Causes for Deterioration and Methods of Control for Archival Materials -2

The recommended relative humidity is 35 -40% and not above 50%. High temperatures combined with a high percentage of relative humidity can encourage the development of algae. It is therefore necessary to monitor both temperature and relative humidity regularly, if not on a daily basis.

A thermo hygrograph is an instrument that records the fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity by means of internal sensing instruments. A data logger can also be used; it requires a dedicated computer and special software which requires power supplies. Lastly a whirling hygrometer and a relative humidity indicator which uses paper indicators used against charts can also be used to detect changes of relative humidity.

It is important to open windows for aeration in conditions where storage areas had high relative humidity. Cook (1999:18) recommends that materials should be stored away from outside walls to allow circulation and that storing materials in basements or areas of high relative humidity should be avoided.

Air pollution can also contribute to the deterioration of records and archives. Air pollution can be a serious hazard to records and archives particularly in urbanized to industrialized areas. Air pollution can also appear within a building, photocopiers, cleaning, paints, untreated wood and certain plastics and adhesives all certain gases that can pollute. These pollutions can also damage equipment and materials, dirt and other particles are also pollutions which then penetrate materials and promote chemical and physical deterioration. Pollutants can also come from paper products especially those made from poor quality materials as newsprint.

While it is difficult to control pollution in especially if the records and archives institution is located in an industrialized environment, filters can be placed to filter out polluting particular. Poor quality paper must be stored separately and that records should be stored in boxes and cabinets to keep out dust and dirt. Sealing untreated wood such as shelving with an interior latex paint to keep wood particles from adhering to records can minimize pollution. Lastly, dusting and cleaning regularly and thoroughly to keep dirt particles at a minimum can also minimize pollution.

Biological agents can also affect the stability of records and archives media. Paper which is organic is subjected to biological infestation by mould spores, insects, rodents and mice. Insects such as silverfish and cockroaches and others, these biological agents are attracted by glues, paper itself, binding adhesives and even sewing thread.

Feather (1996:45) says “The elimination of insect infestation is an expensive undertaking for which specialists would normally have to be employed—The elimination of vegetable matter from the (records and archives) institution and its outer walls is one factor. Planters and flower displays inside and creepers growing on the outside wall, may be aesthetically pleasing, but can encourage insects—The proper care of all the wooden parts of… (Records and archives building) whether structural or in the form of furniture or shelving, is also critical, since termites breed in wood”

Furthermore, foodstuffs and drinks should not be used in a records room, since insects will be attracted to food stuff. Food should be consumed in a room specially assigned for eating and the room should be and the room should be cleaned regularly. Fumigation can also be used if there is an outbreak of insects and fumigation should be done by a trained fumigator.

Lastly, records can deteriorate through abuse and mishandling. Activities that may damage records are, rough handling of paper, poor photocopying practices, excessive use of materials, handling fingers with dirty hands, deliberate acts of vandalism, theft of material, inadequate security, etc

Cook (1999:29) says, “Steps should be taken not only to protect materials in archival storage but also to ensure staff, researchers and office personnel understand the need to handle records and archives carefully… Specifically, it is important to consider the following, make security copies of valuable materials, particularly if originals are being used a great deal. If possible, do not put original materials on display at all but use copies a surrogates. Store fragile or oversized materials appropriately, ensure there is close supervision of the research area. Screen potential users of records for security concerns. Issue guide-lines for the appropriate use of the materials. 
Since preservation is a crucial element in the whole operation of a records program, it is therefore necessary for records managers and archivists to store records in conditions that make records have a prolonged life. Selecting good quality materials will also help in preventive preservation that also seeks to reduce risks of damage and to slow down the rate of deterioration.
1. Cook, Preserving Records, UK, IRMT, 1999
2. Roper, Glossary of Terms, UK, IRMT, 1999
3. Feather J, Preservation and the Management of Library, Collections, London, Library Association Publishing Ltd, 1996
4. Bajpai, Preservation and Management of Lib Col, India, Ess Ess Pub 1999
5. Mahapatra, Preservation in Libraries, Ess Ess Public, India, 1999