Preserving materials in your physical archive

It’s important to store archives and collections sustainably if you want to avoid losing any data or information. And different types of documents and objects also need to be stored in different ways. After all, archives and collections owned by artists and arts organisations often contain assorted types of materials – such as paper, textiles, wood, metal and plastic – and all these materials require specific attention. Correct packaging of archive items and documents is an essential part of this, and the saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ also holds true here. Archives and collections are usually stored somewhere with enough space that’s easy to access. But it’s important to be aware of any risks that might be associated with this storage area, so you can eliminate them where possible and limit any foreseeable damage.

It’s important to store archives and collections sustainably if you want to avoid losing any data or information. And different types of documents and objects also need to be stored in different ways. After all, archives and collections owned by artists and arts organisations often contain assorted types of materials – such as paper, textiles, wood, metal and plastic – and all these materials require specific attention. Correct packaging of archive items and documents is an essential part of this, and the saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ also holds true here. Archives and collections are usually stored somewhere with enough space that’s easy to access. But it’s important to be aware of any risks that might be associated with this storage area, so you can eliminate them where possible and limit any foreseeable damage.

How to store documents, newspaper cuttings and drawings?

  • Remove any elements that could damage the documents – such as paperclips, staples, elastic/rubber bands, plastic folders, ring binders – along with any unnecessary paper folders, blotting paper, etc.
  • Documents that are held together with harmful materials – such as paperclips, staples and elastic/rubber bands, etc. – must still be kept together, however. Use a large sheet (A3) of (acid-free) paper folded in half with the documents inside, and replace ring binders with (acid-free) boxes.

Before removing any original packaging, always make sure it doesn’t contain any information that could be useful for describing the documents. If it does, copy these details across to the new packaging.

  • It’s best to store paper flat in a cardboard box, but you can roll up large sheets of paper if there isn’t enough room. Always avoid folding, though!
  • If you want to label the paper documents, use a soft pencil on the back of the paper.

You can find more information via the references below:

Books

  • Depotwijzer, Boeken en boekbanden
  • FARO, Aflevering boeken en boekbanden

Newspaper cuttings

  • Library of Congress, Preservation Measures for Newspapers
  • State Library of Victoria, Storing newspapers.

Paper (including programmes, brochures)

  • FARO, Aflevering Papier in Verzeker de bewaring.
  • Rotterdam Municipal Archives, Paper storage.
  • Library of Congress, Handling, and Storage of Works on Paper.
  • MOYSON, H. (RESONANT), Zorg dragen voor je archief. Leidraad voor beiaardiers, Leuven, 2012, 40.

What to do with large formats?

  • It’s best to store large paper formats such as posters, drawings, lighting plans, etc. in drawers designed specifically for this purpose (map/poster cabinets). These are available up to A0+ format (1600mm x 841mm). Metal cabinets with a powder coating dried at high temperature are best.
  • Multiple paper documents can be stored in a single drawer, but make sure you don’t overfill them as this can put too much pressure on the documents at the bottom.
  • Take into account that you need to be able to put documents in the cabinet and take them out again quickly and easily.
  • If you’re storing documents of assorted sizes together in one drawer, place the largest ones at the bottom.
  • It’s best to protect delicate documents in an (acid-free) cover.

You can find map cabinets at:

Acid-free boxes and covers:

  • Acid-free print or picture boxes or covers can offer a solution if you don’t want to or can’t buy storage drawers.
  • It’s better not to keep more than ten documents in one cover.

You can find acid-free archive boxes and covers at:

You can find more information via the references below:

  • Northeast Document Conservation Centre, Storage Solutions for Oversized Paper Artifacts.
  • Province of West Flanders, Tolhuis Provincial Library and Provincial Archives of West Flanders, User Guide for WW1 Poster Inventory, West Flanders, 2013.

How to store film and video?

  • Store audiovisual materials upright (like books on a bookshelf) in cool, stable conditions. A temperature of 18°C is suitable for both optical discs and magnetic tapes.
  • Always store these materials in their boxes. Make sure the boxes remain free of dirt and dust.
  • Never stack optical discs on top of each other or package them together, and also make sure they cannot lean against each other.
  • Keep magnetic tapes away from strong magnetic fields such as loudspeakers and other cathode-ray tubes.
  • Keep the storage area free from dust and away from direct sunlight.
  • Fully rewind magnetic tapes before storing them, and disable the record tab to prevent unwanted erasure in the future.
  • Use a pen with a soft tip for labelling. For optical discs, we recommend only writing in the transparent inner circle where no data is stored.

Avoid using adhesive labels on optical discs.

You can find more information via the references below:

  • BOUDREZ, F., Magnetische dragers voor het archief, Antwerp, 2002.
  • FARO, 'Inhoud aflevering: Audiovisueel Materiaal', Verzeker De Bewaring, 2016.
  • Rotterdam Municipal Archives, storing audio.
  • Rotterdam Municipal Archives, storing film and video.
  • MOYSON, H. (RESONANT), Zorg dragen voor je archief. Leidraad voor beiaardiers, Leuven, 2012, 42.
  • National Library of New Zealand, Sound Recordings.
  • https://knowyourcarrier.com/

How to store photos?

  • Store your photos in a dark place (avoid light), flat in boxes, and do not use any glue, photo albums, staples, rubber bands...
  • Use a pencil on the back of the photo to label it.

You can find more information via the references below:

  • BOON, B. en LELOUP, G., Fotoarchief. Praktische aanbevelingen voor bewaring en beheer, Brussels, 2011.
  • Depotwijzer, Fotografisch materiaal.
  • Photo Museum of Antwerp, E.H.B.O. voor uw foto’s, Antwerp, 2005.
  • Rotterdam Municipal Archives, storing photos.
  • MOYSON, H. (RESONANT), Zorg dragen voor je archief. Leidraad voor beiaardiers, Leuven, 2012, 40.
  • National Library of New Zealand, Caring for your collections. Photographs.
  • ROOSA, M. (Library of Congress), Care, handling, and storage of photographs, Washington, 2002.

How to store (large) objects?

In addition to building an archive, as an artist or organisation you’ll also collect objects such as props, hardware, tools and models. It’s important to keep a record of all this heritage and manage it properly in separate collections.

You can find more information via the links below:

Various materials (stone, wood, plastic...)

  • FARO, Verzeker de Bewaring.

Models'

  • VAN GOETHEM, J. en WALLEMACQ, S. (Koninklijke Muntschouwburg), Decormaquettes in het theater: van werkinstrument tot ontsluiting van cultureel erfgoed, 2013, Brussels.
  • QUINTENS, P., De conservering en betekenis van de maquettecollectie van de KVS in het AMVB, in Arduin, 2 (December 2007), pp. 38-47.

Theatre puppets

  • KOCKELKOREN, G. (2010), Behoud de beheerte. Workshop behoud en beheer van theaterpoppen. Wat met 'stof' & plastics [PowerPoint slides].
  • SMETS, L. (2010), Behoud en beheer van figurentheaterelementen. Hoe garandeer ik mijn figuren, rekwisieten, decors en documenten een lang leven? [PowerPoint slides].

Performance Props

  • Borggreen, G. en Gade R. , Performing Archives/Archives of Performance (In Between States), 2013

== How to store textiles?

  • Store your textiles flat in a box or rolled up if you don’t have enough space (not including costumes). Avoid folding!
  • Do not store textiles dirty; this attracts pests.
  • Protect costumes from direct sunlight and other bright light. Otherwise the fibres become brittle and break down, and the colours fade.
  • Never store textiles in a plastic cover or bag without ventilation; plastic doesn’t let air through, so condensation can form inside when the temperature changes. This moisture then has nowhere to go, causing mould to form which can damage the fibres.
  • Roll up costumes on acid-free rolls or lay them flat if there’s enough space. Always cover or wrap them. Fill folds with rolls of silk paper to prevent breakage. If you hang the garments on hangers or a clothes rack, make sure each item is properly supported. The rack or wardrobe also needs to be large enough to avoid creasing and folding.
  • Hang all costumes on identical hangers. You’ll be surprised how much space this saves!
  • You can wrap textiles in clean white cotton sheets, acid-free paper or boxes, or clean and breathable materials such as Tyvek. The Royal Theatre of La Monnaie has created a handy pattern for you to make your own covers out of Tyvek, which you can request via contact@cemper.be.
  • Keep wardrobes free of dust and ensure regular movement to disturb and get rid of any moths.
  • Hang cedarwood blocks between the costumes rather than mothballs. This is cheaper and better for the environment. Instead of replacing the blocks every year, you can treat them with a mixture of cedar and lavender oil every three to four months. It’s much more enjoyable performing in costumes that smell good and not like mothballs!
  • If you find any moths, place your textile in a plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as possible and seal tightly. Then place in the freezer for two weeks. After these two weeks, let it defrost gradually, remove the plastic bag as soon as possible, and continue to leave to dry as normal. Never use a hairdryer to speed up the process!

More info:

  • FARO, 'Inhoud aflevering: Textiel', Verzeker De Bewaring, 2016.
  • Instituut Collectie Nederland, Opgeruimd staat netjes: liggend en opgerold, ICN-Informatie, 14, 2005.
  • Net Nebraska, Saving Your Treasures: How To Fold & Roll Textiles For Storage.
  • AUBAGNAC, G., CHAMPEAUX, A., CHEVALLIER, D., VILLA, A. [et al.], Réflexions sur la présentation de collection textiles, de costumes et d'uniformes, Lyon; Aix-en-Provence: Association générale des conservateurs des collections publiques de France, Section Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 2006.
  • BOERSMA, F., e.a., Preservation of textile collections, London, 2007.
  • CORBIN, G., Les caoutchoucs dans les collections d'art contemporain. Identification et processus de dégradation. Recherche menée dans le

cadre d'une bourse attribuée par le CNAP et en collaboration avec le CICRP, 2010 - 2011.

  • CORBIN, G., Recherche sur la conservation et la restauration de Foot Soldier (Godzilla) de Kenji Yanobe. Complétée d'une étude sur les mousses polyuréthanes souples, France: ESAA (mémoire), 2007.
  • CORBIN, G., Recherche sur les altérations d’une couche peinte composée de latex, in CRBC, ed. ARAAFU, 2008.
  • CORBIN, G.; COLOMBINI, A.; LEAL, V., Les matériaux en polyuréthane dans les oeuvres d’art: des fortunes diverses. Le cas de la sculpture «Foot Soldier» de Kenji Yanobe, in CeROArt revue électronique, n°2, 2008.
  • GARCIN, E., Roméo et Juliette" de Jean Cocteau. Restauration du costume peint de Juliette, conçu par Jean Hugo, France: INP (mémoire), 2004. X, Conservation du patrimoine et des biens culturels, La Plaine-Saint-Denis: AFNOR, 2011.
  • Instituut Collectie Nederland, Kostuumscollecties. Richtlijnen voor beheer en behoud, Amsterdam, 1999.
  • QUINTENS, P., Een representatieve selectie theaterkostuums van het theatercollectief Dito’Dito, in Arduin, 9 (May 2011), pp. 40-53.

Based on tips from restorer Maria Springael and An De Mol, costume manager at NTGent.

Flags'

  • Erfgoedcel CO7, Wat en hoe-boekje: Vlaggen, Ieper, 2010, .
  • Erfgoedcel WAASLAND, Verschillende bewaarwijzen for vlaggen.

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