We all own books, photographs, maps, certificates and various papers of sentimental, intellectual or family interest.
We may wish to keep these for record purposes or to hand them down within the family. Below are some suggestions for keeping them in good condition.
Our conservation department is unable to undertake any work on a commercial basis, but is happy to advise holders of archives in Norfolk about our methods of storage and repair.
The factors that most affect the condition of books and documents are usage and mishandling.
Every time you handle a document you shorten its life a little. Handle it roughly and you shorten it a lot.
Tightly packed shelves reduce air circulation and encourage tugging on spines to remove a book.
Articles in contact with other items of a poorer quality will be affected by them.
For example, acid migration from a cheap folder may damage even the best quality paper and photographs stored in poor quality albums may tarnish and discolour.
Light, especially direct sunlight, can cause inks to fade and paper to deteriorate.
Photographs and coloured materials are particularly susceptible to this kind of damage.
Temperature and humidity (the water content of the air) are related.
Heat accelerates chemical processes within paper and leather, especially in moist conditions.
Rapid changes in temperature cause expansion or contraction, change in water content and condensation.
Excess moisture encourages fungal growth and may weaken adhesives or cause staining.
Too little moisture makes paper, leather and parchment shrink and become brittle and distorted.
The boards of a book may warp so badly that they tear away from the textblock.
The recommended levels for storage of archives are 45-60% relative humidity and 13-19oC temperature.
This may be difficult to maintain in the home, so cool, dry, well-ventilated conditions are best.
Rats, mice and some insects can damage archival materials. Dust and dirt encourage the growth of mould and insect infestation.
Dust also contains aerial pollutants from the combustion of fossil fuels. The sulphur reacts with moisture to produce weak but persistent sulphuric acid.
Soot and dust from domestic fires can also prove harmful.
Photographs are by nature unstable and difficult to preserve for long periods, but these basic suggestions for storage and display can greatly enhance their effective life.
All these suggestions are for information purposes only. They are not intended as, nor should they be taken to be, a substitute for obtaining independent professional archival or conservation advice.
Norfolk Record Office does not and cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage howsoever caused as a result of any person acting or failing to act on the suggestions made.