Preservation or Collection Care includes all aspects of archival management and activity including storage, handling and access.

In archives, museums and preservation, high humidity can lead to mould, mildew, and physical degradation of archival materials, while low humidity can cause brittleness. Poor gaseous environments with pollutants or harmful gases accelerate material deterioration.

Thus climate control and proper storage are essential to address these challenges in archives, museums and preservation.

Archives and Preservation

Archives and preservation play a crucial role in preserving our collective human history and cultural heritage. Archives refer to the organised and systematic collection of records and documents that are created or received by an individual, organisation, or institution during their regular activities. These records can take various forms, including manuscripts, photographs, audiovisual materials, digital files, and more.

They serve as valuable repositories of information, offering insights into the past and enabling research, education, and the preservation of collective memory.

Preservation, or collection care in the context of archives, involves the careful and systematic management of archival materials to ensure their longevity and accessibility. It encompasses a range of activities aimed at safeguarding records from various agents of deterioration.

Ten Agents of Deterioration

  • Water
  • Pollutants/Airborne contaminants
  • Incorrect relative humidity
  • Incorrect temperature
  • Physical forces
  • Thieves and vandals
  • Dissociation (often called custodial neglect)
  • Pests
  • Fire
  • Light (Ultraviolet and infrared radiation)

Of the given factors that cause deterioration, some of the factors can be controlled by maintaining the ambient environment.

Challenges Faced in Archives and Preservation

Humidity and poor gaseous environments pose significant challenges for archives or museums in preserving and protecting their collections. Here are some of the key challenges associated with these conditions:

Deterioration of organic materials: High humidity levels can accelerate the deterioration of organic materials such as paper, parchment, photographs, textiles, and artwork. Excessive moisture in the air promotes mould growth, insect infestation, and chemical reactions that degrade the materials over time.

Physical damage: Fluctuations in humidity levels can cause materials to expand and contract, leading to physical damage such as warping, cracking, and distortion. This is particularly problematic for delicate and fragile items, especially in museums like parchment manuscripts or musical instruments.

Mould growth: Elevated humidity provides an ideal environment for mould growth, which poses risks to both the collections and human health. Mould can cause irreparable damage to materials and produce allergens and toxins harmful to staff and visitors.

Corrosion of metals: High humidity levels, especially when combined with pollutants in the air, can accelerate the corrosion of metal artefacts, machinery, or equipment present in archives. This can result in irreversible damage and loss of historical or artistic value.

Fading of colour and pigments: Improper humidity control can contribute to the fading and discolouration of colourants and pigments used in paintings, textiles, photographs, and other artworks. This leads to the loss of visual information and reduces the aesthetic and historical value of the objects.

Poor gaseous environment: Harmful gases, such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, can be present in the air due to pollution or off-gassing from certain building materials or storage containers. These gases can react with the materials and cause chemical deterioration, discolouration, and embrittlement.

Addressing these challenges requires implementing proper environmental controls, including temperature and humidity monitoring and regulation. HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems with humidity control capabilities are essential to maintain stable and appropriate conditions. The use of sealed display cases, archival-quality storage materials, and regular inspection and maintenance of collections can also help mitigate the risks associated with humidity and poor gaseous environments. Additionally, staff training and education on proper handling and care of collections are crucial for ensuring long-term preservation and protection against these environmental challenges.

Image.: Different Archival and Preservation Items and Required Surrounding Environment

Bry-Air Solutions to Prevent Archives and Preservation

Bry-Air Gas Phase Filtration System has emerged as an optimum solution for the efficient removal of corrosive gases and airborne contaminants that cause corrosion on archives and collection care. Also, Bry-Air Dehumidifiers are capable of maintaining low humidity levels, preventing moisture buildup and halting the corrosion process.

Bry-Air products are known to be the most reliable, constantly outperforming in output, services, and value for money. It specialises in customising systems to specific customer and application needs across industries, effectively regulating humidity levels and managing gaseous environments in archives. This aids in preserving and protecting collections, ensuring their longevity and integrity.


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