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2 introduction CURRENT SITUATION AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES The National Archives and Records Service MARSH ~ was organized in 1934. Permanently valuable documents that were in storage in various agencies of the federal government were collected to form the holdings of the National Archives. These holdings have been increasing rapidly ever since. The quantity of docu- ments is vast and consists mostly of paper records of various shapes, sizes, and physical conditions. Today there are over 3 billion pieces of paper ;Calmes et al., 1985), and this figure is increasing at the rate of close to 3 percent annually. Tremendous archiving problems have been created because of both the volume of material to be stored and the loss of stability of large quantities of paper-based records already in storage. State governments have similar archiving problems {National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, 1986J, which, although not specifically discussed in this report, appear to be comparably urgent. Many documents are over 150 years old, and a large number have deteriorated significantly. About a half-billion pages of historical information are at a very high risk of being lost {see Table 2-1~. A significant percentage of the total collection consists of modern papers rather than older records. For example, rapid action is required to prevent information loss from "quick-copy" reproductions such as stencil, Mimeograph, and Thermofax produced during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. It is estimated that there are 270 million sheets of paper in this category alone. A pilot survey of National Archives documents estimated that 98.8 percent are quite acidic, with a phi less than 4.5 {Calmes et al., 1982~. This is of concern because of the known higher degradation rate of acidic paper. *In April 1985 the National Archives and Records Service (NARS) of the General Services Administration became an independent agency, renamed National Archives and Records Adminis- tration (NARA). In this report, the agency is referred to as the National Archives or NARA. 5

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6 PRESERVATION OF HISTORICAL RECORDS TABLE 2-1 Survey of High-Risk Paper Documents Apparent Condition Already suffered major damage Subject to damage by frequent handling Deteriorating "quick-copy" reproductions of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s Total at high risk of loss SOURCE: Calmes et al., 1985. Approximate Number of Pages 160 million 100 million 270 million 530 million In 2 decades, the Archives holdings will grow to well over 4 billion sheets. Since NARA usually receives papers many years after they have been prepared or collected by the agencies, many of these papers may already have deteriorated. This will increase the numbers given in Table 2-1. Materials must be preserved, and those in an advanced state of deterioration must be treated to retard further degradation or must be copied. If they are to be copied, a decision must be made as to whether they should be copied onto paper, film, magnetic tape, or optical disk. In addition, a retention policy must be formu- lated for handling original materials that are to be copied for which the originals do not have any intrinsic value* [National Archives and Records Service, 1982~. It is estimated that about 75 percent of the documents have no intrinsic value-that is, they need not be retained in their original form to preserve the information jCalmes et al., 1985~. The problem is large because of the large number of paper documents involved. NARA should take action, and the key question is what action should be taken. Policies developed must be based on the best technical input that is avail- able today. To obtain such guidance, NARA requested an independent study by the National Materials Advisory Board of the National Research Council, and a com- mittee was appointed to examine the options for action. The committee was composed of individuals having the wide background and experience required for this study {see Appendix C). SCOPE OF STUDY The specific scope of the committee's inquiry, as defined by NARA, was to make recommendations on how to handle original paper records and on the advis- ability of transferring information from original paper records to media having acceptable permanence, including media with limited life but capable of being recopied. The committee was also to make recommendations on the disposition of the original document if the information is copied. In the course of its delibera- tions, the committee considered some important issues that will affect the preser- vation of future holdings: 1. Only paper records in current holdings were to be considered. Nontextual items, such as motion pictures, photographs, sound recordings, and machine *Specialized terms are defined in Appendix B.

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INTRODUCTION As.. it, ,:;: : :: ::~i~. ~ C - - ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~. :s$* - :.: ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~i: ~ ~ ~i" A _ ~i~.~j~ :~ :~ If: :: ~: ~ i'' - _( : ..:.2 : ~ :~: ~ 7 .,, ~ of;*, ~ ~ 'ACE Document conservation Jaboratoryat the NationaJArchives. Deteriorated paper records are treated to slow the ravages of time andhan~ing.

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8 PRESERVATION OF HISTORICAL RECORDS readable records, were outside the scope of this report, as were such highly special- ized materials as maps, artistic prints and drawings, large ledgers, and small . . c Lanes. 2. Only paper having no intrinsic value was to be included in the recommenda- tions for transfer of information from the original documents and disposition of the latter. 3. NARA's prime function is to preserve the documentary heritage of the United States and to provide timely service to both government and scholarly researchers {Calmes et al., 1985~. In most cases rapid access is not of prime impor- tance at the National Archives and was not considered by the committee. Preser- vation, therefore, is the primary goal. OUTLINE OF PROPOSED ACTIONS This report is divided into chapters that discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of particular approaches. Several of these proposed actions are not mutually exclusive and can be done concurrently. Environmental Considerations Chapter 3 covers the effects of temperature, relative humidity, and pollu- tants, particularly as they relate to the National Archives. Pollutant levels, removal systems, and recommended standards are covered. Both the benefits to be gained and the problems associated with environmental changes must be consid- ered. A key question is to what degree environmental changes alone, or in combi- nation with other approaches, reduce the threat of deterioration. It is believed that many documents, even on moderately acid paper, that are very infrequently used deteriorate slowly if they are properly housed and stored. Paper Chapters 4 through 7 discuss the properties of various materials that can be used for copying deteriorated documents. Paper is of greatest interest since it not only is a copying material but also comprises the largest holdings by far of the NationalArchives. Thus, Chapter 4 gives a detailed discussion of the manufacture and behavior of paper. The discussion also covers copying deteriorated documents onto more permanent paper or treating the existing documents to prolong their life, or both. Considerations for copying are the life expectancy of currently avail- able papers, the permanency of inks and toners, and the advantages and disadvan- tages of storing paper documents. Treatment of existing documents involves the benefits and problems associated with the various deacidification processes. Photographic Film Chapter 5 covers the types of photographic film available and their life expect- ancies. Advantages are the predictable long life, high storage capacity, human- readableform, and the existence of recognized standards. Disadvantages are film's susceptibility to damage from adverse storage conditions, cost of verification of the copying process,\ and low direct manipulability.

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INTRODUCTION 9 Magnetic Recording Media Considerations for magnetic recording media discussed in Chapter 6 include the stability of magnetic materials, the chemical stability of the component lay- ers, and the mechanical stability of the tape roll. Problems associated with wear and the continued availability of appropriate hardware and software are critical factors. Advantages include high data storage density and data manipulability. Optical Disks The archival quality of optical disks is addressed in Chapter 7, as is the practi- cality of continued recopying should disks degrade. The advantages of data com- paction and access time must be balanced against the problems of the archival life of the hardware and software. Semiconductors The feasibility of storing information on semiconductors is briefly addressed in Appendix A. Discussion of Findings Chapter 8 compares the advantages and risks associated with each of the options discussed in the earlier chapters. A decision-tree approach is described that recommends various approaches, taking into consideration the nature, con- dition, and use of the records. REFERENCES Calmes, A., K. R. Eberhardt, and K. Kabadar. 1982. Pilot survey by National Archives and Records Service {NARS) and National Bureau of Standards (NBS1. Unpublished. Calmes, A., R. Schofer, and K. R. Eberhardt. 1985. National Archives and Records Service (NARS1 Twenty Year Preservation Plan. NBSIR 85-2999, U.S. Department of Commerce, Gaithers- burg, Maryland. National Archives and Records Service. 1982. Staff Information Paper 21, Intrinsic Value in Archival Material. National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators. 1986. Preservation Needs in State Archives. Albany, New York: National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators.

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Pasadena, California, underheavysmogcondinonsandon a clear day. Outdoorpollutants contribute significantly to the deterioration of histonca] records.