Category Archives: Environment

environmental preservation concerns

Displays and Storage


Environmental factors, including temperature, humidity, and lighting (both artificial and natural)  need to be kept in check when planning an exhibit to ensure the items being displayed are not damaged.  General information on exhibits can be located under the “Display” heading of the Library of Congress’ Protecting Your Family Treasures Everyday.  Additionally, the Library of Congress offers a Guide to Preservation Matting and Framing.  Two resources for more detailed information are the ANSI/NISO Z39.79-2001 standard Environmental Conditions for Exhibiting Library and Archival Materials  and Protecting Paper and Book Collections During Exhibition  from the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC).

Further information about the Library of Congress’ exhibit policies and practices can be found in “Displays: The Role of Preservation in Exhibitions at the Library of Congress ” (pp. 73-96 of the IFLA 2006 international symposium proceedings, The 3-D’s of Preservation: Disaster, Displays, Digitization).

Storage Options

Plastic containers are an acceptable solution if you can guarantee that the book(s) and storage environment are (and will remain) dry.  Be aware that if this cannot be guaranteed mold growth is a serious concern because plastic containers restrict air circulation.

Your choice of plastic is also important; be sure to use containers made of plastics that are not going to harm your materials. These include polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polystyrene (PS), or Polyester (Polyethylene terephthalate) (PET). The American Chemistry Council maintains a Plastic Packaging Resins chart that notes plastic type by the recycling code stamped on many plastic materials.  PVC (#3) and Other (#7) should be avoided for collection storage.

The environmental conditions of the storage area are just as important as the container for the item.  Avoid storing books in unstable environments such as attics and basements.  The ideal storage environment, be it a storage facility or your workplace/home, is a climate controlled with a relative humidity of 50% or lower and a temperature of about 68 degrees.

Additionally, take a look at the Protecting Your Family Treasures Everyday mentioned above.

Archival Materials for all types of items:

Locating a Conservator in your area:

  • A free referral service  is maintained by the American Institute for Conservation. You may select the type of conservation service you need, identify your geographical area, and receive a list of local conservators.
  • For further information, see the publication Choosing and Working with a Conservator  from the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC).

Locating an Appraiser in your area:

  • You can find a professional appraiser through the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America.   Their website features a Collector’s Corner, advanced book searching capabilities, and a membership directory of appraisers indexed by subject and geographical area.
  • To obtain an informal appraisal of your books, search the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers  website. It also contains information about the rare book market, book fairs, and other related events. Auction catalogs are another indispensable resource for informal appraisals.
  • A list of resources  can be found at the Smithsonian Institute website. It includes a bibliography, professional contacts, and suggestions for selling valuable objects.
  • It may also be helpful to check with universities, libraries and museums in your area for workshops, conferences, and other events connected with rare books.


Filed under Environment

Environmental Assessments

Temperature, humidity, and sunlight can all be damaging to our collections, so climate control is a must when it comes to preservation.  Here are some great resources to get you thinking about the environmental needs of your materials:


Filed under Environment

Thank you, Lauren Seney

This excellent table was discovered when the Technical Services Special Interest Section (TS SIS) Preservation Committee searched for popular preservation questions.  Lauren Seney, incoming Chair of the TS-SIS Preservation Committee and a Librarian at the William and Mary Law Library, compiled the questions to be posted on yet another blog and to be shared with attendees at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries in Boston this July 2012.  The suggestions in this table are practical, sensible, and elegant.  When followed, they will prolong the life of documents.

At-A-Glance Guide to Document Handling and Holdings Maintenance

Do Use Do Not Use
A pencil Any writing implement except a pencil when working around records. An accidental movement can create a permanent mark on a record
An alkaline (buffered) paper flag to leave notes or hold your place, such as Permalife Self-stick notes, or notes on colored or acidic paper (such as from a legal other standard note pad). The self-stick notes can be difficult to remove after time has passed, or if they are exposed to water. Colored or acidic paper can cause staining and may bleed if exposed to water.
A polyester sleeve to hold pieces of a document together Any pressure-sensitive tape. NO adhesive tape is “archival”.
Clean, dry hands Any substance on your hands such as lotion or “Tacky Finger”. Your hands should also be clean and free from any substance that could stain or damage records or their containers, such as ink, toner, food residues or tobacco.
Clean dry hands Saliva to wet your finger before turning a page. Food residues and enzymes in saliva can damage paper and inks.
Clean dry hands Rubber finger guards. These reduce your sense of touch, and can cause inadvertent tearing of fragile papers.
A clean, soft, dusting brush. This gently removes surface dust and grime. Any eraser or powdered cleaning product such as Opaline to clean records. These products are impossible to remove completely and leave damaging chemical residues in the paper. It is also easy to abrade the paper and ink surface using these products.
White twill tape to secure damaged volumes. If you are tying rolled records, first use a piece of 10 point card or polyester around the roll before tying, so the tape doesn’t distort the document. Rubber bands or red cloth tape. Rubber bands degrade, sticking to paper, causing it to degrade, and staining it. The red color can rub off the red cloth twill tape, or bleed if exposed to water, causing permanent staining.
Use buffered storage materials that meet NARA preservation requirements. All folders should be low-lignin, as should boxes housing photographs. Acidic folders, spacer boards, interleaving, boxes or other storage containers. These materials contribute to the degradation of records.
Clean, sturdy housings Physically damaged or weakened boxes that do not provide adequate protection to the records.
Housings that are large enough to allow you to safely place, house, and remove the records. Boxes or map case drawers that are too small for the records. Records can be creased, crumpled, and even badly torn from being placed in, and removed from, housings that are too small. It is better to store very large drawings rolled than to try and make them fit where they don’t.
Print boxes or other flat boxes with one side that drops, for safe placement and removal of oversized records. Print boxes or other flat boxes with 4 rigid sides. This requires you to flex or otherwise distort the records to place and remove them from the box.
Spacers to hold records in partially filled boxes upright. This keeps records from drifting down and developing distortions. Records without adequate support can also catch on each other and be torn as you try to remove them from the box. Overfill drawers or boxes. Records can be creased, crumpled and torn from the process of forcing them into overstuffed boxes, and trying to remove them from the same.
Cleaning solutions which have been approved by the Preservation Research and Testing Lab at NARA. Please contact R&T before selecting cleaning materials for your facility. Aerosols, ammonia or bleach-containing cleaning solutions. These chemicals can cause damage to sensitive records, particularly to photographic processes.
Stainless steel paper clips and staples. Always apply new fasteners over an alkaline (buffered) paper strip, such as Permalife, to protect the records. This also identifies the fastener as new and approved for use. ACCO fasteners are also acceptable. Standard paper clips, staples, or any other office or commercial quality fastener (with the exception of ACCO fasteners, which are acceptable to use).
Brushes, cloth diapers, plain paper products Commercial dusting cloths. These may be impregnated with chemicals which can damage records.
Black Pigma Pens manufactured by Sakura or NARA’s in-house blue stamp ink formulation for Declassification Markings. These inks have been tested and are appropriate for use where authorized Sharpie Pens for Declassification markings. The ink in these pens can sink through multiple sheets of paper.

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