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Subject: Storing library materials in safes

Storing library materials in safes

From: Jerry Shiner <info>
Date: Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Wendy Walters <wendyaw [at] unimelb__edu__au> writes

>Safes have been used in banking and other industries for centuries
>to store valuables, including documents. But, are they safe
>enclosures for rare and valuable books and manuscripts? I am worried
>about the microclimate.

I would worry too. While various microclimate problems can bedevil a
modern "safe", the most common one is excess moisture. Usually this
is due to the nature of the fireproofing materials that occupy the
space between the outer walls and inner liner of the safe.
Manufacturing techniques may have changed in the past few years, but
for many years, the standard practice was to use plaster of Paris.
This was chosen for its high moisture content, it is the plaster
that made the safe "fire proof".

Could the chamber in the safe be protected or modified? A
preconditioned desiccant would be very quickly overwhelmed, a very
dry desiccant would lower humidity too far when first inserted, and
then humidities would rise before it was overwhelmed--any desiccant
would be a challenge to monitor and maintain. An active microclimate
unit would have the power to maintain constant humidity conditions,
as well as filter pollutants out of the air, but the provision of
input and return lines to the central depository in the safe would
certainly be a challenge.

The criteria used to determine the useful lifetime (a couple of
generations?), and acceptable condition (legible and whole) for a
legal document or certificate are likely very different from those
used for a museum object.

Jerry Shiner
Microclimate Technologies International / Keepsafe Systems
905-629-1999 ext: 701

                  Conservation DistList Instance 20:8
                 Distributed: Wednesday, August 2, 2006
                        Message Id: cdl-20-8-006
Received on Tuesday, 1 August, 2006

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