Preservation

C. Oversize Records

  1. Documents that do not properly fit into their folders, boxes, or other containers without being rolled or folded should be considered oversize. These include maps, drawings, blueprints, posters, large ceremonial documents, lengthy petitions, and other records that may have been previously folded or rolled to allow them to fit into a particular container, as well as documents whose edges are being broken or curved because they extend beyond the edges of folders. Oversize records may become curved, pleated, or otherwise distorted if they are housed in folders and boxes that are too small.
  2. Oversize records may not be trimmed, cut, or sectioned to allow them to fit into existing filing enclosures or storage containers.
  3. When possible, oversize records should be removed from their original containers and stored flat in folders within map cases or in oversize document boxes that will fit on existing shelving. Appropriate cross-reference procedures should be followed for relocated oversize items.
  4. Ideally, oversize archival records should be stored flat, without folding or rolling. However, it is not always feasible to provide separate oversize storage for records that are slightly larger than the box or container in which they are filed. When the paper is strong and flexible, it is acceptable to make a single fold in a document to allow it to fit within its container. Records having high intrinsic value, however, never should be folded; nor should brittle paper, photographic materials, posters, or original art work be folded. Questions regarding safe storage for oversize records should be discussed with a conservator.
  5. Large paper records are inherently awkward to handle and must be specially supported when they are retrieved in stack areas, made available for research use, or carried to other parts of a building for photography or other purposes. To reduce the possibility of damage, they should never be carried loose or unprotected. Satisfactory supports include oversize, heavyweight folders made from archival corrugated board that are specially constructed for transport. (See Supply List.) Two people are often required to ensure safe handling and transport of oversize records.

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D. Folded and Rolled Documents

  1. Caution must be exercised when handling tightly rolled or folded records, especially if the paper is weak, stiff, or brittle. If such documents are forced open, they may break or tear. If records resist gentle attempts to open them, they should be left in their folded or rolled state until they can be safely humidified and flattened by a conservator.
  2. Folded documents may be carefully opened flat if the paper is strong and flexible and if it is clear that the documents will not break or crack along fold lines during the process of opening them. Folded documents should never be back-folded in attempts to flatten them. Rather, a document should be opened on a table top and the crease gently smoothed flat with clean finger tips. (See Figure 3and Figure 4.)
  3. No attempt should be made to humidify or press-flatten documents in a records storage area. Such treatment should be deferred until records can be sent to a conservation laboratory, where it can be carried out safely with no damage to the documents. Records that appear to require conservation treatment should be noted and discussed with archival supervisors.
  4. Some rolled documents may be so large that flat storage is impossible. These documents must be rolled around an interior support, such as a wide diameter acid-free tube, to prevent them from being crushed, torn, or otherwise damaged. The rolled document should then be wrapped with acid-free paper or tissue or a piece of polyester film to provide protection from dirt, light, and handling. The outer wrapper should be secured with a piece of cotton twill tape that is tied loosely enough to avoid crushing or crimping the document. Rolled documents should never be placed inside a tube for storage.

Figure 3

Torn document

Hands incorrectly opening a document by back-folding it along a crease.

Do not back-fold records along a crease or fold line in an attempt to open or flatten them; otherwise, weak, stiff, or brittle papers may tear, fracture, or break.

Figure 4

Opened folded document and folded document bound with tied string.

Hands smoothing folded document on flat surface.

If folded paper records are strong and flexible ease them open on a flat surface. Once they are open, place them with the peaks of the folds facing up. Then gently smooth out the folds with clean hands. This technique will not flatten out the paper perfectly, but will permit the document to be placed in a file folder or polyester sleeve. Do not attempt to open folded records that resist this gentle action or that are stiff, brittle, or badly damaged Instead, leave the records folded, and plan to have them humidified and flattened under controlled and properly supervised conditions.

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E. Written Notations on Archival Records

1. No marks or information should be written directly on archival records without authorization by supervisors.

2. All authorized notations should be written as neatly and unobtrusively as possible, and they should be enclosed within brackets [ ] to indicate that the information was added by the archives rather than by the agency or person of origin.

3. Any written notations recorded directly on archival records must be in graphite pencil (no. 2 or softer) and not in ink. Inked notations (and accidental markings) are often permanent and cannot be removed. Many inks are acidic; others are water-soluble and will bleed and run when exposed to moisture, such as that encountered in a water-related disaster.

4. If ink is employed to stamp archival records with declassification notices, a non-acidic, non-bleeding ink should be used.

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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