Stabilization of crumbling materials in archive of DC volunteer organization


Are there best practices for stabilization of crumbling materials in archive of DC volunteer organization? They are mostly paper assets (newsletters, etc) and photos.

Many thanks!


staudermans's picture

This is a great question! Throughout this website and on the blog there are pointers on managing and preserving archives, but I'll try to summarize the big ideas. Our page on preservation goes into some detail on the seven areas of preservation management:

First, environment. Whatever you can do to get your materials in a cool(er) and dry(er) and stable environment, the better. We have listed the standards for certain types of media here:

"Crumbling" indicates brittle, acidic, wood-pulp paper to me. That means that handling needs to be minimized, and certain strategies can be used to minimize handling. Make sure you have good lists of your materials so that when records are consulted only a few items are handled. Photocopy deteriorating materials: keep the original and photocopy together. Organize and place groups of items together in good quality paper folders. Consult all of the resources located on this page for how to rehouse collections.

Photographs can be put into "photo pages" made of polyethylene (a clear, waxy plastic; consult the list of suppliers linked through our preservation page). Photographs can actually be scanned through the plastic if necessary!

Good quality boxes of all sizes can be purchased to hold newsletters and papers. Having a fold in a paper document is not terrible, but try to avoid putting a lot of folds into a document to put it into a too-small box. We like to standardize our box sizes to just a few sizes because they fit more neatly on the shelves, and we have map cases to take care of large items like architectural drawings and posters.

Volunteers can do a lot to improve their own organization's records. An afternoon of filing paper, and weeding out what is not important with a team of like-minded folks will make a big difference in your group's history and stabilize a large set of records. Make sure that lists are created (finding aids) so that the records can be found and used in the future.

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