The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 8, Number 1a
Feb 1984

Six New Mass Treatments

Two deacidification processes, two paper-strengthening processes, one inexpensive enclosure method and one disinfestation method for books and paper have been or are being developed, but are not yet officially announced or fully described in the literature. Published descriptions of all six innovations are expected during 1984.

One of the mass deacidification processes, developed by the Koppers Company in Pittsburgh, was announced at the January meeting of the Preservation of Library Materials Section of ALA in Washington, DC. Bob Sturgis, the Koppers representative, has been working with Barclay Ogden in Berkeley, California, on it for over a year. By late June, at the ALA meeting in Dallas, he expects to be able to give a public description of how it works. Details cannot be given out until the process is patented. When the time comes, the process will be widely announced in the library and conservation literature.

No information on the other mass deacidification process has been -made publicly available yet.

One of the two paper-strengthening processes is being developed by Nova Tran, Inc., in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. It uses the Parylene process, a preexisting method licensed by Union Carbide. Results obtained with bound books look good. The deposition of the strengthening agent is done at room temperature in a vacuum, without catalysts.

The other paper-strengthening process was developed for the British Library, and was also announced at the PLMS meeting in January. Peter Sparks, preservation officer of the Library of Congress, recently visited the British Library to coordinate the research efforts of the two national libraries, and learned that their process uses an acrylic copolymer and initiates polymerization with a radioactive source. The principle was worked out by a local university research team for the BL on contract, but the method has not yet been patented or put into practical operation. It increases the strength of brittle paper by a factor of seven or so, and makes it flexible.

The idea of shrink-wrapping books with deteriorated bindings as an aid to safe storage and handling is believed to have originated with Bruce Harding, former NARS Regional Archives Branch Chief in Chicago. It has been used by the Kansas City branch, with one interruption, since the late 1970s and is now being taken up by other archives. It is a mass procedure in the sense that it is most economical when done on the volumes in an entire archival series or other large group of hooks at a time, rather than individually. The wrapping is removed before the hook is used. The cost is said to be near a penny a volume. Research on the effects of this type of enclosure is very scant, but the investigations on enclosure in museum showcases, polyester encapsulations, glass containers and time capsules have shown both good and bad effects on the enclosed object, depending on the nature and stability of the materials within the enclosure (including the object itself), the permeability of the film or other enclosing material, environmental factors, and perhaps other factors that are not understood yet.

Shrink-wrapping ("vacuum packaging") for preservation is also being tried out by both the National Library of Australia and the Australian Archives. Jan Lyall of the National Library of Australia presented a paper on its applications at the September 1983 conference of the Institute for Conservation of Cultural Materials (ICCM) in Brisbane.

An alternative to pest control with chemicals is offered by the use of low-level gamma radiation. Although beta-radiography is often used to record watermarks in conservation labs, and a variety of radioactive sources are used for analysis or treatment (image enhancement) of artefacts in museum conservation labs, gamma radiation has not been used for disinfestation of library and archival materials until very recently. The Medical Archives at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is the only American institution known to have used it, though apparently it has seen prior use in Czechoslovakian museums. Nancy McCall is giving a paper on this at the SAA meeting in August and can furnish details on request. Write her at the Medical Archives, School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, 770 Rutland Ave., Baltimore, MD 21205. She had an announcement in the November SAA Newsletter. One advantage of gamma radiation is that it permits treatment of large quantities of material at a time.

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