Holdings Maintenance Supplies

Supplies required for carrying out holdings maintenance actions are listed below, along with brief descriptions of their intended use.

  • Paperboard, polyester film, and similar supplies should be subjected to ongoing quality control review.

When the term "acid-free" is used in the holdings maintenance guidelines, it is merely for the sake of convenience in describing such items as boxes and file folders; in fact, pH level is just one of many characteristics defined in specifications for archival supplies.

The commercial availability and composition of products used for preservation purposes change over time. Therefore, it is important to monitor, test, and make available supplies that are safe for use with archival records in performing holdings maintenance and other preservation work.

Archival Bond Paper

For use in preservation photocopying, as interleaving sheets, as well as for tabs or cross-reference forms that are placed within files of documents or bound volumes. Also to be used as pre-cut protective strips to be positioned as a support under stainless steel paper clips and rustproof staples.

Bone Folders

Smooth, thin tool made of bone with tapered or pointed ends, used to make strong creases in file folders.

Brushes, Dusting

Suitable for dusting the exteriors of bound volumes, as well as enclosures that have been stored in open containers. Such brushes also may be used to dust shelves and archives boxes, but dust cloths are more effective in trapping dust in such situations. Stiff bristled brushes should not be used to dust the surfaces of paper records or photographic materials since they may damage records, force the dirt into paper fibers, and/or abrade fragile surfaces. Dusting brushes must be washed on a regular basis. (See Brush Care.)

Brushes, Photographic

Soft-bristled brushes designed for lightly dusting the surfaces of photographic prints and negatives before they are placed in storage enclosures. Brushes used for dusting photographs should be reserved solely for this purpose and not used on other archival materials.

Photographic brushes also may be designated for use in lightly surface dusting archival paper records. Brushes that are used for paper records should not be used on photographs.

Brush Care

Only clean brushes should be used when dusting archival records, to avoid simply transferring dirt from one surface to another. Since brushes will become dirty quickly when used with dusty records, a supply of several clean brushes should be kept on hand so that a fresh one is available when needed. Brushes should be washed as often as necessary, either in plain water or with water and a mild soap. Brushes should be rinsed thoroughly (especially if soap is used) and hung to air dry. Brushes must be thoroughly dry before they are used on archival records.

Corrugated Folders (acid-free)

For use in handling and transporting oversize archival records. Such folders are lightweight and also provide rigid support. They can be fabricated in sizes up to 4' x 8', using gummed linen tape to hinge the two pieces of corrugated board together.

Cotton Gloves, White

Recommended when working with dirty materials, and to protect hands from paper cuts. Gloves also should always be worn when handling and sleeving photographic materials to avoid fingerprints, which permanently damage photographs. Gloves should be changed as soon as they become dirty to avoid transferring dirt to archival records.

Cotton Twill Tape, White (1/2", 3/4", 1")

To be used in tying bound volumes that are damaged or weak and to keep covers and spine pieces from being separated from text blocks. The width of twill tape selected should relate to the size of the volume being tied; 1" (or wider) tape should be used for large, heavy textbooks.

Cotton tape should not be used to tie bundles of loose paper records or rolled documents, since it can easily break, tear, or damage edges of unsupported records. Colored cloth tape should not be used with archival records due to problems associated with unstable dyes.

Dust Cloths

For dusting archives boxes, the exteriors of bound volumes, and shelves. Dust cloths should not be used to wipe or dust the surfaces of loose paper records, photographic materials, or pages in bound volumes.

Dust Masks

Recommended when working with particularly dirty records, especially for people bothered by dust.


Ink that is not acidic, does not fade, and is not soluble in water should be used if the permanent marking of records is authorized. Pencils are recommended, however, for most archival applications, including writing notations on file folders and boxes.

Microspatula (stainless steel)

Thin and flexible spatulas that can be used to remove staples and similar fasteners.

Paper Clips (stainless steel)

To be used in conjunction with protective strips of archival bond paper, and then only when the documents are strong and flexible. Stainless steel paper clips should be used as the fastener of choice if records of high intrinsic value must be held together. Office or commercial quality paper clips readily rust and should not be used on archival records. Conversely, given the expense of stainless steel paper clips, they should only be used on archival records, not for office applications.

Polyester Sleeves

For enclosing and protecting fragile, brittle, and/or torn documents, as well as photographic prints and negatives that are filed among textual records. Sleeves with two adjacent sealed edges (L-sleeves) are recommended to maximize safe insertion and removal of fragile records.

Plastic enclosures or sheet protectors of unknown origin (that may have been used by the agency or person that created the records) should be tested, since many plastic materials are unstable and can damage records.

Spacer Boards

To be used in partially filled archives boxes to keep records upright. Constructed of acid-free corrugated paperboard, the spacer boards are designed to fit standard letter and legal size archives boxes. There are score lines on each end of the board; folds should be made as necessary, depending on the size and contents of a box.

Staples (non-corrosive, rustproof)

To be used when paper records are strong and flexible. Staples should not be used on brittle paper, and they are not recommended for use on archival records of high intrinsic value because of the punctures they make. A small strip of archival bond paper should be folded in half and placed over the top edges of the records to be attached before applying the staple. Office or commercial quality staples should not be used on archival records.

Storage Containers

Archival storage boxes, file folders, envelopes, boxes and enclosures that meet archival specifications are available in standard as well as specialized sizes and formats to meet the storage requirements of a wide variety of archival records.