You cannot wait to take the steps necessary for preserving
your historical records. The persons writing the program statement
should inform the governing authority of your convention, union,
or body that its records should be stored in a controlled environment.
A. Choosing Space and Materials
You want space that can be kept at a constant temperature
and relative humidity, preferably at a temperature below 19 degrees
Celsius and a relative humidity slightly below 50 percent. You
want space without ultraviolet light; you want neither windows
nor fluorescent bulbs. You want space that is free of insects
and rodents. You want space where there is little danger of fire,
floods, or theft. You want a room you can lock.
You want shelving that is environmentally sound, preferably
steel with baked enamel. You do not want wood, for it has a high
acid content which will cause paper records to deteriorate. You
want shelving that makes the best use of your space, taking the
least room to hold the largest quantity of records.
You want containers and file folders that fit your
records and are as acid-free as possible. See the Bibliography
for sources of acid-free materials.
You may not get all that you want, at least not all
at once. But know the ideal and strive for it. Find ways to make
the best of what you have. For example if you have fluorescent
lighting, cover the bulbs with ultraviolet shields. If you have
wood shelving, paint it.
Processing is what archivists call the hands-on work
of taking records from the containers in which they reached the
archives, looking through them, and placing them in containers
for permanent storage. You process records as you are arranging
and describing them.
Processing includes taking conservation measures.
You reduce the quantity of what you have to store by discarding
what has no value as a historical record. Examples are copies
of what is stored elsewhere, notes that cannot be read, blank
paper. You remove rubber bands that will disintegrate and paper
clips that will rust. You unfold folded letters. You make photocopies
of newspaper clippings, keeping the photocopies and discarding
the newsprint that will yellow so quickly.
Processing includes making storage decisions. For
example, you would remove a three-dimensional object from paper
records in order to prevent the paper from bending around the
object. You would separate newspaper-size from letter-size records
in order that each could be stored in the proper size container.
N.B.: Before you remove items for separate storage,
include in your accession record a description of these items
and where they will be stored. In addition, label these items
with their accession number in order that you can easily identify
Place paper records in acid-free file folders. Using
the file units of your arrangement scheme, label the folders,
and place them in the acid-free boxes that fit that size folder.
Fill the boxes so that the papers will not bend or curl but can
be removed easily. (Folders and boxes come in more than one size.)
1. NON-PAPER RECORDS
Non-paper records can be stored at the same temperature
and humidity as paper but in order to make efficient use of space
are best stored by format. Besides, they present unique storage
Films, slides, videotapes, and all types of sound
recordings ought to be stored vertically rather than stacked
on top of one another. They must be kept dust free. Tapes must
be kept away from any machinery or equipment that might build
up a magnetic field that would erase them.
Photographs can remain in folders with paper records.
Or they can be removed and stored in a photograph collection.
No matter where stored, each photograph should be in a separate
acid-free envelope. There are suitable plastic envelopes, but
plastics with chlorine or nitrate are not suitable; they will
disintegrate, destroying the photographs and other records in
your archives. Each negative belongs in a separate envelope.
Do not keep negatives, however, or any film made before
1950 unless you are sure they are safe. Before 1950 a nitrate-based
material that causes fires was used for most negatives and film.
Safe film has the word "safety" on it. It burns slowly,
melting rather than leaving ashes.
Photographs should not remain mounted or in frames.
Quite often the mounting and framing materials are acidic. Wood
frames are especially dangerous. Photographs may be left in albums
but sheets of acid-free paper should be placed between the pages
of the album. One photographic image should never touch another
Some albums, like scrapbooks, are of very poor quality
paper. If you receive such an album or scrapbook, you will want
to remove the photographs and other items from the pages before
they disintegrate. Before removing them, record the original
arrangement of the album or scrapbook. Have it microfilmed, or
very carefully photocopy each of its pages.
You will probably find it convenient to make separate
lists of these non-paper records: films, slides, videotapes,
disks, audiotapes, and photographs if you choose to store them
separate from records. The first film you receive becomes Film
#1, the second Film #2. Many of these items then will have two
separate identifications. One is the same as the paper records
with which you received them. This identification tells you to
which record series the item belongs. The second is the format
number and tells you where the item is stored.