Preserving Paper and Organising Archives

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Preserving Paper and Organising Archives

How Best to Organise, Store and Preserve Paper

In a previous blog we talked about the requirement for many organisations to keep and store archived paper records, often for many years.
But like many physical materials, paper is organic and likely to deteriorate over time so we’re taking a look at how best to organise, store and preserve them.
A combination of factors can cause damage, including damp, mould, insects, unsuitable packaging and frequent or careless handling. All materials are damaged by light, particularly ultra violet light. Low-grade papers such as newspapers and posters degrade quickly and become brittle particularly if exposed to heat and light.
Preservation involves a combination of controlling for such factors as temperature, light and the elimination of various pests.
For infrequently handled archives a constant temperature within the range of 16 – 19º C with a tolerance of 1ºC either side and relative humidity (RH) of between 45-60% with a tolerance of 5% either side are recommended. This translates into a cool, dry space with minimal temperature and humidity variation and will help to control both paper drying out and the growth of mould or microbiological pests. The storage area should be as free from airborne contaminants as you can manage.
Storage materials for paper archives should also be “archival quality”, “conservation quality” or “acid free”. Use only boxes, folders, sleeves, and other supplies that are alkaline or buffered rather than simply acid-free.
If access is going to be needed to the archive from time to time, a self-storage facility with 24-hour access will provide not only the right environment but also the access required.
Many offer shelving racks to make organising and locating documents easier. We have some tips to help.
• Leave gangways from the entrance to near the back of your unit so you can access everything without having to move things.
• Work out what you’re most likely to need access to whilst its stored, and place these items near the front.
• Whenever possible, arrange and file archive materials in the order in which they were originally created, maintained, and used.
• If you can, bearing in mind digital data-protection rules, make back-up copies of anything that can be copied and held securely.
Finally, at HomeStore we advise people using our facilities for archive storage to two lists of the archived documents, leaving one with the storage company and keeping one at the customers’ offices.