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Subject: Paper stored in vacuum

Paper stored in vacuum

From: Jerry Shiner <keepsafe>
Date: Tuesday, June 6, 2000
Ercole Gialdi <rgi [at] mbox__ulisse__it> writes

>Has anyone carried out studied on the ageing of printed paper when
>conserved under vacuum?

My first introduction to this method of paper storage was in 1992 or
so. Multipak, BV of the Netherlands, had developed such a system for
vacuum storage of documents (the ArchiPress system). Multipak
provided the barrier film bags, and could also provide the basic
machine (the same as used at the butcher shop for vacuum packaging
meat). These machines are portable (barely) and the system simple to
use. If desired, a nitrogen purge can be added when sealing
documents, or an oxygen scavenger can be introduced, although the
sealing cycle with purging becomes almost twice as long.

I found the volume of a stack of paper was generally reduced to 60%
or so. A vacuum packed phone book felt like a brick, but the system
saved space! Hermetically sealed papers were less likely to suffer
from airborne pollution, they were disaster-resistant (smoke, water,
insect, and vermin resistant), and the related files in a sealed
package would remain secure. I thought this would be a boon to
corporate record managers, and began Keepsafe Systems (with the
appropriate networking, researching, demonstrating, etc.)

Unfortunately, this was also about the time that digital storage on
disc and scanning technologies were rapidly becoming cheaper, and
worse, archives were now allowed by law to store facsimiles, not
only originals. Pffffft! Another business plan bit the dust.

I understand that a government sponsored lab in Holland was doing
some tests at the time, although I never did see the results.

In conversations since my initial involvement with this process,
three interesting questions have been raised. The first is: What
effect does constant pressure have on electrostatic copies (regular
photocopies, Xerox, laser printed material, etc.)? I personally
found some sticking and off-setting of the printed image could occur
after only a few months on laser-printed material.

The second question was: Will off-gassing from the paper occur, and
if so, will it be more damaging if retained by the barrier envelope?
To this, I have no solid answer. My intuitive response was that for
every day documents, the dramatic increase in protection, and the
substantial decrease in cost of storage space (leading to care
rather than abandonment of the paper) would be worth any damage
sustained from off-gassing.

The third question was: What effect would the slight permeability of
the barrier film have over long periods of time? Would the vacuum
pressure make the barrier more permeable? Could the packages
eventually expand and "pop" the storage shelves if packed too

In North America, the argument for this kind of storage is moot. We
have plenty of storage space and storage providers, and digitization
of new documents is commonplace.  In Europe, however, the system
might have some important applications. I look forward to the
informed response of paper conservation experts, especially as it
pertains to various sorts of paper kept in sealed environments.


    Multipak, BV
    +31 3418 87474,
    Fax +31 3418 60108
    Att: H. Klaassen

Jerry Shiner
Keepsafe Systems- Anoxic & Microclimate Storage Solutions

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:62
                  Distributed: Wednesday, June 7, 2000
                       Message Id: cdl-13-62-001
Received on Tuesday, 6 June, 2000

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