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Subject: Vinegar syndrome

Vinegar syndrome

From: Laura Wahl <lwahl<-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. ...

If the lining is removable, I would think that it should be disposed
of.  Any porous material inside the safe has absorbed the acetic
acid from the degraded materials.  Maybe the acid has even
penetrated the paint, or it could have at least caused some
degradation of the paint.  Microchamber papers with zeolites are
very effective at absorbing odors, especially acetic acid.  However,
it may take quite some time to absorb all of the odor.  I have used
microchamber folders for papers with a musty smell and it required
several months for most of the odor to be taken up by the paper.
(Even then, I still could smell a little bit of the musty odor.) I
would assume that the same would go for the use of carbon or baking
soda--it takes time.  A separate issue is the use of the safe for
storage of documents.  I would be very hesitant to store important
documents of long-term archival value in a safe, due to the lack of
air circulation and the fact that it can create a microclimate.  I
have encountered papers stored in a safe in an office environment
that were permeated with a strong mold odor, although no surface
mold was present.  The papers were probably used in a fairly high RH
environment and then placed in the small tightly sealed safe.  When
stored in a warm room this created a nice environment for
biodeterioration to begin.

Laura Wahl
Library Conservator
Hagley Museum and Library
298 Buck Road East
Wilmington, DE 19807
302-658-2400 ext. 236

                  Conservation DistList Instance 27:36
                 Distributed: Saturday, March 22, 2014
                       Message Id: cdl-27-36-006
Received on Wednesday, 19 March, 2014

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