Monday, December 21, 2015


From: Archives Association of British Columbia 
Preservation, Conservation and Emergency Planning New Preservation Publications General Preservation Publications
Basic Conservation of Archival Materials 
The Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) Preservation Committee has E-published “Basic Conservation of Archival Materials” – known to many in the archival community as the “Red Book”. The publication is presented in separate chapters in PDF format which will facilitate navigation and printing of desired texts.
You can find the “Red Book” and other publications of the Perseveration Committee at this address: 
Photograph Preservation Publications
Cold Storage of Photographs at the City of Vancouver Archive 
The Canadian Council of Archives has just E-published Sue Bigelow’s paper, “Cold Storage of Photographs at the City of Vancouver Archives.” Sue presented an abridged version of this paper at the 2003 American Institute of Conservation Photo Materials Group meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 
This paper is as case study of the efforts made by the City of Vancouver Archives to freeze its deteriorating negative collections. The Archives used two freezer packaging methods, both based on research done for the Smithsonian Institution. The first was the Critical Moisture Indicator (CMI) method, in which a one-inch stack of sheet negatives was enclosed in a package which buffered humidity. These packages were boxed and frozen in a commercial frozen-food storage facility. The second method was the gasketed cabinet method. This paper can be found in PDF format in both French and English at:
Image Permanence Institute Media Storage Quick Reference
The Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology has produced a terrific on-line preservation tool. The IPI Media Storage Quick Reference is designed as a free interactive tool. This preservation tool allows the various storage environments (relative humidity and temperature) to be compared and ranked according to whether the conditions are considered ‘fair’, ‘good’, ‘very good’ or NO! Archival media such as cellulose acetate negatives, colour photographic prints, ink jet prints, etc., are included in this tool.
This web site has other information of interest to the archival community including a really informative article “A Consumer Guide to Traditional and Digital Print Stability.” The Image Permanence Institute web site address is
A Guide to the Preventive Conservation of Photograph Collections (Bertrand Lav├ędrine)
“More than thirty years of continuing research into the preservation of photographic collections have led to a better understanding of the fragility of these images and the means by which to preserve them. A useful resource for the photographic conservator, conservation scientist, curator, as well as professional collector, A Guide to the Preventative Conservation of Photograph Collections synthesizes both the enormous amount of research that has been completed to date and the international standards that have been established on the subject.
The book opens with a description of the principal forms of deterioration that photographs may undergo. It surveys the variety of containers used to house photographs and the environmental conditions each is meant to improve. The book discusses the maintenance of photographic collections and the precautions that must be taken in exhibiting them. Special attention is given to the digital technology and innovative techniques available to manage a photographic collection and ensure its longevity. 
Bertrand Lav├ędrine works at the Centre de Recherches sur la Conservation des Documents Graphiques (CRCDG), a research center in Paris, France, dedicated to the preservation of paper documents, prints, films, and photographs.” (from the Getty Bookstore web page). 
This book can be ordered for $45 (US) from the Getty Bookstore at:
Mould Prevention and Collection Recovery: Guidelines for Heritage Collections Canadian Conservation Institute Technical Bulletin #26 
The Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) has just published their new Technical Bulletin #26 Mould Prevention and Collection Recovery: Guidelines for Heritage Collections. CCI states, “Mould infestation in heritage collections can damage artifacts and may pose a health risk to individuals who work with these collections. This Technical Bulletin presents information on mould morphology, prevention of mould growth, actions to take should mould occur, and health effects relating to mould exposure. It informs the reader how to remove mould growth from artifacts and it describes the appropriate personal protective equipment to wear when working in a mould-contaminated environment or when working with mould-infested artifacts.”
This Technical Bulletin will be an invaluable source for all archives particularly in regards to health considerations and safe handling of mouldy archival records. It is available on-line from the CCI Bookstore ( for $20 (CAN).
Preservation Policy Resources General Preservation Policies
The best starting point for preservation policy development and searching policies on the Internet is the National Preservation Office (UK) Website. The NPO has produced an excellent publication titled Building Blocks for a Preservation Policy. This publication outlines the components to include in a policy, define what a policy is, offers a preservation policy checklist and lists further preservation policy readings. Unfortunately, none of the readings have internet links. 
Carleton University’s Preservation for Non-Electronic Records
Carleton University has a basic preservation policy posted on their Website. This policy was approved in 1995 and covers most of the main points required in a preservation policy. Further information with regard to environmental specification (relative humidity and temperature requirements for various archival media, pollutant levels etc should be written into either the policy or associated procedural guidelines.) 
Ontario Museum Notes
The Ontario Museum Notes is a very useful series particularly for archives which are housed within museums. Series notes include:
1. The Museum Board: Its Organization and Function 2. Developing a Statement of Purpose for the Museum 3. Writing a Collections Management Policy for the Museum 4. Developing a Conservation Policy for the Museum 5. Museum Insurance 6. Handling Museum Objects 7. Developing a Research Policy for the Museum 8. Principles and Techniques of Oral Documentation 9. Developing an Exhibition Policy for the Museum 10. Developing a Staff Training Policy 11. Developing an Interpretation and Education Policy for the Museum 12. The Community Museum and the Disabled Visitor
Public Records Office of Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland PRO preservation website has sections on what is preservation, why have a preservation policy, common standards for the preservation of records, acquisition and selection and records storage, copying of records and public displays and exhibitions, conservation and repair and disaster prevention and reaction.  
Sound Archives/Electronic Records
The Berkeley Digital Library site offers a wide range of preservation information including links to preservation articles, on-line resources and links to preservation policy samples. The focus of this site is primarily on preservation policy relating to electronic records but general preservation policies are also included such as the National Library of Australia’s Draft Policy on Preservation Microfilming and the National Library of Australia’s Preservation Policy. 
Sound Archives/Nga Taonga Koreno of New Zealand
The Sound Archives/Nga Taonga Koreno of New Zealand makes available their access policy, preservation policy and selection and acquisition policies.
Screen Sound Australia
Screen Sound Australia has posted a basic preservation policy for their sound archives. Included in their policy are sections on ethics; multiplicity of copies and storage; stable formats and media – stability, storage and format; transfer, digitisation, conversion and virtual preservation and other areas.
Photographic Media – Storage Enclosures The selection of an appropriate storage enclosure for photographic media can initially appear bewildering. However, selection of the best storage enclosure does not have to be difficult if the following information is taken into account. 
All storage enclosures that come in contact with photographic media should conform to the specifications outlined in:
ISO 18902-2001 Imaging Materials – Processed photographic films, plates, and papers – Filing enclosures and storage containers. (This standard outlines appropriate paper and plastic enclosure materials; adhesives, printing ink, etc.)
ISO 14523 – 1999 Photography – Processed photographic materials – Photographic activity test for enclosure materials. (This standard outlines the testing procedure used to determine whether a material (paper, adhesives, ink, plastic, etc.) will interact negatively with a photographic image.)
All paper enclosures should:
  • pass the Photographic Activity Test – most conservation supply catalogues indicate whether a product has passed the P.A.T.
  • be lignin-free; free of peroxides; be chemically stable and not cause abrasion of the photograph
  • Black and White photographic images should be stored in paper enclosures which have a pH between 7.0 and 9.5 with at least a 2% calcium carbonate reserve (buffer)
  • Colour photographic images should be stored in paper enclosures that meet the same standards as for black and white images but the pH range should be between 7.0 and 8.0
Over the last number of years there has been ongoing research into whether it is more appropriate to use buffered (above pH 7.0) or non-buffered (pH 6.0 – 7.0) paper enclosures for photographic media. It now appears that the concerns about using buffered/alkaline enclosures in direct contact with photographic media were unfounded. 
Paper envelopes with side adhesive seams are recommended over envelopes with a central T seam as the side seam tends to interact less with the photograph. When inserting a photograph into any paper enclosure with an adhesive seam always insure that the emulsion side is away from the adhesive seam. In a photographic print the emulsion is the image side and in a photographic negative the emulsion is the dull, matte side.
Some enclosures such as MicroChamber paper, in addition to alkaline buffering incorporate molecular traps in their paper structure. Molecular traps, made from either zeolites or activated carbon, are designed to adsorb specific types of gaseous pollutants. It is thought that the molecular trap will trap or adsorb pollutants from the ambient environment or pollutants being off-gassed by the archival record. These types of enclosures could be useful for archives with poor environmental control and/or high indoor pollutant levels or for holdings with a combination of black and white prints, cellulose nitrate or cellulose acetate negatives and colour media housed together. 
All plastic enclosures should:
  • pass the Photographic Activity Test
  • safe plastics do not have plasticizers, are usually inert and are chemically stable. Safe plastics include: polyester (also known as Mylar Type D, Melinex Type 516 or polyethylene terephthalate); polypropylene, polytheylene, and polystyrene. Use only plastic enclosures that have clearly identified plastics.
It should be noted that Dupont ceased production of Mylar Type D last autumn. An plastic equivalent to Mylar Type D is Melinex Type 516 and is also made by Dupont. 
References: ANSI/NISO Z39.77-2001 Guidelines for Information About Preservation Products. Bethesda, Maryland, NISO Press. (Available as a free PDF download file from 
This publication has an excellent glossary of preservation terms. Also very useful is Appendix A: Referenced Standards and Tests as it lists relevant standards that relate to preservation products. 
ISO 14523 – 1999 Photography – Processed photographic materials – Photographic activity test for enclosure materials 
ISO 18902 – 2001 Imaging Materials – Processed photographic films, plates, and papers – filing enclosures and storage containers. 
ISO standards can be ordered online at
Optical Disc Media Compact Discs Compact Discs are comprised of a core, a reflective layer and a lacquer layer. The core is usually made from polycarbonate plastic but it can also be metal or etched glass. The reflective layer is usually aluminium but is occasionally gold. The lacquer layer is added for protection in handling and use. 
A variety of CD formats are available. Each type of CD can vary in laminate components and vary in how the information is recorded.
  • Compact disc digital audio (CD-DA)The CD-DA is used in for mass-market music CDs.
  • Write-Once Read-Many (WORM)WORM CDs can contain images, text, sound, video, etc. and is a commercial format.
  • Compact disc – Recordable (CD-R)CD-Rs are like WORMs but are used non-commercially to record images, text, sound, video, etc. CD-Rs cannot be erased or reused.
  • Compact disc Rewritable (CD-RW)CD-RWs can be used, erased and reused.
The information recorded on CDs is encoded in digital form. The method of encoding the information varies depending on whether the CD is a read-only CD – CD-ROM (CD-DA and WORM) or a writable CD (CD-R and CD-RW). 
Read-only CDs are made from molded polycarbonate with a spiral track of pits which hold the information. The laser reads the information from the pit. Read-only CDs are silver on both sides of the CDs. 
Writable CDs are made from a molded polycarbonate like read-only CDs but have dyes added to the laminate structure. As the information is being recorded by the laser onto the CD the dye becomes discoloured which results in the information being encoded. Writable CDs appear green, gold or blue on one side rather than silver on both sides. 
What type of CD-R to buy Not all CD-Rs are created equal in terms of stability. Gold CD-Rs should be used if you are planning on undertaking an access/preservation project where you plan on using CD-Rs as the storage medium. Gold CD-Rs use the more stable phthalocyanine organic dye and appear to be a light green in colour. Many companies produce gold CD-Rs including Mitsumi and HHB. To find local suppliers of gold CD-Rs you can check the company websites for CD specifications and local suppliers. 
Storage and Handling
  • Wear clean, lint-free gloves when handling CDs.
  • Handle CDs by their edges.
  • Store CDs in their polystyrene “jewel cases”, polypropylene or polycarbonate cases or other archival plastic. Do not store in paper or card enclosures.
  • Store CDs vertically.
  • Do not bend or place pressure on the CD as this may lead to delamination.
  • Store CDs in the dark as ultraviolet light can discolour the lacquer and polycarbonate layers causing laser reading problems.
  • Avoid excess humidity levels (above 50%) as early CDs reflective layers have been known to oxidize. Reflective layer composition has changed over the years but excess humidity should still be avoided.
  • Do not label discs with self-adhesive labels. Consult the disc manufacturer to find out which type of marker pen is appropriate for the disc.
Environmental recommendations
The life expectancy of a CD varies with the CD composition and storage environment. Currently, the life expectancy is thought to be anywhere from 20 – 200 years. Temperatures below -10C and 5% are not recommended for optical media.
Maximum Temperature (+/- 2C in 24 hrs allowable) Maximum Relative Humidity (+/-10% in 24 hrs allowable) Less than 23C                    20% - 50%
References ANSI/PIMA IT9.25-1988. Optical Disc Media – Storage. New York: American National Standards Institute.
Conservation Online – Electronic Storage Media The CoOl Website offers a vast array of preservation related articles and links to preservation sites. The Electronic Storage Media section has many useful articles and links to archival preservation issues.
General preservation sites
CoOl – Conservation Online
The CoOl web site is one of the most useful and comprehensive preservation sites on the Web. It is a wonderful resource as it has a wide ranging subject heading section i.e. disaster planning, electronic media, mold etc; a section with mirrors to other sites such as the Western Association for Art Conservation (WAAC), the Abbey Newsletter (ABN), SOLINET; and the always valuable Consdist list archive. Mirror sites such as WAAC and the ABN post their newsletters on their sites – they are an invaluable source of information. Generally there is about a one-year holdback of newsletters.
Council on Library and Information Resources
In the “Publications” section of the CLIR site you can find the Preservation and Access Newsletter and CLIR reports. Reports such as publication 80 “Why Digitize?” and publication 69 “Digitization as a Method of Preservation?” offer food for thought with regard to the confusing world of digital preservation!
National Media Lab
This web site has useful information on modern media. Magnetic Media by John Van Bogart can be found here. 
Research Libraries Group – Preservation
This is one section of RLG’s excellent web site. A wide variety of information on digital imaging can be found here.
Henry Wilhelm’s site
Henry Wilhelm, the author of The Permanence and Care of Colour Photographs: Traditional and Digital Color Prints, Color Negatives, Slides and Motion Pictures, continues to pursue research in the colour photography and imaging field. Research results and updates can be found here. Currently, articles on cold storage for photographs and film and iris prints are highlighted. 
Image Permanence Institute
The Image Permanence Institute is very interesting and should be surfed regularly to see what’s new. In their New Products and Publications section you can order publications such as “The Storage Guide for Color Photographic Materials”, A-D Strips and several other publications.
International Association of Paper Historians 
This site has informative sections on paper museums, watermark classifications, paper history, research projects and IPH publications.
National Parks Service IPM
This is a great site offering copious amounts of information about many common pests.
Jim Lidner’s “Magnetic Media Restoration Headquarters” web site. Of particular interest is the Video Preservation Resources section where associations and professional groups are listed in addition to on-line research and preservation information. Also included here are articles on links to the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress, Research Libraries Group and the Council of Library Resources.
Preservation Information Leaflets
National Archives and Records Administration
The NARA site has a very useful FAQ section with subsections on Building Environment and Standards, Digital Media, etc.
Northeast Document Conservation Center
The Northeast Document Conservation Center has a terrific site. The “Publications” section of the site is a real bonus as most of NEDCC’s technical leaflets including all those found in Preservation of Library and Archival Materials: A Manual are available.
Library of Congress
The section “Caring for the Library of Congress Collection” has useful areas such as preservation reformatting, Emergency Preparedness and Response. See also: for the Library of Congress Preservation Publication Series.
Southeast Libraries Network
From the home page go to Preservation Services and then click on Leaflets. Here you will find a range of preservation bibliographies, internet resources, services and suppliers and the full range of Solinet handouts.
Standards organizations
Standards that relate to paper permanence, photograph standard, environmental standards etc can be found at the following web sites. At each web site standards are not available for browsing but orders can be placed either on-line or by snail mail.
Standards Council of Canada 
International Organization for Standardization
American National Standards Institute 
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Conservation catalogues
Conservation Resources International  
Conservation Resources has an on-line catalogue where orders can be placed. Other interesting sections include the “Hot News”, “Technical Support,” and “Novel Applications”. MicroChamber paper is featured in the “Hot News” and “Novel Applications” sections.
Light Impressions
Light Impressions is primarily a photographic preservation on-line catalogue. The web site set-up is very easy to use and offers a picture of each product called up. It is a very easy site to navigate and easy to place orders.
University Products 
Two more on-line conservation catalogues. Products can be ordered and catalogues can be requested to be sent to you.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Notes on disaster planning

Most disasters tend to occur when the building is unoccupied.

Over 90% of all disasters will result in water-damaged materials.

Mould can develop within 48-72 hours in a warm, humid environment.

Set salvage priorities
  1. Intrinsic value
  2. Research value
  3. Historical value
  4. Value to collection
  5. Replacement cost
  6. Availability in different format
Simple preventive measures
  1. Store items 4”-6” (10-15 cm) above floor level
  2. Don’t store items under pipes and drains
  3. Use heavy plastic sheeting to protect items at risk
  4. Seal windows with duct tape
Salvage procedures for water-damaged paper materials

Air drying
  1. Requires space and work tables
  2. Can be very labour intensive
  3. Results can be uneven
  4. Books may require rebinding
  5. Coated papers require great care
  6. Requires good air circulation and low relative humidity
  1. Stabilizes wet materials and prevents additional damage
  2. Provides additional time to make decisions
  3. Use blast freezer at -10F to reduce distortion
  4. Items may be lest frozen indefinitely with no additional damage
  5. Books in a self-defrosting freezer will dry out eventually
Vacuum freeze drying
  1. The safest and most successful salvage method for paper but also the most expensive
  2. Frozen books are placed in a vacuum chamber
  3. Ice in books vaporizes without melting
  4. Some items may require rebinding
  5. Process very successful with coated papers, if frozen c. 6 hours after wet
Vacuum thermal drying
  1. Wet or frozen books are placed in a drying chamber
  2. Books are dried at 32F+
  3. Process often produces extreme distortion
  1. Massive dehumidifiers dry building and all contents at same time
  2. No need to remove, pack, freeze, etc.
  3. Originally developed for dying out holds of ships
  4. Can be quite effective even with moderately wet coated papers
Basic Conservation of Red Archival Materials (Red Book)

A Manual for Small Archives: 6, Conservation and Security

Disaster Prevention and Response

Disaster Recovery Plan

Library and archival disaster: preparedness and recovery. [videorecording] Z 697.7 .1527 1986

Salvage Operations for Water Damaged Archival Collections: A Second Glance by Betty Walsh, 2003, 27 p.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Disaster preparedness

What is a disaster?
  • Disasters include fire, flood, wind, tornado, vandalism, and malfunctioning building equipment such as burst water pipes. They can occur anytime without warning.
What is a disaster plan?
  • A disaster plan is a document that describes the procedures devised to prevent and prepare for disasters, and those proposed to respond to and recover from disasters when they occur.
Disaster plan
A set of plans and guidelines, prepared in advance by the staff of a library, to deal with a major occurrence such as a flood or fire which could damage equipment, collections, and/or facilities to such an extent that services might have to be temporarily suspended.
Joan M. Reitz. ODLIS
Disaster preparedness… the comprehensive term that describes strategies employed to protect library and archives collections from any unexpected or accidental loss from external causes. Sometimes these are minor, such as those resulting from leaks in the roof or plumbing system. Other times they are major floods, fires, earthquakes, and the like.
Lisa L. Fox. Disaster Preparedness Workbook for U.S. Navy Libraries and Archives
Every disaster has three phases:
  • Before
  • During
  • After
Before phase (everyday routine operations)
  • Preventative plans recommending action to prevent most disasters, e.g.
    • Repair leaking roof
    • Improve maintenance
    • Upgrade security
  • Preparedness plans designed to ensure identified disasters can be managed, e.g.
    • Identification of important items in collection
    • Purchase of plastic sheeting
    • Identifying freezing facilities
    • Staff training in disaster response
During phase
  • Response to disaster
After phase
  • Recovery plans implemented
    • Because each disaster is unique recovery plans can never cover all possibilities, however, most library disasters involve water damage so all key personnel should be familiar with salvage methods for wet library material
Steps in preparing a disaster plan
  • Conduct a risk analysis
  • Identify existing preventive and preparedness procedures
  • Make recommendations to implement additional preventive and preparedness procedures
  • Allocate responsibilities
  • Devise procedures to respond to and recover from disasters
Why a written disaster plan?
  • To gain some peace of mind
  • To respond more effectively
Why don’t people create them?
  • Requires time and energy
  • Disasters only happen to others
    • U.S. studies show a library worker has a 2 in 5 chance of participating in a major disaster in a 40 year career
Types of disasters and hazards
  • Environmental
    • Blizzard or heavy snow fall
    • Severe heat wave, cold snap
    • Severe thunderstorm
    • Lightning strike
    • Sleet, hail, ice
    • Wind storm, tornado, cyclone
    • Flooding
    • Earthquake
    • Dust storm or prolonged drought
  • Transportation
    • Collisions or crashes involving aircraft, trains, motor vehicles
      • Transport of dangerous materials
  • Infrastructure breakdowns
    • Electrical power failure
    • Downed power or phone lines
    • Faulty wiring
    • Water supply failure
    • Broken water or sewer lines
    • Sewer failure or backup
    • Faulty heating systems
  • Industrial disasters
    • Explosion
    • Major fuel spill
    • Chemical spill structural collapse
    • Structural fire
  • Biological hazards
  • Insects
    • Rodents
    • Birds
    • Mould and mildew
  • Human activity
    • Accidents
    • Arson
    • Bombing
    • Bomb threat
    • Hostage situation
    • Riot, civil disorder, strike
    • Sabotage and malicious mischief
    • Vandalism
    • Work-place violence
At a minimum a good disaster plan will include the following sections:
  • Disaster team members and duties
  • Emergency instructions
  • Priorities for salvaging materials
  • Recovery techniques and procedures for salvaging damaged materials
  • Emergency phone numbers
  • Inventory of the disaster response closet, location of keys to the closet
  • Disaster response reports (master copy only)
  • List of suppliers and resources (large freezers, freeze-drying facilities, etc.)
  • Distribution of copies of disaster plan
  • Revision table (master copy only)
Priority salvage list categories
  • Salvage if time permits
  • Salvage as part of a general clean-up
  • Salvage at all costs
Ask questions such as:
  • Is item especially important to the community?
  • Can item be replaced? 
  • At what cost?
  • Would cost of replacement be more or less than restoration?
  • How important is the item to the collection?
Disaster recovery
  • Most disasters tend to occur when building is unoccupied (night, weekends, holidays)
  • Over 90% of all disasters will result in water damaged materials
  • Mould can develop within 48 to 72 hours in a warm humid environment
Salvage procedures for water damaged materials
  • Air-drying – labour and space intensive but cheap, not recommended for coated glossy paper as in magazines (pages can become permanently stuck together)
  • Freezing – stabilizes wet materials and provides time to plan course of action
  • Vacuum freeze drying – safest and most successful salvage method for paper but most expensive
Selected resources
A wealth of material exists in print and on the Internet.

Fortson, Judith. Disaster Planning and Recovery. New York: Neal-Schuman, 1992.

Kahn, Miriam. Disaster Response and Planning for Libraries. Chicago: American Library Association, 1998.

Moore, Mary. “Attack of the Killer Mold Spores.” American Libraries 30 (March 1999): 46-9.

Wettlaufer, Brian. “Preparing a Library Disaster Plan.” Library Mosaics 5 (November 1995): 6-10.

Amigos Library Services, Inc. A Disaster Plan for Libraries and Archives, 2008

Society of Rocky Mountain Archivists. Preservation Publications.

Fox, Lisa L. Disaster Preparedness Workbook for U.S. Navy Libraries and Archives

McColgin, Michael. Disaster Recovery Plan.

SEFLIN Preservation and Conservation Committee. Disaster Plans on the Internet.

SOLINET. Disaster Mitigation and Recovery Resources.

Stanford University Libraries. Preservation Dept. “Disaster Preparedness and Response.” CoOL: Conservation OnLine

Monday, November 30, 2015


Activities associated with maintaining library, archival or museum materials for use, either in original physical form or in some other format. Preservation is a broader term than conservation: conservation activities form part of a total preservation program. Preservation includes both activities taken to repair or treat damaged materials (retrospective) and activities taken to prevent or delay material becoming damaged (preventive preservation). 
National Library of Australia. Library Prevention Glossary

The use of procedures to preserve and repair the physical structure of an item. All processes ideally should be reversible. 
National Library of Australia. Library Prevention Glossary

Causes of deterioration include
  • Changes in papermaking and binding practices
  • Acidity
  • Environment
  • Insect pests
  • Rodents
  • Fungus
  • Use and abuse by people
Changes in papermaking
Parchment: The split skin of an animal, usually a sheep, goat, or young calf, bleached, stretched, scraped, and prepared for use in bookbinding or as a writing or painting surface, from about the 2nd century A.D. until well after the invention of movable type.

Vellum: A thin, fine parchment made from the skin of a newly born lamb, kid, or calf, dressed and polished with alum for use as a writing surface and in bookbinding, before paper came into use in the 15th century.

 Reitz. ODLIS.
  • Early papers made from cotton and linen rags
  • 1830’s introduction of alum-rosin sizing replacing gelatin and gelatin-alum sizing
    • Breaks down over time to produce sulfuric acid which eventually causes paper to deteriorate and become brittle
Size (sizing)
Chemicals added to paper and board during manufacture to make it less absorbent, so that inks will not bleed, and the image will have better definition. Sizing can also be used to strengthen weak papers. Rosins, gelatin, starches and synthetic resins are used as sizing agents.
National Library of Australia. Library Prevention Glossary

Alum/rosin size
Chemicals added to paper and board during manufacture to make it less absorbent, so that inks will not bleed, and the image will have better definition. Sizing can also be used to strengthen weak papers. Rosins, gelatin, starches and synthetic resins are used as sizing agents.
National Library of Australia. Library Prevention Glossary
  • 1850 replacement of rag pulp paper with wood pulp paper
    • <cellulose fibres of wood 10 times smaller and much more fragile than those of textiles

Acid paper
Paper which has a pH value lower than seven. An important factor in the preservation of printed materials, acidity causes paper to yellow and become brittle over time. To solve this problem, publishers are encouraged to use acid-free or permanent paper in printing trade books.

Reitz. ODLIS

Paper can develop an acidic nature because of:
Preservation methods include:
  • Protective enclosures
  • Deacidification
  • Reprographic services
  • Digitization
  • Alkaline paper
  • Shelving
Protective enclosures
An example of a protective enclosure includes a phase box.

Double-tray box also known as a drop-spine or clamshell box.

Acid-free folders.


A common term for a chemical treatment that neutralises acid in a material such as paper, and that may deposit an alkaline buffer to counteract future acid attack. While deacidification may increase the chemical stability of paper, it does not restore strength or flexibility to brittle materials.
National Library of Australia. Library Prevention Glossary

Mass deacidification

  • No "ideal" mass deacidification process
  • Current systems and their users include:
Battelle Swiss National Archives
National Library Leipzig
Eschborn, Germany
Bookkeeper Library of Congress
Libertec Berlin & Munich State Libraries, Germany
Neschen State Archive of Lower Saxony, Germany
National Archive, Berlin, Germany
Wei T'o National Library of Canada

Reprographic services
  • Microfilming
  • Photocopying
    • least expensive
  • Photography
Electronic digitization

Electronic digitization refers to the capture of the document in electronic form through a process of scanning and digitization. The scanned image can be made over the Internet, or stored electronically, usually on magnetic or optical storage media.

Wooden vs. metal shelves

From the perspective of preservation, it is best to store collections on metal shelving, since wood shelving can give off damaging pollutants. If wood shelving must be used, shelves should be sealed with polyurethane. Oil-based paints and stains should be avoided. In addition, shelves can be lined with museum board, polyester film, glass, Plexiglas, or an inert metallic laminate material to prevent materials from coming into direct contact with the wood.

Metal shelves should be powder coated electrostatically as other finishing processes may continue to give off fumes.

Environmental factors
  • Different records/media have different optimal environmental conditions
  • Paper usually forms the bulk of a collection of mixed archival materials so…
  • Guidelines for paper set the preservation norm
Environmental factors that can effect materials include:
  • Air quality
  • Dust
  • Light (ultraviolet most damaging)
  • Temperature
  • Humidity

Air quality
  • Primary sources of gaseous pollutants identified in deterioration of archival collections
    • Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone
  • Particular pollutants include grit, smoke, dust, etc.
  • Keep doors and windows closed
  • Use materials known to be benign to collections
  • Check and replace air filters/scrubbers regularly
  • Locate air intakes in as “clean” a location as possible

  • All light damages archival material by fading, yellowing and structurally weakening them
  • UV light is more damaging, shorter wavelengths cause greatest amount of photochemical deterioration
  • Sunlight and fluorescent lights the two main UV light sources
  • UV filters e.g. acrylic sheets, film, foils, coatings
  • Storage area
    • Keep materials covered or boxed when not in use
    • Use blinds to eliminate sunlight
    • Apply UV filter film to windows
    • Select fluorescent tubes with low or no UV emissions or use UV filters on tubes
    • Turn lights off when area not in use
  • Storage area
    • Keep materials covered or boxed when not in use
    • Use blinds to eliminate sunlight
    • Apply UV filter film to windows
    • Select fluorescent tubes with low or no UV emissions or use UV filters on tubes
    • Turn lights off when area not in use
  • Exhibit area
    • Monitor area with lux and UV meters
    • Use copies whenever possible
    • Never have archival items on permanent display
    • Use a dimmer switch, lower watt bulbs or move light source further away
    • To reduce heat light source should not be inside or close to exhibition case
Relative humidity
  • Of primary importance in preservation of archival materials is providing a cool and dry storage area
  • In general, with every 5C increase in temperature, reaction rates double, e.g. archival records stored at 20C will have half the life expectancy of those stored at 15C
  • General rule of relative humidity:
    • When relative humidity is halved the life expectancy of the record is doubled
  • High relative humidity levels can lead to growth of mould and mildew, increased chemical deterioration, cockling of paper/parchment, warping of books, increase in likelihood of pest infestations
  • Low relative humidity leads to drying out of archival records making them brittle and susceptible to cracking
Environmental control standards
  • 1999 ASHRAE Handbook re-evaluated environmental standards for museums, libraries, and archives
  • A good compromise for a mixed collection 45% +/- 10% relative humidity and 18°C to 20°C
Other causes of deterioration
  • Insect pests
  • Rodents
  • Fungus
  • People
  • Shelving practices
Basic Conservation of Archival Materials

A Manual for Small Archives: Conservation and Security

European Commission on Preservation and Access. A Virtual Exhibition of the Ravages of Dust, Water, Moulds, Fungi, Bookworms and Other Pests.

NARA: Preservation

National Library of Australia. Library Preservation Glossary.

Reitz, Joan M. ODLIS

Unesco. Safeguarding Our Documentary Heritage.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Proper Care and Handling of Books and Paper Materials.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Describing Archival Material

Chapter 5 Describing Archival Material
[by Jane Turner, 1994]
Chapter 5, pp. 41-55

Monday, November 16, 2015

Organizing Archival Material

Chapter 4 Organizing Archival Material
[by Laura Coles, 1988]
Chapter 4, pp. 30-39

Monday, November 9, 2015

Finding aids

Reference finding aids
  • Finding aids
    • Assist in the retrieval of information contained in archival holdings
    • Facilitate efficient management of the repository
  • Descriptive principles for development of finding aids
    • Principle of Provenance: identifies the fonds as the primary unit of description
    • Principle that description proceeds from the general to the specific: identifies that archives must be identified as a whole before describing the parts, i.e. complete a brief description of each fonds before describing each series or file in a fonds in more detail
  • Each finding aid should include the accession number of archival material being described (accession # the primary method of administrative control)
  • Make 3 copies for safekeeping
    • One for reference area
    • One for storage area
    • One with accession record (security copy)
    • Can make additional copy for offsite storage
Type of finding aids
  • Repository guide/Guide to holdings
    • Includes a brief fonds level description of each fonds listed in alphabetical order by title
    • Description of each fonds prepared according to RAD and includes title, dates of creation, physical description, archival description, and notes
    • University of Manitoba. Archives & Special Collections. Archives & Special Collections’ Holdings. 
  • Descriptive inventory
  • Summary inventory
    • Also called a series inventory or title inventory, includes only terse descriptions of the materials. A summary inventory may be made for materials with very technical form or contents, which would require extensive description to adequately capture the nuance difference. There are also made for collections of homogenous materials, in which details would be redundant.
    • SAA: A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology
    • Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Kane Bergthaler Mennonite Church fonds
Administrative finding aids
  • Accession register
    • Designed to establish control over material as it enters the archives. It is intended largely as an internal administrative document. However, it does contain elements of description and in some situations, particularly small volunteer managed archives, it may be the only finding aid available to researchers.
    • Sample Accession Record
  • Location list/Location index/Location register
    • The location list includes the accession number, box number and the location code that identifies the physical location in the building where the records are stored
    • Many archives do not include the storage location of materials in finding aids used by the general public. Restricting this information adds one more layer of security. When a patron requests materials, reference staff use a location index to determine where the material is stored so that it can be pulled.
Subject indexing
  • Most common types of indexes used in archives are name, subject and form indexes
  • In archives, there is little agreement about which controlled vocabularies, if any, are appropriate for providing access points to archival records
  • Examples of thesauri for archives include:
    • The British Columbia Thesaurus
    • See also Thesauri and Controlled Vocabularies section of CAIN Resources for additional titles
Name indexing and authority files
  • Authority file
    • A compilation of records which describe the preferred form of headings for use in a catalog, along with cross references for other forms of headings
    • Authority files may be lists, card catalogs, databases, or printed publications
    • For individuals, the authority file lists full name, birth and death dates, and alternate names
    • For organizational names, the authority file lists the preferred name for each organization, and also lists the history of name changes. Sources that document changes can also be noted
Indexing guidelines
  • Before beginning an indexing programme, have completed accession records, a repository guide of fonds level descriptions, and inventories for large or significant fonds. Subject terms and name authority files can be created during the description of each new accession
  • Select the thesaurus your Archives will use to establish a controlled vocabulary for the selection of subject terms
  • Create and maintain a name authority file to control al names used in the index
  • Maintain a manual that documents all changes to your indexing system. Note, for example, when a new subject was added to the list
  • Keep your index up to date. If you are unable to maintain it, perhaps it is too complex
  • Develop or expand your indexing programme in relation to your time, money, facilities, and priorities
Encoded archival description (EAD)
  • Society of American Archivists standard (maintained by Library of Congress) for encoding multilevel finding aids
  • Extensible markup language (XML) based but compatible with standard generalized markup language (SGML)
  • Developed in U.S. but now international
  • Designed specifically for marking up information contained in archival finding aids
  • Further information under Encoded Archival Description
  • Sample Canadian use of EAD
  • Tutorial: an over-the-shoulder view of an archivist at work. In: Introduction to Archival Organization and Description: Access to Cultural Heritage. Getty Information Institute. 1998.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Archival Description

Principles of description
  1. Principle of provenance
  2. Sanctity of original order
  3. Arrangement determines description
  4. Description proceeds from the general to the specific
Standards: ISAD(G) and RAD
Both RAD and ISAD(G) are based on four key rules for multi-level archival description

  1. Describe material from the general to the specific
  2. Give only the information relevant to the level of description
  3. Link each description to its next higher unit – identify the level of description, if applicable
  4. Don’t repeat information
The International Council on Archives

ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description, Second edition 1999
This standard provides general guidance for the preparation of archival descriptions. It is to be used in conjunction with existing national standards or as the basis for the development of national standards.

ISAAR (CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families, Second edition, 2004

This standard provides guidance for preparing archival authority records which provide descriptions of entities (corporate bodies, persons and families) associated with the creation and maintenance of archives.

Canadian Committee on Archival Description Rules for Archival Description (RAD)

  • Published in 1990 by the Bureau of Canadian Archivists, RAD provides archivists with a set of rules which “aim to provide a consistent and common foundation for the description of archival material within fonds, based on traditional archival principles.”
  • Developed with reference to AARC2
  • Becoming the Canadian standard for proper archival description
Basic RAD: An Introduction to the preparation of fonds- and series-level descriptions using the Rules for Archival Description by Jeff O’Brien
SCA Outreach Archivist October 1997
The purpose of this document is to explain what RAD (the Rules for Archival Description) is, what it is supposed to do and how to use it .The Guide also contains a “short version” of RAD, identifying and explaining the minimum elements necessary for an acceptable RAD-compliant records description. It is in no way meant to supplant the RAD manual but may be used in concert with the manual.

Basic RAD elements
1. Title and statement of responsibility
4. Dates of creation
5. Physical description area
7. Archival description area
8. Note area

Elements are repeated in a hierarchical manner, working from the general (fonds, sous fonds) to the specific (series, subseries, files/folders/items). In other words, these elements are repeated for each level you are describing.

To see records and for additional information see:
The Archivist’s Toolkit: Arrangement and Description

used by many American archives and some university archives in Canada
see: Center of Southwest Studies: Special Collections Archival Procedure Manual