It is essential that businesses, museums, libraries, schools, and other such institutions properly store their most valuable and important business and historical archives. Imagine a world in which all documented information was lost every time an institution experienced a flood, fire, or mold outbreak! Historical texts and other valuable books and documents would never get passed down for future generations to learn from and enjoy. History would have to be constantly rewritten, and society as a whole wouldn’t have progressed as it has. The best way for institutions to prevent document and archive loss is to implement storage techniques that will protect valuable articles against such catastrophes as flood or mold outbreaks.
Of course, we live in a time when digital storage techniques have advanced greatly. But there are certain types of documents that just can’t be stored digitally. The importance of maintaining the physical copy of the Declaration of Independence, for instance, has nothing to do with the information it contains. It is for posterity’s sake that we keep that priceless piece of American history safe.
One might think that the older the document, the more susceptible it would be damage. While this is certainly true in some ways, many documents created today are printed on paper that has been processed to such an extent that it is also extremely fragile. This is why all important documents should be stored with the same care and attention to detail, regardless of whether they were created in the 1960s or the 16th century.
Before deciding what types of storage techniques to employ it is important to look at the types of books and documents you are trying to preserve. Older leather-bound books, ones made before the 17th century, are surprisingly resilient to time and water damage, mainly because the leather used at the time was of much higher quality than the processed leather used to make most leather-bound books today. Coated papers, though common, are some of the most vulnerable to water damage. Coated papers tend to absorb more water than their non-coated counterparts and should be stored in low-risk areas. As a general rule, books and papers originated earlier than the 1800s will absorb about 20 percent more water than more modern documents.
Books and documents stored in paper archival box files will often survive flood damage much better than those stored on shelves or other non-porous materials. During a flood, the paper archival boxes absorb a great deal of the water, protecting their contents from extensive damage. If you are storing the archival boxes yourself you will want to make sure they are on sturdy shelving structures, well off the ground but not so high that the documents would experience damage should they fall. Storage tubs are also a good way to keep documents safe, but make sure the tubs you choose are waterproof and airtight. Since there is basically no chance of evaporation in a small storage tub, should water seep in, your document will be at considerable risk. If you opt to use a professional storage service make sure they stack your documents no more than two to three boxes high. Too much weight can warp and damage documents even if they are being kept safe from water and mold.
Should water damage indeed occur to your archived documents you will immediately want to contact a restoration specialist. Using state-of-the-art technologies, document restoration specialists are often able to safely and effectively return your books and papers to near-original condition. For water damage, seek out professionals that use desiccant air-drying or vacuum-freeze drying systems. These technologies are safe, environmentally friendly, and often allow you access to your documents during the drying process.
If your documents have experienced mold damage as well as water damage you will want to find a company that offers mold remediation services as well. Desiccant air-dry systems will help remove the moisture in the environments, helping to eliminate growth. But true restoration specialists will also employ environmentally friendly and safe chemical mold cleaning as well.
Keeping important business or historical documents intact can be a frustrating, costly process. However, approaching it with a little research, knowledge of the types of documents you are looking to preserve, and with a good storage and document restoration company on your side, the whole affair can be just one less thing for you and your institution to worry about.