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Collection Conservation

Preventive Conservation

 

Books and Archival Collections

Using cotton gloves and an acrylic book support for handling

Using cotton gloves and an acrylic book support for handling

Books

Books are made from a complex range of organic material including paper, leather and fabric. Bindings can vary greatly in both style and strength. Older books (pre nineteenth century) are often bound in full leather. Books produced more recently are often cheaply bound, for example paperbacks.

Deterioration

The materials and the style of binding can contribute to the deterioration. Books are susceptible to degradation from high humidity, temperature and light. Foxing (brown spot stains) and mould growth is accelerated with fluctuations in temperature and humidity but this type of cycle will also cause expansion and contraction of the paper, which can lead to cracking of the media and distortion of the paper. Light can cause irreversible fading of pigments and inks and can accelerate the rate of deterioration, for instance papers which have high wood pulp content may yellow and become brittle.

Paper is a food source for insects and rodents. These can cause mechanical damages by chewing paper supports, sizing agents and binders. Good housekeeping practices will minimise the potential of damage caused by insects and rodents.

Careless handling and poor storage can cause serious damage to books. Paper is easily torn, punctured, creased and stained and image areas are often prone to abrasion. Inappropriate repairs, for instance the use of pressure-sensitive tapes and other non-archival adhesives, can cause irreversible damage such as unsightly staining.

Storage and handling

Tommy McRae sketchbook in custom-made box

Tommy McRae sketchbook in custom-made box

 

Archival collections

Archival collections might consist of newspaper clippings, postcards, scrapbooks, documents, maps, diaries and letters. These types of items are often made on poor quality paper. Usually this type of material incorporates the use of paperclips, pressure-sensitive tapes, staples or rubber-bands to assemble elements together in a sequence.

Deterioration

Poor quality papers may degrade quickly, becoming acidic, discoloured and brittle, due to high wood pulp content. Sometimes paper can become acidic due to the media which has been applied to it.

Excessive light, heat and humidity will increase the rate of deterioration of any paper. The same warnings for books apply.

Metal components such as paperclips and staples may corrode and cause staining of paper, if exposed to moisture. Aged adhesive from pressure-sensitive tapes causes unsightly staining as it becomes yellow, brittle and penetrates the paper support. Rubber bands lose their elasticity over time and so shouldn’t be relied on for keeping items together or in order.

Good storage and careful handling are fundamental for the preservation of archival collections.

Storage and handling