The most common document conservation problems
Paper, a material that brings with it an ancient legacy, manifests, among its various production methods and applications, a possible use as a support for graphic records. These, when written or printed, cover different social classes and constitute most of the documentary and bibliographical collections.
Originating from the processing of fibrous plant materials, such as cotton, pine or eucalyptus, paper is vulnerable to various deterioration and degradation processes, whether intrinsic or extrinsic to it. Intrinsic agents of deterioration, directly to the composition of the paper, its type of fiber, the presence of metallic particles and chemical residues, arising from its manufacture; the extrinsic, in turn, are associated with physical and biological agents, such as the temperature and humidity of the place of storage, atmospheric pollution, incorrect handling or improper packaging.
In this sense, we can consider that the variations and instabilities of the humidity and temperature of the place where the collection is kept, can lead, in addition to the contraction and stretching of the paper fibers, to the appearance of microorganisms and insects, factors that endanger the integrity physical and durability of the works that make up the collection. In order to avoid the aforementioned damage, the ideal temperature for storing a document collection is 20°C and 50% relative humidity.
The packaging, provided they are produced with neutral and chemically stable materials, provide a barrier against the external climate and an internal micro-climate, internally reducing climate fluctuations and delaying photochemical deterioration, resulting from exposure of the collection to natural or artificial light .
Also harmful to documentary collections are atmospheric pollutants, such as acid gases due to the burning of fuels – which can accelerate the deterioration of paper, promoting chemical reactions – and powdery materials that, by mechanical or natural action, are deposited on works, pose a great risk to their physical stability. In large collections, adapted ventilation systems and filters to retain components that are harmful to the documentary material are used as a protection measure.
However, human action (inadequate handling of the works that make up the collection) on handwritten, printed or three-dimensional (bound) works, put the physical integrity of the works at imminent risk.
Some preventive measures to preserve documents
Some procedures can favor a longer useful life, and effectively contribute to the preventive conservation of the collection:
1. Handle the works with both clean hands and using cotton gloves, always on a smooth surface.
2. Do not overlap works in direct contact, if necessary, use neutral cardboard plates, which will make it difficult for the possible migration of chemical additives from one to the other.
3. Avoid any surface or object that causes abrasion or marks on the work.
4. Do not use adhesive tapes – due to their chemical composition – or metallic fasteners in the works.
5. Pack the works in a vertical position, avoiding compression with the aid of bibliocanthus, in envelopes and/or boxes of neutral and chemically stable material; large-scale works must be placed horizontally, with a maximum of three volumes superimposed.
6. Avoid the presence of any type of food in the place where the works are stored and handled.
Aiming to minimize the damage suffered by the works, conservation actions, adequate packaging and handling, in dialogue with the priorities of the collection, are important and effective tools for the useful life and permanence of documentary works, whether they belong to a large or small collection.
Article written by Heuvath Alquimim, student graduating in Conservation-Restoration of Movable Cultural Assets at the Federal University of Minas Gerais.
SPINELLI Junior, Jayme. Conservation of Bibliographic and Documentary Collections. Rio de Janeiro: National Library Foundation, Dep. Of Technical Processes, 1997.
GÜTHS, Saulo; CARVALHO, Claudia S. Rodrigues. Preventive Conservation: suitable environments for collections. In: GRANATTO, M.; SANTOS, PC; ROCHA, CRA (org.). Conservation of Collections/Museum of Astronomy and Related Sciences. Rio de Janeiro: MAST, 2007. P. 25-45.
GUIMARÃES, Lygia; BECK, Ingrid. Conservation and restoration of paper documents. In: GRANATTO, M.; SANTOS, PC; ROCHA, CRA (org.). Conservation of Collections/Museum of Astronomy and Related Sciences. Rio de Janeiro: MAST, 2007. P. 45-61.
SPINELLI. J.; BRANDAO. AND.; FRANÇA, C. Technical manual of preservation and conservation. Rio de Janeiro: National Library Foundation, 2011.This article is offered by the Glórias collection, specialist in rare autograph documents . We evaluate, buy and sell letters, manuscripts, books with dedications or drawings of great historical personalities. Click here to learn more