The Conservation Methods Applicable to Prolong the Life of Archival Material

Etiwel Mutero
When records had deteriorated, it is necessary to have measures in plan to prevent further deterioration, through various conservation treatments that can be employed to retard or slow down the rate of deterioration. In this paper the author is going to discuss the conservation methods such as de-acidification, lamination, encapsulation, paper strengthening, mending and sealing which are applicable to prolong the usability of archival materials.
Conservation according to Laura Millor and Cook (1999:34)
 Is the intrusive protection of archival material, by the minimal physical and chemical treatments necessary to resist further deterioration, which will not adversely affect the integrity of the original. On the other hand archival materials are those records that are not necessarily current but records that are of enduring value selected for permanent storage in an archival institution or any other fitting place.
The first conservation method applicable to prolong the usability of archival materials is de-acidification. De-acidification is the process of removing acids from paper, to give a support and prolong its life span. Acids in paper are one contributor to the first deterioration of paper records. These acids are caused by impure cellulose, rosin alum sizing, residual chemicals left in paper owing to improper manufacture, environmental conditions. Use of acidic ink and so on.
There are three types of de- acidification process, these are: aqueous (water based), non aqueous (non-water solvent) and vapour. According to Chiwanza and Tsvuuia (2011:15)
T5he process of aqueous de-acidification process involves the immersion of paper document in an aqueous solution or brushing the sheet with an alkaline compound dissolved in water. It involves a single socking of paper in a solution of magnesium bicarbonate or the paper is generally first washed in a water bath, and then immersed in a saturated solution of calcium hydroxide to neutralize the acid. The aqueous treatment is not appropriate for items containing watersoluble inks, pigments and dyes, and all media must be tested for solubility before treatment.
Non-aqueous de-acidification process involves immersion brushing or spraying of an alkaline compound dissolved in an organic solvent rather that water, to give the document an alkaline buffer. According to Ritzenthaler (1993) as quoted in Chiwanza and Tsvuura(2011;15) non-aqueous solution permit the treatment of many documents that contain water soluble inks and other media. This method is quickly drying which limits the exposure of media to solvents and also minimizes drying times for paper. The advantages of non-aqueous includes; organic solvents do not cockle paper to the extent that water does, and also evaporate much more quickly, and the process is much faster, it can often be used on items that cannot be touched by water. It has also its own disadvantages.
The vapour phase de-acidification process involves an alkaline compound in the gas phase, and is of most importance for use on bound volumes which do not have to be unbound and to institutions with large collections which could never be treated on a one-by-one basis. Vapour phase is able to handle large quantities of materials, bound or single sheets at all times.
The second preservation measure is encapsulation. Encapsulation provides greater support to a document that is in fragile conditions. The process was developed by the Library Congress as a simple means of supporting weal paper. The process allows a fragile document to be sealed between two sheets of polyester film for protective viewing and ease handling. It is a very easy and useful preservation technique that consists of sandwiching single sheet items between layers of an inent plastic such as Mylor. Encapsulation is essential for rare and fragile documents that have intrinsic historical value, it is easy also to transport fragile documents Encapsulation is reversible and it gives support and protection for documents allowing them to be carefully handled with minimal danger to mechanical damage.
The third conservation method is lamination. It is a method of reinforcing paper through the application of high heat and heavy pressure to impregnate the cellulite fibre into the paper. The lamination method if reinforcing paper was developed by a number of Standards, the National Archives, the Library of Congress and the Barrow Research laboratory in the United States, through the application of high heat and pressure the cellulose acetate is fused into the paper. The end product is a thickened plastic-like document with a frosted appearance.

The last three conservation methods are; paper strengthening which involves techniques or procedures designed to return damaged or weak paper to a useable state, or to a condition of increased strength relative to its pre-treatment state. Mending documents with long-fibre Japanese tissue and a starch adhesive is a time-tested way of repairing tears and breaks in paper. Lastly, silking is a method of reinforcing paper especially historical items. When properly done, the process provides safe, if not permanent protection.
Conserving records is an important agent of records management in order to protect loss of information. This paper had discussed de-acidification. Lamination, encapsulation, silking and paper strengthening as conservation methods that seek to prolong the life of records

Chiwana and Tsuura (2011) Conservation Prevention and Reprography, ZOU,                                                                   Harare,Zimbabwe
Ropper and Miller (1999) Preserving Records. IRMT, UK
Ritzenthaler, Lynn(1993) Preserving Archives and Manuscripts Chicago; The Society of                                               American Archivist.
Pederson, (1987) Keeping Archives, Sydney: Australian Society of Archivists
Crespo (1985) The preservation and restoration of Paper Records and Books. A Ramp Study                    with Guidelines UNESCO 

Etiwel Mutero holds a Bsc Honours Degree in Records and Archives Management from the Zimbabwe Open University.Do you want assistance in writing your college or university assignment? You can contact Etiwel Mutero on 00263773614293 or

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