Standards for Archival Materials
This list is meant for the layperson preservationist. It hopefully will give you a sense of the core elements needed to safely store of your family memorabilia. The aim is to give you enough knowledge that you can be an educated buyer when purchasing archival products and also enable you to improvise safe storage if you wish. One bit of advice: If you cannot afford to have all your products of archival quality spend your money on the products that will come in direct contact with the items themselves first. For example: get good acid free/lignin free buffered folders or enclosures to put the papers in, and then put the folders or enclosures into a regular box.
Should be lignin free and have a pH of 7.0-7.9 (unbuffered) or 8.0-8.5 (buffered). Buffering should be 2-3% calcium or magnesium carbonate.
- Buffered or unbuffered acid and lignin free corrugated cardboard
- Buffered or unbuffered acid and lignin free folder weight paper
- Buffered or unbuffered acid and lignin free paper
Should have a pH of 7.0 -7.9 (unbuffered) or 8.0-8.5 (buffered) and be lignin free. Buffering should be a 3% magnesium or calcium carbonate.
For either containers or enclosures should be ONLY 100% of the following materials.
- Polyester (also called Mylar, Mylar D or Mellinex 516, this material is the best plastic to enclose photographs)
- Acrylic (for cases, and framed pictures)
- Polystyrene (cases)
These are not uncommon plastics so even if you choose to buy plastic containers from the local discount store, be sure that they are made from one of the above listed materials. If not listed on the label, do a little research on the manufacturer’s website or call the company. No other plastic is acceptable for long term storage! Other types of plastics can lift ink from documents, adhere to paper, and cause irreversible staining on textiles. Not convinced? How about this: Have you ever bought one of those inexpensive plastic cases for your car registration? Remember going to swap out the new registration and finding that the old one was solidly stuck inside the pocket? After five minutes of prying you finally got it out but half the print was left on the inside of the pocket. Now, picture that happening to your great grandfather’s Spanish American War muster papers!
Additional note: Plastic enclosures for photographs should NOT have any coatings such as UV protectors.
- 100% unbleached muslin with no sizing (permanent press) chemicals added
- 100% linen or silk
- Clean solid white sheet of 100% cotton or 50/50 cotton/polyester. Sheet should be washed twice (even if new) with a mild, dye and perfume free detergent. Do not use any kind of bleach. On the second wash, double rinse to ensure that all the detergent has been rinsed out. Using old pillowcases is not recommended because of the level of body oils they are exposed to.
- 100% Polyester – no sizing
- 100% cotton flannel
Should have NO ADDED CHEMICALS
- Tyvek® blend like Dust Bunny® or Dust Wizard®
- Any of the fabrics listed above under fabrics.
Foam and Batting
- Ethafoam (polyethylene)
- CFC free Polystyrene
- Cotton or cotton/polyester blend
- Stainless steel
- Steel or alloy with baked enamel or powder coated surface