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Subject: Storage of photographic materials

Storage of photographic materials

From: David Wexler <david>
Date: Wednesday, January 20, 1999
Helen Skuse <helen.skuse [at] ngv__vic__gov__au> writes

>In the refurbished space, we have requested a frost free room in
>which to store our archives. I have read some  literature about
>archival storage facilities for photographic materials, and as far
>as I can ascertain temperature should be around 10 deg C with
>relative humidity at between 20% and 30%. The designated room is
>about 5 metres by 3.5 metres, and the architects intend to wrap the
>whole area with 100 mm thick insulation panels. Above the ceiling
>the cooling unit, and presumably the dehumidifying unit, are to be
>installed. Inside this room, free-standing metal furniture will
>house the transparencies and negatives. I would appreciate any input
>from staff at other institutions who have installed similar areas in
>recent years.

Temperature: For color photo storage I'd like to see colder temp.
than 10 deg. C (50 deg. F). At least 7 deg. C (44 deg. F) and the
colder the better.

Humidity: Your design range of 20-30%RH sound good.

Construction: Cold box construction is a good idea. It will give you
good thermal insulation and more importantly a tight vapor barrier
to control humidity (which will be harder to control than temp.) It
will also offer a degree of fire protection. Careful installation of
the cold box is vital. Seams caulked and sealed etc.

Air Filtration: Don't forget about maintaining clean-room type
conditions for photo storage. I would not just rely on the
filtration of the HVAC system. We use additional air filters that
use HEPA, charcoal and molecular sieve media filters that run
constantly. Anything you can do to prevent dirt and dust from
entering the room in the first place is good. Dust traps in the
floor in the entry area. Entry vestibule, air curtain at the door,
tack-mats on the floor in the entry area and so on.

Fire Suppression: It's a complex topic and needs to be addressed by
your design and construction teams with care and thought.

Additional Info: I recently put together a side-bar article for
American Photo Magazine (Feb.'99 issue) listing some things to keep
in mind when protecting a photographic collection.  (List; many
apply to storage and protection of other types of collections as

    *   Keep raw stock and exposed, unprocessed film cold and dry

    *   Keep film and prints dry at 25% relative humidity

    *   Keep film and prints cold at 45 deg.  Fahrenheit or colder

    *   Keep storage environment stable without large swings in
        temp. or RH

    *   Keep materials in clean storage areas free from dust, dirt
        and smoke

    *   Keep materials away from air pollutants of all kinds

    *   Keep materials well ventilated to release the decomposition
        gases or

    *   Keep molecular sieves inside boxes of deteriorating film to
        absorb off-gassing

    *   Keep materials in dark storage and keep exhibition and
        display lighting under 450 lux

    *   Keep materials away from wooden shelving or cabinets
        containing formaldehyde

    *   Keep materials free from insects and rodents attracted to
        gelatin, paper and cardboard

    *   Keep film and prints in archival sleeves and acid-free,
        lignin-free packaging

    *   Keep materials without the use of staples, paper clips or
        other rustable fasteners

    *   Keep materials in a fireproof location with few combustibles

    *   Keep fire suppression systems maintained and inspected

    *   Keep nitrate-based film segregated from safety-based films

    *   Keep digital data and optical disks in cold, dry storage as
        they are not archival mediums

    *   Keep materials out of basements and protected from water
        leaks, overflows and floods

    *   Keep collections protected from theft, piracy and

    *   Keep collections well organized, inventoried and properly

    *   Keep hands off by wearing cotton or nylon inspection gloves

    *   Keep collections regularly monitored for varying storage and
        physical conditions

    *   Keep copies in a geographically separate location and sleep
        well knowing your hard work and collection is well protected.

(DistList: If you would like a copy of the AM PHOTO article, send me
your snail mail address and I will send you a reprint when it comes
out in a few weeks. In the mean time there is an article in the
current issue, Jan'99 of MIX magazine that covers some of these same
issues as they relate to audio archiving)

David Wexler, President
Hollywood Vaults, Inc.
Preservation-Quality Storage for Film, Tape and Digital Media
742 Seward Street,  Hollywood California  90038-3504 USA
323-461-6464,  800-569-5336
Fax: 323-461-6479,  805-569-1657

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:60
                 Distributed: Friday, January 22, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-12-60-002
Received on Wednesday, 20 January, 1999

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