Last Thursday we had another Archives Program! Unfortunately the evening coincided with a fairly heavy snow storm. So, for those of you that were hoping to make it and couldn’t, and for those that weren’t but would like to know anyways, here’s what you missed. A team came down from the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa to share some conservation techniques, as well as to answer any questions anyone might have as they applied to archival materials. The CCI makes training one of their top three priorities (along with prevention and treatment). Since not many people could make it, we had a question-answer type format for the night.
The most prevalent thing that I learned over the course of the night was that conservation is a science. Specialized chemists use their knowledge in conservation to find which chemicals are most stable, and therefore will not react with photographs, paintings, artifacts, files, and the like. It is desirable to use these stable compounds to reduce the chance of chemical reactions taking place. Less reactions minimizes changes in the chemical composition of the materials. For example, using stable compounds protects your photos from premature yellowing, or your CDs from corroding or scratching, or your paintings from flaking... that sort of thing.
So for the consumers, what we need to know is what products to use. Here are some tid-bits of information you may like to know.
For your digital files, if there is anything that you would feel sorry to lose, you should really be backing those things up. What the CCI shared with us is what types of media we should be backing up our memories onto. The average recordable CDs are plated with silver, which will eventually tarnish. Once that has tarnished, you’ve lost your information. However, there are gold plated recordable CDs (and DVDs for that matter) that have a life of over 100years. They are more expensive though (about five bucks each). If there is something you really don’t want to lose, they suggest making two to three copies, and storing them in different locations. That way, if something happens in one location (like a fire or flood) you’ve still got your records in the other location. Also, recording speed matters. This stuff was a little over my head, so all I know is that a recording speed of 4-12x is optimum. Memory sticks haven’t been fully researched as of yet, but so far, it seems that they last just as long as the gold plated CDs, and have a lot more storage capacity.
The key to storing photos and files is avoiding these four things; heat, humidity, light and acid. You are looking for acid-free containers, whether that be file folders, albums, or some other kind of casing. These acid-free containers will actually absorb some of the acidity in your records and keep them safer and more stable. They also block out light. These acid free casings will also reduce the fluctuations in humidity and heat that your house goes through, for some bonus protection. Also, location is once again important. Heat from an attic will increase the chance of a reaction, (i.e. fading and such) taking place. Basements, on the other hand, can be humid and prone to flooding. The main level is the best place.
Hope this was informative!
Join us for our next archives program on the 13th of December for a look into how to preserve your family photographs, so they’ll be available for generations to come! -by Steffi Reynolds
Reynolds is a third-year English major at the University of Lethbridge whose
passion is stories; reading stories, hearing stories and telling stories to
others. This fall she is the archives assistant social media contributor for
the Galt Museum & Archives, earning Applied Studies credit while sharing
some of the stories uncovered in the Archives