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Subject: Compact storage of wet collections

Compact storage of wet collections

From: Lisa Mibach <mibach>
Date: Friday, July 14, 2000
Sue Valis <suev [at] austmus__gov__au> writes

>I would be very interested to hear if anyone has information on the
>possible detrimental effects of compactus movement on wet natural
>science specimens, caused either by the vibration of the compactus
>unit, or just by the motion of the preservation solution while the
>compactus is in use.

A point to consider in deciding to use compact storage is the amount
of maintenance time that staff will have available to adjust shock
absorbers and vacuum the tops of cases and the tracks on a regular

Although the current mechanisms are a significant improvement on
those of the 80's, I have seen a human bone collection in an older
electrically powered system with approimately one inch (!) of bone
dust in each drawer, due to the vibration caused by old shock
absorbers and accumulated dirt in the tracks. Staff were very
embarrassed by this, but simply didn't have time for the
maintenance. When the ranges were moved, they bumped into each
other, rebounded, and bumped again (like bumper cars at a fair).
Several archivists have reported to me that they will not store
fragile papers in compacting storage due to what they call "the
sandpaper effect" of frequent vibration.

In addition, when adjacent ranges in the bone collection were
opened, the suction pulled dust from the tops of the cabinets into
the open shelves.

One might wish to visit older installations of the same type being
considered, and discuss maintenance with staff there. It may also
help to consider mechanical movement rather than electrical, as this
seems to be easier to control intuitively as the systems age.
Another factor might be whether access will be by trained staff who
are familiar with the movement of the shelving, or whether there
will be frequent use by summer students or infrequent visitors who
may not be aware of precautions that staff take for granted.

Two other points:

    1.  vacuuming is particularly important for collections that are
        susceptible to insect attack, to ensure that nothing is
        breeding in the dust;

    2.  routine visual monitoring as you pass through a collection
        area seems to be easier with static shelving than with
        closed units unless these are opened on a frequent basis.
        Depending on the vulnerabilities of a particular collection,
        the benefit of this monitoring might be weighed against the
        space gained by moving ranges.

Lisa Mibach
Heritage Resource Management

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:5
                   Distributed: Monday, July 17, 2000
                        Message Id: cdl-14-5-001
Received on Friday, 14 July, 2000

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