Archival Safe Storage

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

Defines archival storage as “the preservation of records having permanent historic value”.

The archival label on a product suggests that it is permanent, durable, or chemically-stable, and can be used for long-term preservation purposes. However, it needs to be understood that the term archival does not in itself guarantee a specific standard or length of time that a material will be safe. 

The American National Standards Institute is the industry’s definitive source for recommended and proven guidelines for photographic film and print storage. 

All photographic enclosures should pass the photographic activity test to determine the materials’ level of inertness. This test is specific in ANSI NAPM IT 9.16-1993, and consumers should contact suppliers to see if their products comply.

Clear File Archival pages have passed the photographic activity test and are recognized by photographic professionals and archivists as the finest quality available. From the Library of Congress to the Tate Gallery, Clear File products are used all over the world to provide safe, long-term protection for valuable photographic materials.

Many factors influence the permanence of a photograph.

Two of the most important are proper storage materials and a safe environment. By controlling these factors, the deterioration of a photographic collection can be greatly reduced.

Plastic enclosures seal your photographic materials from the outside environment. Since most chemical deterioration in a photograph is catalyzed by the presence of moisture and sulfides in the air, such protection may prolong the life of an image. However, plastic enclosures can trap moisture and cause ferrotyping (sticking, with a resulting shiny area) of an image under extreme conditions

The stitched sealing method used on Clear File pages increases air flow between pockets and therefore protects against ferrotyping, moisture buildup, and mildew. Plastic enclosures also have the advantage of allowing an image to be viewed without removal from an enclosure which reduces the chances of scratching or fingerprinting the photographic materials.

Archival plastic enclosures can be made from polyester, polypropylene or polyethylene. Although polyester is the most inert of the three, it can generate static electricity which attracts dust and is very expensive. Polypropylene is a stiff, high clarity, and chemically stable plastic. Polyethylene is also chemically stable and although transparent in its low density form, is not as clear as polypropylene.

Clear File pages are manufactured from a specially formulated polyethylene and polypropylene. The original polyethylene formula is now available as ArchivalCLASSIC while the latest polypropylene pages have been introduced as ArchivalPLUS. ArchivalPLUS polypropylene pages provide the best balance of safety and affordability while maintaining crystal clear clarity and sparkling gloss for superior presentation qualities.

Plastic enclosures manufactured from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are not recommended for archival photographic storage. This plastic, often referred to as “vinyl” is not as stable as some other plastics. It can contain volatile plasticizers and emit damaging hydrochloric acid as it deteriorates.

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