Generally, handling and use heightens the risk of damage to your materials, be it through neglectful handling (e.g. touching photo emulsion with bare hands) or irresponsible operation of access equipment. This is a risk posed by patrons and staff alike, intentional or not.
One of the easiest areas to implement protections for collections is through careful handling and sensible collections care. The unfettered use and handling of materials heightens the general risk of damage--be it through neglectful handling (e.g. touching photo emulsion with bare hands) or irresponsible operation of access equipment. Whether intentional or not, this is a risk posed by patrons and staff alike.
Examples of neglect, mishandling, and mismanagement include:
The use of additional copies for reference or display purposes is highly recommended, particularly if the item is an original or valuable. This provides broader access to the content while also protecting the original document from user wear and tear or environmental factors.
Recommendations for care of original object:
To learn more about best practices for use and access, including resources for creating digital surrogates, see Use & Access in the User-Manual.
Store horizontally inside acid free storage boxes or steel filing cabinets.
Store on metal shelves, preferably powder-coated steel or chrome-plated steel shelves and components. Avoid wood. If wood is unavoidable, made certain that it is properly sealed to reduce gaseous emissions. Avoid oil-based sealants and paints. Always elect for non-toxic or low VOC (volatile organic compound) sealants/paints, if available. Recommended sealants include water-based polyurethane or two-part epoxy sealant.
If possible, books of similar size should be shelved together so that they are equally supported on both sides. When removing a book from the shelf, grip it on both sides of the spine near the middle of the book and slide it out from the shelf. Do not pull a book from the shelf by the headcap; it may loosen, break, or cause the spine to tear. Regular housekeeping, including dusting and wiping down shelves as well as collection materials, prevents the accumulation of dirt and debris on and around collection materials. Dust absorbs and holds moisture, which promotes mold growth and pest damage and which accelerates deterioration. Dark storage is best if possible; and, lights should be turned off in storage areas when patrons and staff are not present. UV filters should be applied on fluorescent light tubes and windows in these areas. If possible, shelves should not be butted up directly against outside walls and should be placed away from radiators, vents, and other areas where temperature and RH fluctuate.
If your item has any kind of labeling on the container, the item itself, or any related material we highly recommend that you return to the Basic Info section and enter this information in the appropriate field(s).
Labeling on a container or on the item itself, if it is in fact correct, can offer important clues about its content. If you are replacing a container that holds labeling information, it is important to transfer this information to the new container or label. Be sure to copy down any titles, dates, or other data found on these items; and, save your notes. Container labels should be used with caution as they are frequently reused or easily switched by accident.
For sleeves and folders especially, remember that it's generally best to label with a no. 2 pencil. If ink must be used (i.e. on a plastic enclosure), use an archival pigment-ink pen (e.g. Micron).
Regardless of its acidity and inherent vice, all paper is susceptible to tearing and other forms of mechanical damage. Water exposure can affect the structural integrity of paper, leading to desiccated or brittle paper, which is more easily torn and damaged through handling. If paper has been folded, creased areas will be especially vulnerable to tearing.
Unbound paper may be damaged by fasteners like paper clips, and it is especially at risk during removal of fasteners. Metal fasteners that are not stainless steel will eventually corrode, and plastic fasteners may cause warping. For information on the correct removal of fasteners, consult the NEDCC leaflet on the Removal of Damaging Fasteners from Historic Documents.
When evaluating the impact of damage on visual information, look for mechanical damage as well as deterioration and decay that obscures or limits access to information. This could include yellowing and embrittlement, both types of damage especially symptomatic of newsprint and other wood pulp papers. Damage could also include fading, darkening, warping or cockling, blocking (especially of coated papers), tearing, mold, and insect infestation.
Pests like insects and rodents tend to like paper and textile materials. High humidity (higher than 68% RH) promotes mold growth and insect infestation, both of which can cause permanent damage. When assessing the exposure of your collections to pests, it is necessary to look not just at the materials themselves and their containers, but also to look at the larger environment. Insects and rodents tend to leave droppings in areas they inhabit. Insects tend to leave behind a substance called frass, which is the undigested fibers from paper. If you see droppings and/or frass in the storage area, it is a strong sign that your materials are being exposed to pests. Small, irregular holes on paper-based enclosures are also a sign that pests have attacked your materials.
Some tips for reducing your materials' exposure to pests are to refrain from eating anywhere near your collections materials. Crumbs draw pests, so keep food far away from your collections. Another tip applying to both pests and mold is to be cautious about donated materials when you receive them. Pests and mold can hitch a ride into your facility on these materials, so having a good, clean staging area where you can inspect donated items for, among other things, pest and mold evidence can help you reduce your storage environments' exposure to both.
Copybook copies are on thin, translucent plain paper. Their mage and text will be visible through both sides of the thin tissue as the ink has bled through.
Although thin, most copying papers were comprised of long cotton fibers, but linen and silk were also sometimes used. These papers are relatively stable and have a low preservation risk, but are often comprimised by ink deterioration. Less commonly used were low-grade wood pulp papers, which were often treated with sulphuric acid to optimize translucency of the paper, leading to severe weakening and embrittlement over time. This acidity may migrate to adjacent sheets.
Paper is sensitive to light and water exposure, high humidity, and high heat. Exposure to light and/or heat will accelerate deterioration in the form of yellowing and sometimes embrittlement. Quality of the paper support will weigh heavily in permanence. Residual acidic chemicals, such as lignin or those used to process fibers, on the paper could accelerate breakdown. Alum/rosin sizing, which is impregnated in mechanical wood pulp papers to improve the printing surface, will lead to acidic embrittlement and yellowing of the paper support.
Acidic paper (pH below 7.0) commonly exhibits deteriorative traits. Colored media on the paper support may fade rapidly. Water exposure can ultimately lead to desiccated or brittle paper, making it more easily torn or damaged through handling. Fluctuating temperature and RH may result in warping or cockling of the paper surface. High humidity (higher than 68% RH) promotes mold growth and insect infestation, both of which can cause permanent damage.
Even pH neutral papers become increasingly acidic over time as lignin naturally generates acids during the aging process. Papers, including book leaves, that are darker and more brittle along their edges than center demonstrate an absorption of airborne pollutants that have formed acids.
Soil and dust may become ground into paper fibers, permanently soiling or staining the paper surface. Foxing is a common form of paper deterioration, which manifests as reddish-brown spots or blotches that appear embedded in the paper surface. Foxing is caused by a number of factors, but it is commonly spurred along by high humidity.
Aniline dye-based ink fades; iron gall ink corrodes and eats through paper; and, carbon black pigment is by all accounts stable.
Iron gall (iron gallotannate) ink was the most predominant type of ink for many centuries as it was inexpensive, could be easily produced at home, and, most significantly, was ideal for use on parchment/vellum. Due to its abundance, iron gall ink was popular with architects, map makers, and artists from the 17th to 19th century. The manufacture of iron gall ink involves mixing tannic acids (oak-tree galls) with vitriol (iron sulfate). Iron gall inks inherently contain sulfuric acid, which can lead to corrosion and disintegration of the support. Likewise, oxidation of the iron compounds present in the ink may lead to ink corrosion, also known as acid hydrolysis. Iron gall ink was also used in copybook applications when mixed with water-soluble dyes (blue aniline dye common after c.1860). These delicate copy papers will be especially susceptible to the effects of corrosion.
Characteristics of ink and other media vary depending on their composition and method of formulation. As such, the stability of media has a long-term effect on its paper support, and vice versa. It should be assumed that all media has potential to fade under extreme light exposure and that ink will bleed or transfer if exposed to moisture.
For assistance evaluating symptoms of media deterioration, see Common Types of Media.