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archives society of alberta
NEWSLETTER
March 1997    Volume 16 Number 4

CONSERVATION COLUMN

IS IT ADVISABLE TO REMOVE ALL STAPLES WHEN ARRANGING AND DESCRIBING ARCHIVAL RECORDS? WHAT ARE GOOD FASTENERS TO USE INSTEAD OF STAPLES?

by Cynthia Ball

It may not always be necessary to remove all staples when arranging and describing archival records. There are several factors to consider when deciding whether staples need to be removed. Is the staple rust or damaging the document in some way? Will the document be photocopied two or three times and will the document receive a lot of use? Are the researchers educated about how to handle archival records? Will order be maintained among related materials? What are the environmental conditions in which the records will be stored?

Staples can rust, leaving permanent stains on an archival document. They also function as a cutting edge against which paper will break if the paper sheet is folded back when photocopying or reading. It is preferable that fasteners that cause mechanical or chemical damage to archival records, be removed during the process of arrangement and description. This includes staples, paper clips and other metal fasteners, rubber bands, string, and colored fabric tape.

If a decision is made to fasten archival records together the fastener must be manufactured from a stable material. Stainless steel or rustproof paper clips are two examples of fasteners made from stable materials. Plastiklips are manufactured from a stable plastic and are appropriate for securing some types of archival records. It is important to consider that even fasteners made from stable materials can put holes in the archival records, exert sufficient pressure to permanently indent the paper sheet or act as a cutting edge. Weak or brittle paper sheets are best left with no mechanical fasteners since this will exert too much pressure on them. Photographs should never be fastened together or to another document with a mechanical device since this will damage the photograph's emulsion.

Any fasteners that are used should be positioned over strips of alkaline bond paper such as Permalife. They should be approximately 1" wide and 4" long. The alkaline paper guards are folded over the top edges of the documents and placed underneath the fastener to protect the paper from the pressure of the clips and indicate that the fastener in place is of archival quality.

Please send your conservation queries to:
Cynthia Ball,
Box 2282,
Jasper, Alberta
T0E 1E0,
phone 403-852-7054, fax 403-852-3479.