1980’s-present office papers (are they all only 1% lignin?)

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    • #132587
      Charlene Martin

      Are all basic office papers produced after the 1980’s brittle book issue was dealt with considered permanent paper, having a 2% minimum alkaline reserve and less than 1% lignin? I am specifically dealing with paper used to make photocopies, print/type on – not newspapers, lined filler/notebook paper, or paper used in books.
      My volunteers have been encapsulating ALL paper in L-sleeve polypropylene (open at the top for air flow). I am wondering if I simply house these papers in acid-free folders and boxes, and reserve the polypropylene for encapsulating pre-1980’s materials only?
      Also, much of the collection was housed in plastic commercial binders- can the papers continue to reside in these binders once housed in acid-free boxes, or is the plastic off-gassing?

    • #132591

      I would recommend that if the binders themselves are not historically important (i.e. specially made/ embossed/ numerous handwritten notes/ etc) that you remove the papers from them. Make a note that they were previously in one binder and store in the original binder order. If the binders had a simple label where the information was important (title, date, etc) but the physicality isn’t, you may want to photocopy it on archival paper. The plastic is most likely off-gassing, could have plasticizers in them, etc. Plus you have the possibility of ink transfer from paper to plastic, though less likely in a controlled stable environment.

      As for  the paper itself , I think if it looks good now, you can simply put it in the acid-free folders and boxes. Just be wary of thermal paper, coated paper, etc. The Polyproylene method will get very expensive. When I was at the Ralph Rinzler archives at the Smithsonian, we simply placed basic paper items in folders. Thermopaper and other coated papers were often archivally xeroxed and then discarded (Disclaimer: I was an intern and we were doing initial preservation/description of a collection so it is possible some of them will be further protected)

      As for the first question on the specifics of paper makeup, I do not know the answer, but it is probably important to remember that even if certain papers weren’t manufactured anymore, stockpiles still could have been sold or could have been in offices.


    • #132590
      Jane Dalley

      My understanding and experience from many years as an archival conservator is that the paper making process switched in the 1980’s from the standard acid process to the alkaline process, primarily on the basis of economics, as it is cheaper to make paper with the alkaline process.  The result is that papers made with good quality pulp will be better whereas papers made of less processed, lignin-containing pulp will have an initial alkaline pH but continue to deteriorate.   The addition of calcium carbonate to the paper during processing adds weight, and since paper is sold by weight, there is an advantage to the papermaker in adding it though it may just be masking a poor quality paper. 
      There is an ANSI/NISO standard, the Permanence of Paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives, originally developed in 1984 and last updated in 2002.  Any paper that meets this standard (Z39.48-1992 (R2002) should be acceptable for preservation purposes.

      I generally recommend encapsulation for fragile documents only, and store physically-stable documents in acid-free folders and boxes.   I don’t like to keep the 3-ring binders as the vinyl covers usually off-gas plasticizers and other undesirable chemical additives.  A colleague of mine, a former research chemist for one of the major plastics manufacturers, told me that the plasticizers used to make these kinds of products are often the cheapest (and nastiest) ones available.  They are definitely not of preservation quality. 

      Good luck with your project!


    • #132589
      Tracy Miller

      Thanks for the information on paper. I found the responses in this post really helpful.

    • #132588
      Charlene Martin

      I want to thank everyone who responded to a question I had originally thought was a little silly. I’ve learned a lot!

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