CoPAR Bulletin 11: Locating Archival Quality Materials

Locating Archival Quality Materials
by Mary Elizabeth Ruwell

In spite of the popularity of electronic records, paper is the best medium for storing permanent records. Even if you have traced your petroglyphs on toilet paper, as more than one anthropologist has done, it is relatively simple to xerox that drawing onto permanent paper and not lose information. Appropriate supplies are not expensive, and except for space, there are no further maintenance costs involved.

Photographic storage supplies are similar to those for paper, but because of chemicals used in creating and processing them, some thought needs to be given to the quality of the original purchase and to the shop processing the film. Ektachrome slides, for example, will fade in less than ten years; the current recommendation is for Fujichrome. It may be cheap to get your film developed at the local fifty minute shop, but chances are that they have never heard of a methylene blue test and that their processing may not wash out all destructive chemicals. Spend a little more time to make sure you get good quality.

Digital and magnetic media should last ten to thirty years, but there are precautions to be taken. Choose PET ( Polyethylene terepthalate) or Mylar brand tapes with iron oxide pigments, not metal or chromium particulates. Use “write-once” CD-ROMs, not rewritable ones. Always make duplicate copies and recopy everything at least every five years.

Think about the supplies that surround you in your office or laboratory environment as well. If you have site plans that are laying on a table for a long time, make sure you have UV filters on your lights to prevent fading. Use map cases or oversized shelves for oversized materials so that students or volunteers can easily put them away without being tempted to fold them.

For general information about archives and products for appropriate long term storage, please refer to the literature of the Society of American Archivists, 527 S. Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60607 (Telephone: 312-922-0140). For questions about quality and use of supplies, contact the Northeast Document Conservation Center (Telephone 978-470-1010). Also see other CoPAR bulletins.

The following is an annotated and very selective list of suppliers. It is limited to some of the larger firms that distribute catalogs and give a broad variety of products.

Conservation Resources International
800-H Forbes Place
Springfield, VA 22151

In addition to its excellent acid-free paper and cardboard products, this company has filter tubes and monitors.

Gaylord Brothers
PO Box 4901
Syracuse, NY 13221-4901
1-800-448-6160 (Canada: 1-800-841-5854)

This large library supplier developed an archival program and has produced preservation pamphlets on paper, photographs, and textiles that are free upon request.

Hollinger Corporation
PO Box 8360
Fredericksburg, VA 22404

Hollinger is the oldest of the archival suppliers, having recently celebrated its 50thanniversary. It also has a shipping point in Sparks, Nevada which reduces freight charges considerably for western states and western Canada.

Light Impressions Corporation
439 Monroe Avenue
PO Box 940
Rochester, NY 14603-0940

Light Impressions has the largest choice of photographic materials and includes UV filters, light tables, and map cases. It also stocks the classic books for photograph preservation.

Metal Edge West, Inc.
6340 Bandini Blvd
Commerce, CA 90040

Metal Edge West is company with competitive prices but without conservation consultants.

University Products, Inc.
PO Box 101
517 South Main Street
Holyoke, MA 01041-0101

University Products has display items, cabinets, and insect traps as well as paper, film, and CD equipment. They have recently expanded to include natural history products and distributes about a dozen preservation pamphlets free of charge.

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