Best Practices for Archival Handling and Processing

Proper handling and processing of archival materials are essential to ensure their long-term preservation and accessibility. Whether you are a professional archivist or a custodian of historical documents, following these best practices will help safeguard valuable records for future generations.

Establish a Controlled Environment

  • Store archival materials in a controlled environment with stable temperature and humidity levels to prevent deterioration.
  • Limit exposure to light, especially ultraviolet (UV) and fluorescent lighting, as it can cause fading and damage.

Use Acid-Free Material

  • Choose acid-free folders, boxes, and sleeves for storing documents, photographs, and other materials.
  • Avoid rubber bands, paper clips, and adhesive tapes, as they can cause damage over time.

Handle Materials with Care

  • Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling archival materials to avoid transferring oils, dirt, or moisture.
  • Use clean cotton or nitrile gloves when handling delicate items like photographs or manuscripts.

Implement Proper Storage Techniques

  • Store flat items horizontally to prevent warping and stress on folds or creases.
  • Store photographs, negatives, and film in acid-free sleeves or enclosures.
  • Use supports, such as acid-free tissue, to prevent materials from bending or collapsing in storage.

Label Materials Correctly

  • Label folders and boxes clearly and consistently using archival-quality pencils or pens.
  • Avoid placing labels directly on items; use acid-free tags or sleeves instead.

Protect Against Pests and Contaminants

  • Store materials in pest-resistant containers and spaces, and regularly inspect for signs of pests.
  • Keep storage areas clean and free from food and drink to deter insects and rodents.

Handle Fragile Items with Special Care

  • Consult a conservator for guidance on handling and preserving fragile or damaged items.
  • Use appropriate supports and methods when repairing or stabilizing delicate materials.

By following these best practices for archival handling and processing, you can ensure the long-term preservation of valuable historical materials and make them accessible for researchers, historians, and future generations. Remember that each collection may have unique requirements, so adapt these guidelines as needed to suit your specific archival materials and circumstances.