Archival Tips & Resources
This page is intended to be a helpful guide to those looking for information about how to care for their own heirlooms at home. New tips will be posted from time to time. The suppliers listed here are those often used by museums and libraries in purchasing their own archival supplies. They are not listed as an endorsement, just as an example of available suppliers.
The term archival, when used in the context of products for housing or caring for collections, simply means the products are currently considered "safe." In other words, that they will not cause additional harm to the specimens they are in physical contact with. This page will supply information about the core products typically used to protect and/or store documents, photographs, and objects. The mantra for labeling objects is permanent, but reversible.
Products (Storage, Organizing, Labeling, Repair, and Stabilizing):
Paper/Rigid Board Products:
Fiber or cardboard boxes, file folders, wrapping or stuffing papers, envelopes, scrapbook pages, etc. Look for products marked "archival," "acid free," or "unbuffered."
Photo sleeves, films for encapsulation, zip lock bags, and storage containers of all sizes. Look for label that says polyethylene or polypropylene. Zip lock bags from the grocery store are not typically safe for long term storage. If the label just says "plastic," leave it on the shelf. Archival quality zip locks nearly always need to be ordered from a paper supply store or online. Plastic containers with recycle stamps will be marked as to plastic content. PE means polyethylene, PP means polypropylene, and any brand product with these marks are safe for storage. Mylar or polyester clear films are also an option, especially for document encapsulation projects, but they can be too rigid for use against photo surfaces and may causing scratching.
Pens, pencils, inks, and base coat materials. Soft number 2 lead pencils are best for lightly marking the backs of photos (no mechanical pencils here, the leads are too sharp and may dent and show label imprint on the opposite side of the photo). When an ink pen is needed an archival quality pen such as Pigma or Kaiser brand should be used. Using an alcohol or acetone soluble clear product such as Solvuar Varnish or B-72 Acryloid to put a label base coat down on glass or other non-porous objects under an ink label is preferred. This is so that the ink from the label does not bleed into the surface of the object. Porous objects may require multiple coats, or on rough wood or stone you may need to carefully apply a fabric label to the object instead that has been soaked in the labeling medium. The overarching concept being the label should be permanent yet reversible.
Glues, reinforcing papers or mesh, bonding agents, and de-acidification sprays.
The only approved fabric for wrapping or storing is unbleached cotton muslin.