessary to place identifying information on the object itself, use a No. 2 pencil and write on the verso or the lower right margin. Repeat the identification on storage materials in pencil or by typing. Never apply labels directly to a document or work of art.

Label boxes with adequate information about their contents. This curtails unnecessary rifling through the documents.

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