Tag Archives: Rehousing

New Year’s Resolutions: Public Outreach

Exhibits are an important part of sharing information with the public and making historical items accessible. They also provide an opportunity to educate visitors on specific topics and showcase items of importance to the community. Public outreach events are another way to involve the public with the archives. Below are a few public outreach event examples to inspire your archives to offer events this year; some of the events below have been offered by Albertan institutions in the past with success.

  1. Create a Time Capsule

Involve community members by encouraging them to donate a small item, such as a photo or letter, for a time capsule project. The time capsule can be put into the vault to be used in the future for an exhibit. This project could take place over a particular holiday, which would provide content for an exhibit for a future holiday.

  1. Rehouse Prized Collections

A 2-3 hour hands-on workshop on proper housing and handling techniques can be taught to comic book and sports card collectors. Archival grade folders, binders, encapsulation materials, and labels can be sold as part of the workshop kit.

  1. Make a Portfolio or Window Mat Folder

A hands-on half-day workshop can be hosted where registrants have an opportunity to create a portfolio or a window mat folder to house an art print. A supply kit for the workshop could be sold upon registration. This workshop would appeal to artisans, art collectors, or art students.

  1. Make Long Lasting Memories

A presentation on choosing papers and glues to safely display photographs and memorabilia can be offered to the scrapbooking community. An additional workshop could be offered to the calligraphic community on choosing lightfast inks and watercolour paints. It is recommended to have samples available to show registrants.

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The Exhibit Series: Boxing it Up

When developing a new exhibit space, or updating an existing exhibit space, it can be tough to find the right selection of exhibit cases and mounts. Archives staff may be looking to enhance an exhibit space with new cases that both better suit the collection and that are chemically and physically stable long-term. Sometimes it is not possible to order new cases, as it can often be less expensive to update existing cases rather than replace. Whether buying new or making changes, what are you options when displaying original archival material?

  1. Where can you buy archival grade exhibit cases?

Zone Display Cases is a Canadian company that designs and manufactures custom-made conservation grade display cases. They are made of powder-coated steel and glass and are closely inspected prior to shipping. They offer a promise that all display cases shipped are without defect. Some of their most recent projects have included creating cases for Parliament of Canada, Harvard University, The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, and Yale University.

Goppion: The Art of Case Design began as a glass making company in Milan. Over the years they began creating custom display cases to meet clients’ special needs. Their work can be seen in museums across Europe.

Glausbau Hahn is a German company that produces their glass and coated metal cases within country using resource efficient methods and materials. Their cases can be viewed throughout Europe, and, closer to home, can be seen at the Royal Ontario Museum.

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Photo Credit: Modular Cases, Products, Zone Display Cases. Accessed September 2016.

  1. How can non-archival grade exhibit cases be updated?

Often unmodified exhibit cases are adopted for use because they are what is available and on-hand. These exhibit cases are sometimes painted or lacquered wood, particle board, or even mixed materials, including cork. These materials are generally not archival grade unless steps are taken to stabilize them. They will off-gas and negatively affect the items housed inside by causing embrittlement and yellowing to the paper. Completely replacing the case may not be within the budget, so what can be done?

  • If the case is lacquered wood it is recommended to place acid-free barriers like mat board or panes of glass along the shelves or platform. This is to ensure the collection items are not in direct contact with the wood.
  • If the case is coated metal and areas of the coating has worn off, it is recommended to apply a fresh coating of enamel paint to reduce the possibility of corrosion in areas with exposed metal. Allow paint to cure for two weeks before use.
  • If the case is made of particleboard, plywood or MDF it is recommended to coat it with enamel paint, and set aside to cure for two weeks before use. It is recommended to coat these types of wood products because they off gas due to adhesives within the material.
  • Cork is often used as a base material on shelves and platforms, frequently found in cases produced for schools and libraries. Cork is not archival grade and is not chemically stable. It is recommended to cover the cork board with buffered mat board, with an additional sheet of unbuffered acid-free mat board overtop. The underside of the buffered mat board should be routinely checked for discolouration. Once it begins to discolour, replace with another sheet of buffered mat board. It is recommended to put unbuffered mat board overtop of the buffered one because some archival materials react poorly to change in pH. Unbuffered mat board is inert and so is preferable if placing archival materials directly on it.

Microclimate equipment can also be installed in new or repurposed exhibit cases. Canadian company, Keepsafe Microclimate Systems, offers a variety of temperature, humidity, and oxygen moderating equipment that can be installed in cases to better protect collection material from the environment and pests.

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The Exhibit Series: Fading Out

When choosing archival records to add to a display case or exhibit space a decision must be made whether to display the original or a copy. Sometimes it is necessary to display the original because the item holds such high historic significance and making it publicly accessible is important, for example, exhibiting the Canadian Constitution. If you are considering displaying an item that could fade first determine if displaying the original is necessary or if a copy of the item would suffice.

What media and material fades or discolours more quickly when exposed to light?

  • Iron gall ink
  • Analine dye
  • Water-based inks
  • Watercolours
  • Coloured photographs
  • Cyanotypes and blueprints
  • Newsprint
  • Wood pulp based paper

This is not a comprehensive list, and there may be other media and materials that will fade quickly upon light exposure.

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Photo Credit: Parker Knight

It is also important to consider the auxiliary features of the records, such as fabric ties, paper seals, and stamps; all may fade when exposed to light.

 

How can you minimize exposure to light if the original must be displayed and has light sensitive media or materials?

Ensure there is UV filtering film on windows and UV filtering light tubes on lights that emit UV. Ensure that the light does not exceed 75 lux. It is recommended to place curtains over windows to assist with controlling lux. Other items should not be placed in front of or partially over light susceptible items due to uneven fading caused by the shade, leaving unsightly fade marks.

It is recommended to change out exhibit material every three months so that original records are not overexposed to light.

While it is recommended to display high resolution coloured copies when possible of archival records susceptible to fading, if the item holds little to no historic significance there may not be a risk of losing important information even if the item does fade. The archives staff preparing the display should consider all options and determine if the return is greater than the risk.

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Writing on Paper

It is best to avoid writing on original records, but sometimes it must be done; for example, when numbering an unbound text block. If it is imperative that labeling or numbering must occur then a pencil should be used. The writing should be executed with a light hand and in a relatively small size, best applied in the lower margin or on the back of the record. Labeling should only occur on paper and never on records made of other materials, such as polyester, cellulose-based polymers, linen, or photographic emulsion.

Types of Pencil Leads Available

There are many types of pencils available, from 10B to 10H. Pencils labeled ‘B’, which stands for blackness, have a higher amount of graphite. They are softer making them more likely to smudge and embed into the fibres of the paper. This is problematic because it will be more difficult to erase the labels and notations in the future. Pencils labeled ‘H’, which stands for hardness, have a higher amount of clay and less graphite. They are harder making them less likely to smudge but more likely to indent the paper. Pencils labeled ‘F’ mean they can be sharpened to a fine point.

A simple test was performed using the lead range of 8B – 6H, and F to see how much they smudged and how well they erased.

Control: Staedtler Mars Lumograph Pencil Set, on unbuffered 100% cotton blotting paper, no sizing agent*.

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Photo Credit: Emily Turgeon-Brunet

With visual analysis, it was found that 2H, 3H and F had the best balance of smudge resistance, ability to erase, and less likely to indent the paper. If writing with a light hand, it is possible to avoid indenting the paper with marks made by H pencils. If writing on paper that has been created with sizing agents*, it is easier to erase the marks made by B pencils.

*Size or sizing agent: Sizing agents are solutions that are applied to paper during or after the papermaking process to impart useful characteristics to the paper. They can make the paper more water resistant, increase its flexibility and smoothness, decrease the susceptibility for creasing, and inhibit the feathering of the ink from writing instruments.The Lead Team Logo

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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
Blueprint

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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