JAIC , Volume 39, Number 3, Article 5 (pp. to )
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC , Volume 39, Number 3, Article 5 (pp. to )




The Maryland State Archives is a central repository for state government records of permanent value. The collection of records that was examined for this project encompasses subdivision plats filed at county circuit courts. The records contain information on property ownership, use, and land development. Many are being retrieved as vital support in court disputes, so the legibility and clarity of images is of great importance.1

The archives staff first noticed the image alterations more than a decade ago. However, only recently has a systematic analysis of the collection with respect to damage been undertaken. The first symptom of damage was transfer of images reproduced as xerographic copies on polyester film. These records had severe blocking problems, and recorded information became illegible shortly after they were made. Since then alternative reprographic techniques have been employed. Xerox Corporation researched and experimented with film and coatings that would be more suitable for archival applications (Xerox Corp. 1992).

During recent records processing and rehousing, additional surface and image alterations were noticed. The predominant types were discoloration and powdery residue, ink bleeding and image transfer to adjacent pages, and peculiar odors. Several hundred records were examined visually to assess their condition and to select samples for further testing. A database was used to catalog the records, note specific damage, and prepare condition reports. The database also facilitated retrieval of damaged records. Records that were issued as duplicates and were scheduled for disposal served as a source of samples used in the experimental work.

The laboratory work on the film samples was supplemented with information on the reprographic techniques and films obtained in interviews with representatives of companies involved in production of the film, including Agfa Graphic Division of Bayer Corporation, Xerox Corporation, DuPont Films Enterprise, and local companies involved in commercial reprography, including Reprographic Technologies of Maryland, Arkwright of Rhode Island, and Azon Corporation of New York.

The Maryland State Archives advocates establishing statewide guidelines for the court clerks as to stability of the records they accept and storage of records. Therefore, this study has far-reaching implications.