The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 13, Number 4
Jul 1989

Research & Testing at the National Archives

Activities During Fiscal Year 1988

The Research and Testing Laboratory continued to test archival storage supplies purchased for holdings maintenance and film and photographic storage and to devise tests for use in developing specifications for these materials. The goal is to ensure that all materials coming in contact with archival records, such as inks, papers, and boards, are stable and unharmful.

To determine the suitability of storage enclosures and inks for use with photographic records, the Photographic Activity Test (as described in ANSI PH1.53-1986, Processed Films, Plates, and Papers--Filing Enclosures and Containers for Storage) has been used. Enclosures tested in FY 1988 included samples of several manufacturers paper stock; adhesive seams and inks used in file folders, negative jackets, and microfiche jackets; and samples of boxes and corrugated boards. The Photographic Activity Test was also used to test samples of inks used in pens and with rubber stamps to mark storage enclosures.

The laboratory is engaged in a shrink-wrap study, which is expected to determine whether sealing and storing loose paper documents and bound volumes in plastic is damaging over time. Sheets of paper that have the desired physical properties were placed in the humid aging oven. Fold endurance, brightness, and viscosity of these loose sheets were found to decrease significantly with time, although there was no significant change in acidity. Subsequent tests will examine the changes in these properties in paper aged in simulated bindings and will compare them with the results obtained from the aged loose sheets.

During the year the laboratory purchased an x-ray fluorescence spectrophotometer. As a tool to identify the properties that make up archival records and associated materials, it has already proved invaluable. A very small sample is sufficient to produce meaningful results, which eliminates the need to destroy a large amount of the unknown material being tested and allows testing that could not be done previously in many cases. [From Annual Report.]

Removable Self-Stick Notes

The lab has examined two brands of removable self-stick notes, including 3M Scotch Post-it Notes and AMB brand Attention Note Pads. Although the two brands of motes employ different adhesives, the test results were similar. Adhesive remained on sheets to which the notes were adhered after aging two weeks at 80°C, 65% RH. Evidence of adhesive was found even when the notes were applied to sheets and removed immediately.

It is also important to note that while neither adhesive lifted electrostatic images when removed immediately from typical electrostatic copies, both lifted the image when removed after aging two weeks at 80°C, 65% RH.

In addition to adhesive transfer, NARA chemists noted that some colors of the notes tend to run when wet and that some of the papers tested contain lignin and alum-rosin sizing.

On the basis of these findings, the National Archives recommends that no removable self-stick notes be used on any paper records that have permanent value. [From the Conference of Inter-Mountain Archivists Newsletter, Jan. 1989.]

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