We all use paper products every day from writing to important documents and much more. How do we store them effectively so they are protected for the future?
Paper documents need protection from the elements; all of which contribute to longer term damage; the main culprits are mainly light heat and humidity. Acids, plastics and physical objects also can damage documents.
Extreme temperature and humidity changes can cause rapid deterioration of documentation. If you have to store your documents in a Self Storage facility, pack the cartons with the documents contained with other boxes around them – this will reduce the temperature variation that sometimes is unavoidable.
Old documents like wedding certificates can become brittle. If you have stored the document rolled up in a very dry environment, re-humidification may be required before rolling out to gain more flexibility in the document. Relocate the document without disturbing it to a more humid area for a few hours to allow it to absorb some moisture. If it starts to crack there is not enough moisture in the document. If it is a really important document seek professional help.
Polyester or polyethylene or polypropylene is the only safe plastic sleeves for documents. Some other plastics are not chemically stable, especially PVC document covers or sleeves. These are often used in binders and they can emit hydrochloric acid over time and other dangerous acids, which will deteriorate stored documentation.
Conservationists tell us that lamination is not a safe technique for long term protection of documents, because damage to the document is possible due to the high heat and pressure during the laminating process.
Do not over pack document storage boxes as this makes them very heavy and the potential for the documents to fall through the bottom of the box is very high. Be careful how many document cartons that you stack on top of each other as they can crush easily and then damage the documents inside.
Try to organise your files in acid free folders and ensure that the boxes that are used are acid free. Documents that need to be kept for long time can be preserved between two sheets of polyester film.
Old newspapers deteriorate rapidly because of the highly acidic paper. Photocopy any important newspaper articles on acid free paper. The dry powder inks in photocopiers are relatively stable.
Ask your friendly staff about document storage boxes that will suit your needs.