Preservation

G. Damaged Records

  1. Torn or exceptionally brittle records that are encountered during holdings maintenance activities should be placed in polyester sleeves sealed along two adjacent edges to protect them during handling and to prevent further damage. Polyester sleeves must be larger than the documents being placed in them so that the records are fully enclosed and protected. Two or more sleeves should not be used in attempts to enclose a large document. Care also must be taken when inserting torn or brittle documents into polyester sleeves to avoid causing further damage.

    Polyester film generates static electricity. Therefore, to avoid alteration or movement of text or image areas, records containing thickly applied, flaking, or loosely adhered media (such as charcoal, pastel, or damaged and lifting photographic emulsions) should not be placed in polyester sleeves.
  2. The sleeve should be placed on a clean desk or table before a document is inserted. Polyester sleeves must not be held in mid-air while documents are being placed in them. To help minimize the static electricity generated by the polyester film, the top sheet of film should be raised as far as possible (without lifting the bottom sheet) while the document is being inserted. When thin, tissue like documents are being sleeved, it is often helpful to position them on a support sheet of archival bond paper to help ease the documents into place. The paper support can be carefully removed after the sleeving operation is complete, or--if the document contains information on only one side--the support sheet can be left in the polyester sleeve to provide greater rigidity to the enclosure.
  3. Only one single-page document should be placed in each polyester sleeve. If several pages are placed together in a single sleeve, researchers will try to remove them, and are likely to cause further damage to already fragile documents. Fasteners should be removed from multi-page documents that require sleeving, and each page should be sleeved individually. An exception to the single sleeving rule is presented by batches of photographs of low intrinsic value that are in good condition; groups of such photographs may be sleeved together to isolate them from adjacent textual records.
  4. If necessary, several polyester sleeves may be fastened together with a staple or paper clip to maintain records in the proper sequence. If this is done, documents should be placed within the sleeves so that the fastener comes into contact only with the sleeves, not the enclosed records.
  5. Polyester sleeves should be used only on loose documents. Damaged pages in bound volumes should be protected by tying or boxing the volumes. Polyester sleeves are bulky and can damage binding structures if placed within volumes; they can also function as sharp edges against which vulnerable pages can break as they move and flex when the volume is handled. Volumes containing damaged pages should be scheduled for laboratory treatment.
  6. Documents should be oriented within polyester sleeves so that the two adjacent sealed edges are parallel to the left and bottom edges of the document. That is, when looking at the front of a sleeved document, the top and right edges of the sleeve will be open. This orientation assures the protection of the document during storage and handling, and minimizes the possibility of loose fragments falling out of the sleeve. Similarly, polyester sleeves should be placed in a folder with the long sealed edge positioned at the bottom of the folder.
  7. Damaged records should be noted in accord with appropriate record keeping practices in the custodial unit, withheld from research use when necessary, and scheduled for conservation treatment.
  8. Under no circumstance should various types of so-called archival or office pressure-sensitive mending tape be used to effect repairs. These tapes do not meet conservation standards. Pressure-sensitive tapes disfigure and damage records. While the aging behavior of different pressure-sensitive tapes vary, they frequently become discolored, cause inks to bleed, stain records, and locally embrittle or transparentize records. Removing pressure-sensitive tapes is not always possible or satisfactory because of the way in which the adhesive ages, the sensitivity of the media to the solvents required during treatment, or a combination of factors.

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

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