Tag Archives: collection storage

Home for the Holidays? Security Precautions for Archives

Many institutions and organizations close or have shorter hours over the December and January holidays. With fewer staff around, the facilities can be at higher risk for security issues including break-ins and vandalism. While it is important to maintain security features all year round, the approaching holidays is a great reminder to perform any required updates to security.


Photo credit: Sticky Bandits, Harry and Marv, Home Alone, 20th Century Fox

Holiday Security Checklist:

☐ Updated list of everyone who has access to the facility

☐ Updated list of everyone who has access to the vaults

☐ Digital padlocks are working and metal bolts and locks are not loosened

☐ A copy of the disaster plan is located off-site

☐ Weather stripping fits flush between the doors and the doorframe

☐ Fire alarms and water sensors are working

☐ Battery powered alarm sensors and cameras are working

☐ Security company is aware of holiday hours

☐ Security staff is aware of public hours

☐ Lights in the office space are set on a timer

☐ Timer for lights is staggered at different times throughout the week

☐ All windows are locked

☐ Lower level windows have bars or an additional pane of glass

☐ All curtains are drawn

☐ Doors to vaults are locked and inconspicuous


Photo credit: Home Alone, 20th Century Fox

If you’re interested in reading about minimizing the risk of water damage in your facility over the holidays, read our blog ‘Ice Rain, Blizzards, and Hail… Oh My!’.

Happy Holidays!

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Tracking Acidity in Your Collection

A-D Strips are used to identify the presence of vinegar syndrome in a collection containing cellulose acetate, predominantly in reel format, though they can be used to identify negatives with vinegar syndrome.

What are they? They are made of dye-coated paper that changes colour when exposed to low pH. A-D Strips detect the presence of acetic acid, the culprit behind vinegar syndrome. Acetic acid vapour is released from degrading cellulose acetate. As the released vapour comes into contact with the A-D Strips, the strips change colour. The colour change is dependent on the concentration of acetic acid detected. Unaffected strips begin as the colour blue, and slowly migrate to blue-green, green, green-yellow, and finally to bright yellow upon exposure.

How should they be used? A-D strips can be placed in film or audio canisters, boxes, or bags. For negatives housed in boxes, it can be easier to monitor acetic acid vapours by suspending the A-D Strips along the top of the box, rather than the placing them at the bottom.
You will need: linen tape, two-sided tape, cotton string, and A-D Strips

  1. Use linen tape to adhere cotton string across an open box containing cellulose acetate negatives.
  2. Use two-sided tape to adhere A-D Strips to the string, dye-coated side facing down towards the negatives.
  3. Put the lid back on the box, and return in one week to monitor the colour change of the A-D Strips.
A-D Strips - Negatives

Image Credit: Emily Turgeon-Brunet


Please visit the Image Permanence Institute’s webpage on A-D Strips for more information: https://www.imagepermanenceinstitute.org/imaging/ad-strips

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The Right Way to Rehouse

Before beginning a rehousing project, it is important to determine what envelopes should be chosen for each item requiring rehousing.

When should polyester film encapsulation be used? Encapsulating is great for rehousing photographs and documents with many tears along the edges as it prevents direct handling of the record, it reduces the opportunity for further tearing. It is also water resistant, strong, flexible, smooth (it will not cause abrasions), and it is chemically and physically stable. There are, however, a few disadvantages to using polyester film encapsulation: it has static cling, it is relatively expensive, and it acts as a closed chamber containing off-gases.

Do not encapsulate:

  1. Blueprints, they off-gas ammonia
  2. Cellulose Nitrate Negatives, they off-gas nitrous oxide and nitrogen dioxide
  3. Cellulose Acetate Negatives, they off-gas acetic acid
  4. Fine Art on Paper with Friable Media (pastels, charcoal, etc.), the static cling can remove loose media

2013-C3, Blueprint. Photo credit: Tom Hart

If using paper envelopes or folders, when should unbuffered or buffered be used? Never used buffered envelopes or folders to rehouse blueprints or cyanotypes because the blue colour (Prussian blue) will begin to turn pink; the colour is dependent on the pH level.

Always contact a conservator prior to rehousing fine art on paper as certain colours may be affected by buffered material.

Use Buffered Material for:

  • Cellulose nitrate negatives
  • Cellulose acetate negatives
  • Yellowed documents
  • Documents with iron gall ink
  • Documents with adhesive or glue residue
  • Maps without blue media

Use Unbuffered Material for:

  • Blueprints
  • Cyanotypes
  • Vellum or parchment
  • Coloured photographs
  • Black and white photographs
  • Polyester negatives
  • Maps with blue media

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