Heritage Science Research and Testing Branch

NARA’s Heritage Science Research and Testing Branch conducts an interdisciplinary program of applied research to provide the scientific evidence, tools and support needed for sustainable preservation decision making. Our scientists:

  • Investigate how materials age, including the impact of environmental conditions, and evaluate the effectiveness of preservation options on slowing these aging processes.
  • Offer scientific expertise across NARA and evaluate products NARA uses for storage and exhibition.
  • Make contributions to NARA policy development, preservation literature and national and international standardizing bodies.

See below for links to more information about our research strategy, lab facilities, projects, publications, specifications and other resources.

Heritage Science Research Strategy

NARA’s Heritage Science Research Strategy sets out our research priorities designed to meet the challenges of preserving a 21st century archival collection. To achieve this, we will work closely with the university sector, allied institutions, and industry partners to extend our expertise through collaboration, building on existing networks and developing new relationships, nationally and internationally.

The focus of our research is clustered around these main themes:

Managing Risk and Building Resilience: This theme aims to improve understanding of material change, and the significance of change over time.

  • Environmental Management: To mitigate the risks of climate instability, and to improve energy efficiency, we will exploit the potential of data analysis to predict the building performance of NARA’s facilities.
  • Modern Analogue Materials: We need to better understand many of the methods and materials used to create records over the last fifty years, as well as the mechanisms, rates of decay, as well as understanding what is acceptable loss.
  • Dynamic and Digital Media: Building on existing research, we will seek to better understand the rates of change and obsolescence of some formats.

Integrating Research into Policy and Practice: We will undertake scientific analysis of NARAs holdings to improve practice and add value to our holdings.

  • Technical Analysis: We will use advanced instrumentation and scientific analysis to characterize our records to better understand how they were made to inform the historic narrative of records, and preservation practice.
  • Material testing and Evaluation: We will take a leading role in national material testing initiatives, and continue to monitor and report our material evaluations.
  • Data Collection and Analysis: We will analyze the data we collect, to better understand and predict material change.

Adopting, Adapting and Implementing: Heritage Science Research is growing internationally with proven success of outstanding academic research and innovation. Yet despite this success, implementing the outcomes of research remains slow. Our aim is to better connect expert knowledge with end-users.

Additional Information

Learn more about our Heritage Science lab facilities, projects, publications, specifications and other resources.