Out of the Attic: Preserving Your Treasures

Briscoe Library 27 April 2011

•To show the causes of deterioration of books, papers, and photos and discuss basic preservation practices •To discuss digitization as a form of preserving your items •To provide hints on the curation and preservation of digital collections

Biological and Microbial Causes of Deterioration

•Silverfish, cockroaches, beetles – eat gelatin emulsions and papers in photos and books or documents •Termites – eat wood fiber in paper •Rodents – eat gelatin emulsions, glues and papers. Use shredded paper as nesting materials. •Mold and Fungi – paper and gelatin emulsions provide nutrients. Can cause images and print to fade or be obliterated.

Insect found by rare books

Termite damaged books

Mold damage to records

Environmental Conditions
•Relative humidity - interacts with temperature to create damage. Frequent fluctuation most damaging. In general, –Too high (> 75⁰ F. and 60% RH) causes mold, mildew, accelerated harmful chemical reactions from residual chemicals or acidic inks, softening of gel emulsions in photographs or glossy book covers causing sticking, warping due to thickened papers, bleeding of text. –Too low (< 15% RH) causes drying resulting in cracking, peeling, brittleness of papers and photos and rolling of photographs.

Mold in an attic, near pictures

Don't store books or photos in attics or basements

Book warped by humidity, possible water damage

Disasters such as fires and flooding cause mold, water damage, and total destruction

Book damaged by roof leak, then freeze dried to remove water. Readable but stained. Mold prevented.

•Ultraviolet light and light in the violet-blue-green area in both unfiltered natural sunlight and florescent lighting are most active in damaging materials by speeding up damaging chemical reactions, especially to paper and film bases. •Light also causes fading to color prints, inked captions, hand colored photos, and other light sensitive media. •Damage caused by light is cumulative and irreversible. Degree of damage depends on intensity and length of exposure. •Store valuable photos in boxes, not frames. Display in frames with UV protective glass.

Damage to Declaration of Independence from exposure to light. (No document is immune.)

1847 document with damage from light, heat and mishandling. Yellowing & fading of text, brittleness, tears

Fading of print and yellow due to light damage

Light damaged vs. protected documents

Picture yellowed and faded from being on display

Note the gradual fading of the nurses

Yellowing of label after one year due to unfiltered fluorescent light

Chemical Damage
Natural aging - Organic materials (paper, plastics, textiles, dyes and inks, leather, fur, etc.) undergo a spontaneous long term slow chemical reaction. This causes damage in books, records, photos, scrapbooks, etc. •The rate of the aging depends on the temperature and humidity where the materials are stored. • Higher temperatures and humidity speed up the chemical process. •Cooler temperatures slow it down. •Rusting and other chemical reactions in metals are also affected.

Acidity in paper - 1914 document with brittleness and browning due to acid content resulting from natural aging

Newsprint is the worst as it is so highly acidic naturally. Preserve by photocopying on acid free, lignin free paper or interleave scrapbooks.

Rust damage from metal fasteners (foxing)

The rust on this old film reel endangers the contents

Highly acidic iron gall ink bleeds through and eats holes in paper over time.

Book binding damaged by aging and heavy use, resulting in broken stitching.

Box to give protection to book bindings

"Red rot" on leather binding due to aging

Mirroring A chemical reaction that causes loss of pigment

Mechanical Damage
Mistreating books, records, and photos also causes damage. Carelessness in shelving, boxing, or marking can result in physical damage to spines and bookcaps of books or layers of photos. •Never pull old books from shelf by the top. Push in books on either side and grasp middle of spine. •Never use sticky tape, glue, rubber cement, staples, or clips to repair or arrange books, photos, or records you intend to keep a long time. •Never mark on photos with ink. Use #2 pencil or special blue colored pencils. Mark only on margins on back or label sleeve, not photo.

Broken bookcap in 1842 book

Warping can be caused by poor horizontal and vertical shelving

Avoid warping: Don't shelve/lay taller/larger books on shorter/smaller volumes.

Don’t lean book on shelves, this can break spines or warp books. Use book ends and don’t crowd.

Dog earing weakens paper fibers

Will this clip damage the photo?

Yes! (Ouch.)

Staple piercing photo and negative in enclosure

Picture damage due to poor frame and matting

Don't use non-archival adhesives

The acid they contain eventually migrates to the paper's fibers, causing stains and deterioration.

Use of sticky tape and label on back of photgraph

-Physical damage from other photos or objects. -Don’t mix photos of different sizes in boxes. -Protect photos with stable plastic or acid free photo enclosures.

From Physical to Digital

Lossy vs Lossless Compression
Lossy Compression Can be used on all digital media: audio, video, and still images Called lossy compression because as the data is compressed it discards some of the data

Lossy Compression
Compressed to the point that it is almost unrecognizable.

Lossless Compression
Allows exact originals to be reconstructed from the compressed data. The data is compressed in a way that none of the information is thrown out. Can decompress and all of the data will still be in place. Important when you want to keep storage.

the item for long-term

Lossy Formats

Lossless Formats


Types of Photographs
Slides i.e. Kodachrome Made famous by kodak film company.

Glass Slides

Special chemicals had to be placed on these glass slides for photos to be taken on. Usually for large format images. Roll of film. This style came in a variety of sizes. The 35 mm being the most common. The printed copies of the film negatives. The size of these are based on the negatives.



Slides i.e. Kodachrome

Glass Slides



Flatbed Scanner: Photographs Slides Negatives Glass slides

Desktop Film Scanner Film Negatives

Special Considerations
Condition of the Media: Visibly worn, torn, or faded Do the best you can do: You are not a professional studio Attempt to digitize to the largest ratio possible Follow the minimal requirements Minimal Requirements: Color copies 48-bit depth Black & White 16 bit-depth Keep a TIFF

Video Digitization
This is the most expensive format to convert
H.261, H.263, H.264, MNG, Motion JPG, MPEG-1,2,4, OGG, Dirac, Sorenson video codec, VC-1 AVI, CorePNG, Dirac, JPG2000, Huffyuv, Lagarith, MSU, SheerVideo






Laser Disk

Equipment Required
All items that are digitized are going to require software to be installed on the machine. Freeware software: Windows Movie Maker (PC), and QuickTime (Mac) High-end software: Adobe Premiere Pro (Mac/PC), and Final Cut Pro (Mac only) Each media type is going to require different equipment to be used.

Hardware required: Composite cable, S-Video, USB, and Firewire VHS to DVD Burner or VHS to PC

Recognize the film size It is the most expensive item to digitize, with machines costing 1,000-10,000+ Best to find specialist that deal with this digitization Questions to ask when getting your films digitized: Do you use lossless methods? Do you provide archival quality dvds? Can I bring in my harddrive for direct storage?

Machines that read Betamax are harder to find

Costly to purchase machines that digitize

Better to send these off for digitization

Probably have all the equipment you need at your home CD/DVD burner, and PC with software installed When digitizing attempt to digitize the item at the same rate it was encoded in: 40 Mbit/s is the highest quality 8-15 HDTV 3.5 standard definition video

Lossy AAC, MP3, ADPCM, ATRAC, Dolby AC3, MP2, OGG, WMA


FLAC, WAV, ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codac), apt-X, ATRAC, MGP-4 ALS, HD-AAC, DST, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD, LPCM, PCM, MLP, Monkey’s Audio, OptimFROG, RealAudio, Shorten SHN, TTA, WavPack, WMA Lossless

Turntable that allows FLAC or WAV conversion Laser needle for less chance of damage MP3 conversion daily use


Tape player Y Stereo adapter cable with an RCA style channel connectors Audio software: VLC Media Player, WinAmp, iTunes, etc.

CD/DVD burner Items can be burnt at higher rate than tapes because of encoding Software:VLC Media Player, WinAmp, iTunes, etc

Items to Consider
Always digitize at the highes bit rate possible: Cassettes: 128 kps for audiobooks 256 for music Records: 320 kps for mp3 320 kps minimum for WAV and FLAC CD: most are encoded as an mp3 at 120-320 kps Consider burning them onto your machine as WAV or FLAC

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