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Preservation Of Records


 Preservation of records is of upmost importance in records management.  Many documents have been lost through time due to torn pages, rust from paper clips, improper storage containers, and exposure to negative elements such as pests, water and heat.

Some suggestions for preserving files include the following:

  • Remove staples, paper clips, binder clips, rubber bands, etc. before storage. Any items other than paper take up unnecessary space and contribute to the deterioration of records.
  • Straighten folded edges and pages.
  • Do not use tape or other mending devices on papers.
  • Avoid using Avery labels or other file labels which may separate from the folder.  Handwritten identifiers are more permanent.
  • Make photocopies of pages that are deteriorating through discoloration, folds or tears.

Glossary of Selected Preservation Terms

  • Conservation – Physical treatment of items (either individually or en masse) to physically support or chemically stabilize their condition. Treatment actions are based on a prescribed set of ethical and philosophical principles. Treatments result from the collaborative decision-making process that occurs between curatorial staff and preservation personnel. Treatment improves chemical stability.
  • Damage – Occurs through neglectful care, use, or handling.
  • Deterioration – Occurs as part of the natural aging process. Cannot be halted, but can be retarded through optimal environmental conditions. Selection of chemically stable housing materials can also slow down the rate of deterioration.
  • Durability – The ability of a material to withstand physical stresses of use.
  • Holdings Maintenance – Basic preservation procedures that are employed to extend the useful life of selected groups of records through proper storage and housing. These procedures help reduce or eliminate the need for intensive, individual attention.
  • Permanence – The ability of a material to resist chemical action over time.
  • Preservation – (Umbrella term) Denotes the wide variety of preventive and remedial activities performed to maintain one’s holdings. Holdings may be preserved in their original or other usable format. Activities provide protection for items currently housed in or added to our holdings. (e.g. environmental monitoring, reformatting, re-housing, conservation, etc.).
  • Preservation Program – Formally established, directed and coordinated set of activities associated with maintaining materials for use based on institutional priorities.
  • Reformat – Action taken to preserve information. Most common reformatting processes for the printed word are currently microfilming and electrostatic photocopying.
  • Repair – Action taken in good faith to improve the condition of the record. In the long run, many well-intentioned, but un-informed “repairs” do more harm than good. Occurs as a subset of conservation when appropriate techniques and materials are used.
  • Restoration – Action taken to create a known or assumed state. Primary focus is placed on appearance rather than structural stability. Often has a derogatory connotation for archives materials.

Last updated: 3/9/2022