Condensed from the news article by Jill Merrill in the September 1981 On the Record.
The National Archives and Records Service recently negotiated a contract with Micrographic Systems Technology Corporation of Falls Church, Virginia, to develop an inspection plan for Archives microfilm. The contract follows a preliminary internal microfilm survey of 3,500 rolls of microfilm which revealed redox blemishes on seven percent of the rolls studied. The survey was not thorough enough, however, to draw any definite conclusions. Consequently, a more detailed survey is desired.
The contract calls for a sampling plan that will first break down the microfilm holdings into groups homogeneous with respect to source and storage conditions. Different sampling methods will be evaluated in light of NARS' specific needs.
The inspection procedures will note problems such as mold, fading, staining, blemishes, film handling, and film condition.
On a second contract, the National Bureau of Standards' Polymer Science and Standards Division is studying the deterioration of magnetic tape and microfilm. It is developing test methods for estimating the useful life of these materials and for evaluating optimal storage conditions.
Although the polyester used as a base in these materials is known to be stable, less is known about its lifetime under varying environmental conditions, its specific characteristics, or ways to assess the relative condition of a polyester-based film or tape.
Among the characteristics of the polyester substrate that NBS will examine is its sensitivity to air pollutants and mold. Also to be studied is its possible tendency to decompose because of excess humidity.
NARS recently signed a third contract, its second with NBS. According to Dr. Alan Calmes, head of NARS Preservation Services, the Archives asked the Statistical Engineering Division of NBS to "design a statistical survey procedure to evaluate our paper holdings for preservation purposes."
A pilot study will be conducted first by NARS staff working in conjunction with NBS staff, to test a basic data collection plan. Systems will then be designed for obtaining a valid statistical sample of the paper holdings and for recording the sample data.