Preservation

F. Dusting

  1. Maintaining a clean storage environment is an ongoing responsibility that will do much to preserve archival records. Shelves, archives boxes, and the exteriors of bound volumes should be dusted as needed to prevent dirt from being transferred to records during handling.
  2. Great care must be exercised when dusting archival records that are brittle, fragile, or damaged. Bound volumes with loose covers, missing spine pieces, or delaminated covering material must be handled with special care as well.
  3. Before reboxing or refoldering archival records, the exteriors of storage boxes or envelopes should be dusted with a soft cloth to avoid transferring dirt to documents during handling.
  4. Records that have not been protected by a closed container (such as those in wooden Woodruff boxes and some steel roller drawers or records resting on open shelves) should be lightly dusted with a soft brush before being placed in new, clean folders and boxes.
  5. Dust cloths should never be used to surface-clean or wipe textual records or photographs. Such action will work the dirt into the paper fibers, abrade the surfaces of photographs, and possibly result in permanent damage. Dust cloths should be used only for wiping shelves and the exteriors of boxes or similar enclosures and bound volumes.
  6. Documents that are dusty and dirty may be lightly dusted with a clean, soft brush of the same type recommended for dusting photographs. (See Supply List) Dusting should begin at the center of a document and extend out across its edges. Only documents that are in good condition should be dusted. Documents that are brittle or torn should not be subjected even to light surface dusting, since this action could cause or aggravate existing damage. Dusting only removes loose surface dirt and debris that have not become embedded in the paper; records with embedded dirt or stains that are obscuring textual information should be brought to the attention of a conservator.
  7. Photographs should be lightly dusted with a soft brush before they are inserted in polyester sleeves. (See section K Photographs, paragraph 2.)
  8. The exteriors of bound volumes should be dusted with a soft, dry cloth or brush to remove surface dirt that could be transferred to the pages during handling. The edges of volumes also should be dusted with a soft brush, making sure that the pages are held tightly together so that dirt will not sift into the interiors of volumes.
  9. Shelves should be cleaned before refiling storage boxes and bound volumes. It is meaningless to dust or replace boxes and clean bound volumes, only to reshelve them in a dirty environment. When cleaning shelves, work from the tops of shelves or compartments down to the bottom, to avoid transferring dirt from dirty to clean surfaces. To expedite dusting, it may be helpful to attach to book trucks small bags containing a supply of clean dust cloths. When shelves are extremely dirty, a damp cloth or sponge may be used effectively. Shelves must be completely dry before records are reshelved.
  10. Work areas should be kept clean. Dust cloths must be discarded when they become dirty, and brushes must be washed with soap and water and air-dried on a regular basis to avoid transferring dirt from one surface to another. (See Supply List.)

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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