Preservation

A. Boxes

  1. Boxes that are physically damaged (exhibiting such characteristics as broken hinges or missing flaps) and no longer capable of supporting or protecting archival records adequately should be replaced with new storage containers. Boxes of unknown or suspect quality should be tested for pH level and alkaline reserve, to determine whether they should be replaced with new acid-free or low-lignin boxes.
  2. The decision to use acid-free or low-lignin archives boxes should take into account the nature and value of the records. Some photographic materials and records of high intrinsic value, for example, should be placed in low-lignin storage containers which are more costly than acid-free boxes.
  3. When records are placed into archives boxes, care must be taken to ensure that boxes are neither overfilled nor underfilled. If too many records are placed in one box, damage will occur as they are forced in and out. On the other hand, if there are too few records in a box, they will bend and slump, and eventually become curved and distorted. Corrugated acid-free spacer boards should be used in partially filled archives boxes to keep records upright. (See Supply List )
  4. Spacer boards should be folded along the score lines at each end and be positioned in the backs of boxes so that the folders rest against the flat side of the board; the well created between a spacer board and the back of a box can be used to store three-dimensional or bulky items, such as medals or cased photographs, that must remain with textual files (See Figure 1 and Figure 2.)
  5. Records must be placed in boxes that are large enough to accommodate them without damage. Archives boxes in a variety of sizes and formats are available to meet the diverse storage requirements of archival records.

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B. Folders

  1. Loose (i.e., unbound) records that are currently stored in boxes without folders should be placed in acid-free file folders for support and protection.
  2. Folders that are physically damaged and no longer capable of protecting or supporting archival records should be replaced. Folders of unknown or suspect quality should be tested for the pH level and alkaline reserve, to determine whether they should be replaced with new folders.
  3. Records must be placed in acid-free file folders or envelopes that are large enough to accommodate them safely. The documents must be neatly aligned so they will support one another. If edges or corners of documents are out alignment of or extend beyond their filing enclosures, they are easily bent, broken, or torn. Figure 1

    Hands at edges or corners of documents, which are out alignment or extend beyond their filing enclosures.

    Fold the spacer boards along the score lines on both ends. When choosing the score lines, consider the size of the box (letter or legal) and the number of records that need support. In some cases two folds will be required at each end, as shown in the illustration.

    Figure 2

    Hands folding spacer boards so that they take up excess box space and fully support folders and records.

    Fold the spacer boards so that they take up the excess space in a box and fully support folders and records. Orient the spacer boards so that the full length of the board rests against the folders and the folded edges of the board are placed against the back of the box.

  4. Folders and envelopes should not be overfilled, as records packed too tightly will not be properly supported and protected during handling and storage Also, if filing enclosures become too heavy and unwieldy, records may fall out and be damaged; or they may be handled too roughly in attempts to use and transport them.
  5. The original score lines provided on a folder should be used as a guide to limit the number of items that can safely be placed within the folder; the documents within should be no thicker than the broadest width (3/4) of the scored folder. Artificially produced score lines should not be created in an effort to make a folder accommodate more documents than intended by the folder design. Score lines must be sharply creased in order to provide a flat edge upon which folders can rest in a box. When folders are not sharply creased, they tend to slump and curl within a box. A bone folder can be used as an aid in scoring folders (See Supply List.)
  6. Pencils must be used when folder labels are to be handwritten, since most commercially available felt tip or ball point pens contain inks that are water-soluble, capable of fading, and acidic, and therefore do not meet archival specifications. They should never be used on storage enclosures. If permanent notations such as declassification markings are required by law or regulation, an archivally acceptable ink should be used.
  7. Non-record, loose, acidic inserts (such as cross-reference or withdrawal forms or blank place-holders) are often left in files of archival records for many years, with the result that records can become stained and damaged. When encountered during holdings maintenance projects, such poor quality inserts should be evaluated to determine whether they are still pertinent. If they contain important archival information, either they should be reproduced onto archival bond paper, or the information they contain should be hand-copied onto stable paper or card stock. Staff should consult with project supervisors before removing, copying, or discarding any inserts or enclosures. Conservators can assist in identifying stable paper materials upon which to transfer information.
  8. Paper folders or wrappers of unknown quality that were formerly used to segregate records within file folders should be replaced with archival bond paper. Most prevalent in this category are folders made of colored paper or Kraft paper. Generally, colored papers are acidic and contain water-sensitive dyes; various types of Kraft (brown wrapping) paper are also unstable. Questions regarding the suitability of specific papers for archival applications should be answered by conservators.
  9. Some highly acidic archival records (such as newspaper clippings and telegrams) are candidates for being copied onto archival bond paper. Alternatives that will achieve the goal of separating highly acidic materials from records on better quality paper include placing the highly acidic records in polyester sleeves or within a folded piece of archival bond paper. Established disposition procedures must be followed for any records that are identified for duplication and subsequent disposal. Supervisors should be consulted before any archival records are removed, copied, or discarded.

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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