Getting Candid About Collections Care
Heat and moisture accelerate the chemical reactions that cause paper to deteriorate, and high moisture levels can result in mold growth. We monitor the environmental conditions in our records storage areas through the use of a device called a data logger, which takes periodic readings of the temperature and humidity allowing us to track any changes or fluctuations. Climate fluctuations can cause paper to expand and contract, leading to distortion and the weakening of paper, so keeping a consistent temperature and relative humidity is critically important.
Light causes permanent and irreversible damage that affects the chemical composition, physical structure, and, what is usually most obvious, the appearance of a record. So it’s a good idea to monitor the climate in storage areas to ensure that it remains moderate and stable.
This item also shows discoloration and distortion from folding. These kinds of records should ideally be stored flat, or rolled in some cases.
Red rot is a type of leather deterioration. Leather books affected by red rot are powdery and red-brown. Not much can be done to treat this condition (oiling does not help, but only makes more of a mess). One possible option is to put a protective cover on the book to keep the deterioration more intact.
Red rot is caused by prolonged storage or exposure to high relative humidity, environmental pollution, and high temperature. So proper storage of leather items is your best defense against this type of damage.
Practice care when writing on photographs and other important documents. Using the wrong kind of writing instrument and/or applying too much pressure, can cause damage. Never use standard permanent markers, non-archival ink pens, highlighters, and such when marking your photos and other kinds of records. A soft lead pencil is usually best.
Metal slide fasteners, office-quality paper clips and staples, rubber bands, spring or binder clips, straight pins, and similar devices used to hold records together, should be evaluated form a preservation perspective. Metal paperclips and staples are usually not ideal for records that have a high intrinsic value or are brittle. Many metal fasteners rust, causing permanent staining and weakening of paper. Bulky fasteners, such as spring clips, can distort paper records and keep them from lying flat. Also, rubber bands lose their elasticity over time, become hard, and adhere to the surface of the paper. When corrosive or otherwise damaging fasteners are used for archival records they should be carefully removed and replaced with rustproof staples, stainless steel paper clips, or inert plastic paper clips, when needed. And Fasteners should never be placed on photographs, posters, or original artwork, as they can permanently damage the image layer.
As it ages, non-archival adhesives (like Scotch Tape) can degrade, turn yellow, and stain paper. If there is a need to mend rips, fill in gaps or hold together damaged paper documents, then conservation repair tape is a better solution. It should be acid-free, very thin and transparent, non-yellowing and completely removable with solvents.
Boards, endpapers, and protective tissues, as well as the paper covers of books and pamphlets, may contain acid and transfer it to otherwise low-acid or acid-free paper of the text. Acid transfer, or the movement of acid from an acidic material to material of lesser or no acidity, may occur either when the two materials are in contact with each other, or by vapor transfer from one material to nearby materials not actually in contact with it.
You can help prevent this from happening by storing items in acid-free storage enclosures. Rather than keeping acidic documents together or stacking photos print-upon-print, consider using acid-free interleaving sheets in between images or documents (and behind the front window mat of a matted piece), whether you’re storing them or presenting them.
Unless a frame is “museum quality”, i.e. designed to properly conserve the item being framed, it may be doing more harm than good and may need to be removed. When unframing, take special care if any of the following circumstances apply: The item is stuck to glass- this is indicated by a glossiness or intensification of the ink or colors of the item, and could result in skinning during normal unframing; The item is loose from mat- this may be the case if the item appears askew or is overlapping the window mat edge and could result in tearing of the item during unframing; The item has buckled- may indicate that the item is loosely sandwiched into the window mat rather than adhered in any way; The glass is warped or cracked- this could prove very dangerous to both you and the item during unframing; The frame joints are loose- this could cause the frame to be unstable during and after unframing.
Bindings are intended to protect the books, albums, and volumes for durability and long-term preservation. But, paradoxically, these are often made with acid materials and have damaging bindings and adhesives. So it may be in a record’s best interest to be rebound in preservation quality bindings and enclosures, or unbound and stored separately.