Archives: Preservation

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Any repository accepting responsibility for archival materials also has a responsibility to make those materials available for research in a timely manner. No purpose is served by expending scarce university resources to maintain a dead storage facility. But, the preservation and accessibility aspects of archives are a dichotomy requiring a balancing act. Preserving materials only makes sense if those materials are used, and yet, permanent preservation is affected by use so care is needed when making records available. The relationship between archivist and donor or records creator is an enduring one. We have a responsibility to ensure the preservation of documents into perpetuity and have contracted to do so in our acceptance of papers. Hence, archives impose certain regulations in the interests of permanent preservation of their holdings.

These include:

  • Archival materials will be shelved in closed stacks;
  • Attention must be paid to archival standards of temperature and humidity;
  • Care must be taken to avoid natural light or unfiltered incandescent or fluorescent lights in the reading room;
  • Materials will be shelved in acid free envelopes within acid free records storage boxes, out of light and dust;
  • Photographs and negatives should be stored in inert photographic sleeves;
  • Paper is damaged by heat, light, dust, moisture, acidity, insects, rodents, paper clips, staples and the oil on people's hands - all must be scrupulously avoided;
  • Researchers must be asked to register when they arrive in the reading room;
  • No food or drinks are to be brought in to the reading room;
  • Coats and backpacks are to be left in an appropriate area away from research tables;
  • Users should bring pencils with them for note-taking - they may not use pens or markers;
  • Users should be careful not to fold the papers they're using and to refold them along the original fold lines;
  • Users must be careful not to have the sheet of paper they're writing on positioned on top of a document;
  • White cotton gloves may be provided for patrons handling photographs;
  • Only records in good condition will be photocopied by archives staff; we will not photocopy items which would be damaged by opening out flat or that are too large to fit fully supported on the machine;
  • We ask all researchers to be scrupulous about refiling papers in the correct folder and in the correct order in the correct box. Misfiled items will likely be lost for years in a repository containing upwards of 3 million pieces of paper.