Caring for paper based materials by lindahy


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									Care of
Headingpaper-based materials
Paper-based materials make up a large portion of our cultural heritage and they take many forms,
such as books, artworks, maps and letters. Paper is a relatively fragile substance, however, there
are ways that you can preserve its longevity. Much of the damage to paper materials occurs
through poor handling, storage and display. For example, mould can be the result of damp
storage conditions, and various mounting materials can cause staining and discolouration.
Some general recommendations are given below to minimise such damage.

Storage conditions                                                   •	When	standing	items	up	on	bookcases,	do	not	
•	Try	to	provide	as	stable	conditions	as	possible	in	                  pack	them	too	tightly;	this	is	to	prevent	using	one	
  the	storage	area.	The	optimum	storage	conditions	                    finger	at	the	top	of	the	spine	as	a	lever	to	remove	
  are 18–22°C and 45–55% relative humidity.                            items	from	the	shelf.	This	will	reduce	the	risk	of	
  Higher temperatures and humidities will speed                        damaging the binding.
  up the degradation of the paper and encourage                      •	Lay	items	flat	in	archival	(acid-free)	boxes,	or	use	
  mould growth. Fluctuations cause distortions and                     ordinary	boxes	lined	with	acid-free	paper.	Valuable	
  subsequent damage to paper items.                                    or fragile items should be individually wrapped or
•	Avoid	using	an	attic	or	basement	as	a	storage	                       interleaved.
  area. Conditions in these areas fluctuate greatly.                 •	Place	boxes	off	the	ground	(e.g.	on	shelves)	to	allow	
  If possible, use a storage site in the centre of a                   good air circulation and prevent damage in the
  building.	These	areas	experience	less	fluctuations	                  event of a flood.
  in temperature and humidity.                                       •	Seal	boxes	with	packing	tape	to	keep	pests	out.
•	Keep	light	to	a	minimum.	Avoid	strong	light	sources	               •	Ensure	that	there	are	no	overhead	pipes	in	the	area,	
  and direct sunlight, as these will accelerate the                    as	these	can	drip.	Placing	plastic	over	the	boxes	
  degradation and fading processes.                                    may protect them from this, however, it will restrict
•	Keep	away	from	heaters,	fireplaces	and	other	                        air circulation and may encourage mould growth.
  sources of heat.                                                   •	If	using	pest	strips,	insect	traps	and	pesticides	
•	Avoid	contact	with	bathroom,	kitchen,	laundry	and	                   ensure that these do not come in direct contact
  external	walls,	as	humidity	in	these	areas	fluctuates.               with the items.
•	Keep	storage	areas	clean	and	well	ventilated	to	
  avoid pests and mould growth.                                      Books
                                                                     •	Air	musty	books	in	a	sunny	area	before	packing,	
Long-term storage                                                      brush surface dirt off with a soft brush (do this
•	Check	the	condition	of	an	item	before	placing	it	in	                 outside).
  storage. Sort items into groups, according to their                •	Check	for	insects	and	unhatched	eggs.	Remove	
  condition, media and format.                                         these with a brush before storage.
•	Place	valuable,	fragile,	and	items	in	need	of	repair	              •	Wrap	leather-bound	books	in	archival	paper	to	
  in	archival	boxes/envelopes,	or	use	acid-free	paper	                 prevent transfer of stains to other items.
  to	wrap	the	items.	These	will	provide	additional	                  •	Use	several	smaller	boxes	instead	of	one	large	one.	
  protection,	as	well	as	keeping	pieces	together.                      This	creates	more	space	for	circulation	of	air,	which	
•	Do	not	repair	items	with	sticky	tape.	Any	self-                      decreases the chances of mould growth.
  adhesive tape, even ‘magic invisible mending tape’                 •	Shelve	books	upright	so	that	they	are	supported	on	
  can cause harm in the long term. If an item has                      either	side.	Shelve	books	of	a	similar	size	together.	
  been	damaged	by	sticky	tape,	seek	the	advice	of	                     If	the	binding	is	damaged	or	fragile,	you	may	keep	
  a professional conservator.                                          the	book	flat	as	this	relieves	stress	on	the	spine.
•	Gently	dust	and	clean	the	items	using	a	soft-bristle	              •	Do	not	push	books	to	the	rear	of	a	shelf.	The	space	
  brush	(an	unused	shaving	brush	is	ideal).	This	will	                 between	the	book,	wall	and	shelf	provides	air	
  deter insects and mould growth.                                      circulation space.

Compiled by the Collection Preservation Branch, State Library of New South Wales. Revised May 2009.                Page 1 of 2
                     Artworks and documents                                               Handling
                     •	Store	artworks	and	documents	in	folders	or	keep	                   •	It	is	important	to	have	clean,	dry	hands	or	wear	
                       them	mounted	and	framed.	In	the	case	of	works	                       gloves when handling paper based materials
                       with	fragile	or	delicate	surfaces	such	as	unfixed	                   because	paper	easily	absorbs	skin	oil	and	
                       charcoal	or	chalk	drawings,	they	should	be	                          perspiration, which can cause staining and
                       mounted to avoid abrasion and smudging.                              degradation.
                     •	For	long-term	protection,	mounts	should	be	                        •	When	handling	and	transporting	unframed	artworks	
                       made	from	100%	rag,	acid-free,	alkaline	buffered	                    and	documents,	use	a	thick	support	paper	
                       mountboard.	This	is	sometimes	called	‘museum	                        underneath or place your item inside a folder.
                       board’.	The	mount	should	have	front	and	back	                      •	When	carrying	a	framed	work,	grip	both	sides	of	the	
                       boards and the item should be hinged to the                          frame.
                       backboard.	Conservators	prefer	to	use	Japanese	
                                                                                          •	If	a	valuable	or	fragile	item	is	going	to	be	handled	
                       paper hinges and wheat starch paste because they
                                                                                            frequently, it might be a good idea to create a
                       are stable and long lasting.
                                                                                            duplicate.	This	way	the	duplicate	can	be	referred	
                     •	Frames	can	be	fitted	with	glass	or	perspex.	Items	                   to and the original stored away for preservation.
                       with loose powdery media should be framed with
                       glass,	as	perspex	has	a	static	charge.	In	all	cases	
                       there should be no contact between the item and
                       the	glazing.
                     •	Keep	frames	off	the	floor.	Stand	upright	on	blocks	
                       or pieces of foam if shelves are not available.
                     •	Avoid	rolling	oversize	items.	If	this	is	unavoidable,	
                       roll the item onto a wide diameter (at least 10 cm)
                       cardboard tube, which has been covered with
                       Tyvek™	or	acid-free	tissue.	Wrap	the	rolled	item	
                       with	Tyvek™	or	acid-free	tissue.
                     •	Store	documents	and	letters	flat	and	unfolded	in	
                       acid-free folders or use polypropylene or polyester
                       bags.	These	can	then	be	placed	in	boxes.	

                     Newspapers and faxes
                     •	Due	to	the	nature	of	paper	used	for	faxes	and	
                       newspapers,	these	have	very	short	life	spans.	To	
                       preserve the information content of such items it is
                       best	to	copy	them.	The	techniques	available	include	
                       photocopying onto archival (acid-free) paper and
                       microfilming.	A	separate	fact	sheet	is	available	on	
                       storing newspapers

                     We	are	unable	to	give	specific	advice	on	conservation	treatment	of	items.	The	advice	we	are	able	
                     to give is limited to what we understand to be ethical and safe for people and items. For treatment
                     purposes we recommend that you contact a professional conservator, who will be able to assess
                     each	individual	item	and	give	it	appropriate	treatment.	A	conservator	will	charge	a	fee.
                     For further information:                                             For a complete list of fact sheets available:
                     Australian	Institute	for	the	Conservation	of	                        Collection Preservation Branch,
                     Cultural	Materials	(AICCM)                                           State Library of New South Wales
                     PO	Box	1638                                                          Macquarie Street
                     Canberra	ACT	2601                                                    Sydney NSW 2000
                     Telephone:	(03)	9013	0933                                            Telephone:	(02)	9273	1683	

                     Website:                                    Website:
                     Email:                                      preservation.html

                     Compiled by the Collection Preservation Branch, State Library of New South Wales. Revised May 2009.               Page 2 of 2

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