My answers to Kathie are in bold…
I’ve another question. I’m still trying to get a handle on the most effective (but also economical) way to store paper items archivally.
1. Is it OK, for instance, to put paper items in archival manila folders and/or archival poly pages (all acid and lignin-free), but then put those folders and pages in nonarchival hanging files from a regular office supply store? (I’m hoping so because the archival hanging files are expensive!) Yes, once an item is enclosed, or isolated, away from “regular” or acidic materials in an impermeable material (for instance, acids from paper don’t migrate through the plastic page protectors like they do through a regular paper envelope) then they can be stored in regular office files.
2. I could really use a short primer on acid and lignin and how they travel. Acids in paper cause yellowing and embrittlement. The acids are a byproduct of the breakdown of impurities and unstable products in the paper. One of those unstable products is lignin, which is added for the mass production process. I have a 300 year old piece of paper from Italy that is as clean and strong as the day it was made… its in much different condition than the 75 year old paper from the 1930’s I have which is brittle, loosing pieces around the edge, yellowed badly etc.
Once acids are present in paper, then they can contaminate any cellulose material (paper or cloth) and cause it to deteriorate, discolor etc… unless the item has an alkaline reserve! An alkaline reserve in paper is called a “buffer” and it is there to neutralize the acids should the paper be exposed.
Now, here is where maybe I’m getting into the “more than you want to know” category but I think its interesting: some materials can’t, by their nature, be acidic. So, technically, its impossible for plastic and glass to contain acids. If you see plastic advertized as acid free either they are just using buzz words that they don’t understand or they are idiots.
3. Also, for instance, if I move a paper item from a non-archival environment into an archival enclosure, will it stop further acidification? No, cause the acids are created from within the paper, not from without. Once the paper is contaminated, then putting it into an archival folder may isolate it from further contact with other acidic materials but it will still be falling apart from the acids within.
4. And if I move several items (say, 3 ads from the same old brochure) into one archival enclosure, do they all still degrade each other, in which case they should each be in a separate envelope/folder or bag? Yes, see answer to 2 and 3
Questions submitted by:
Hatfield Historical Museum