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Newspapers are generally not made to last. In order to prolong their life a number of steps may be taken, the most vital of these being adequate storage.
Newspapers are generally not made to last. They are produced from poor quality pulp and are inherently unstable. In direct sunlight, they turn yellow and become brittle very quickly. In order to prolong their life, a number of steps may be taken; the most vital of these being adequate storage.
The materials you choose for storage are important. Some papers and boards emit harmful products that accelerate degradation. Storage materials should be made from acid-free, archival, and buffered board or paper. Buffering agents absorb the acidic agents produced by the impurities in the newspaper. The fact sheet ‘List of suppliers’ details where you can purchase these products.
The ideal storage method for newspapers is to place them neatly inside a folder and then lay this folder flat in a lidded box. The base of the box should be a similar size to the folder to prevent the newspaper sliding around, but with enough room to pick the folder up. This type of storage will protect your newspaper against dust, light, pollutants and pests. It will also prevent the paper slumping from its own weight.
Newspaper clippings, or single sheets, can be placed in clear pockets and stored in an album for easy viewing. The materials you choose are critical. Polyester, polypropylene and polyethylene are stable plastics. Products containing PVC (polyvinyl chloride) should be avoided. Best practice is to use a plastic pocket and a paper backing board placed behind the clipping. The plastic pocket will absorb acidic by-products and provide stiff backing support for fragile items. Albums can be purchased from suppliers in the fact sheet ‘List of suppliers’.
The storage environment is very important. The ideal conditions for paper are 20°C, and 50% relative humidity, with minimal fluctuations. As it can be difficult to maintain these conditions, the general advice is to find a cool, dark, dry environment with good ventilation. High temperatures and humidities accelerate the degradation of paper, and encourage mould growth and pest activity. Avoid storing items in attics, basements and areas near heat sources and external walls. If possible use a storage site in the centre of a building. These areas undergo the least fluctuations in temperature and humidity.
General storage tips
• Label storage boxes and folders for easy retrieval. If you really need to annotate your newspapers, use a soft pencil (B grade). Do not use pens as the ink bleeds and stains the paper.
• Inspect and clean storage areas regularly to prevent pest infestation.
• If mould or pest infestation occurs, remove to a light and airy place. Consult a professional conservator.
• Do not use metal staples and paper clips as these can rust and stain the paper.
• Be aware that newspapers can stain other items if they are stored side by side.
• Do not stuff your newspapers into boxes as the edges can be damaged.
• Use clean hands when handling and take care with brittle pages.
It can be a good idea to photocopy your newspaper to avoid over-use and subsequent damage. The copy can be used for all handling, and also for display purposes. To make the copy last, alkaline buffered paper should be used. In many public collections, newspapers are copied onto microfilm to preserve the information they contain.
Newspapers which are degraded and damaged may require conservation treatment. We recommend that you seek a professional conservator to perform any conservation treatments. A list of private conservators working in NSW and ACT can be obtained from the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM) — see back page for contact details.
We are unable to give specific advice on conservation treatment of items. The advice we are able to give is limited to what we understand to be ethical and safe for people and items. For treatment purposes we recommend that you contact a professional conservator, who will be able to assess each individual item and give it appropriate treatment. A conservator will charge a fee.
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