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Subject: Vinegar syndrome

Vinegar syndrome

From: James Elwing <eg.archival<-a>
Date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Deborah Sutherland <d.sutherland<-a t->vam< . >ac< . >uk> writes

>The National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London,
>recently opened a Chubb fire safe that had been inaccessible for two
>decades.  The contents had vinegar syndrome and have been disposed
>of appropriately, but we would like to re-use the safe to store
>nineteenth century manuscripts.  However, even after some weeks of
>"airing" it continues to have a vinegar odour. ...

I would unscrew/remove the panel on the inside of the door that
gives access to the locking mechanism to ventilate the space.  After
two decades, this would have filled with acetic acid / VOC vapour,
and probably also needs to be checked for rusting of the mechanism.

I would leave this space open for a few weeks, and clean all
interior surfaces of the safe proper with an alkaline solution like
borax.  (Ammonia might create its own problems)

I would line the walls and shelves with zeolite containing alkaline
buffered mat board, say Bainbridge Artcare.  I have found this very
effective at absorbing acetic acid from vinegar syndrome.

The safe, with the door lining replaced, would be a closed system,
so the zeolites would remain active for an (unspecified) long time.

James Elwing
Archival conservator
Elwing and Gurney Archival,
NSW, Australia

                  Conservation DistList Instance 27:36
                 Distributed: Saturday, March 22, 2014
                       Message Id: cdl-27-36-004
Received on Wednesday, 19 March, 2014

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