Choosing the correct folder in conservation

A riveting post on paper enclosures

Paper or card enclosures can be great for archival storage, but even professional institutions could, unwittingly, be putting their documents at risk by using the wrong design.

Probably best not to keep it buttoned

There are some paper enclosures that we don’t sell – but we do get asked for. One of those would be designs with button and string fasteners which are common on folders and envelopes (pictured, right). In isolation they look innocuous, but the rivets holding the buttons in place present a major risk to contents should any pressure be applied by stacking, or friction in transport. These folders and envelopes cannot be safely stacked as the rivet creates a pressure point on the contents, they just aren’t practical or safe in an archive setting. If you are using this type of folder or envelope we advise you investigate an alternative.

So, what should I use? We suggest using one of our archival folders with pre-cut slots to accommodate cotton tying tape, see the image to the left. If you have a large number of documents and need to fasten your folder, you can simply insert cotton tape and secure. See the image for an example, we have these folders made exclusively for us.

Logo, no-go

We are also very proud of our brand, but we don’t emboss our folders or envelopes, even though some are made exclusively for us. Although nowhere near as aggressive as a metal rivet, embossing can also cause uneven pressure which could be in direct contact with delicate contents, especially when stacked.

Seams a good idea?

Continuing on the same theme, seam position, such as one along the centre or one at the side, can also cause uneven pressure on stored documents. Our archival envelopes have a two external side seams to equalise the load, this also allows them to stack evenly. See the illustration to the right.

Why use a paper enclosure at all?

Good quality archival paper enclosures offer a few benefits over polyester or polyethylene which can make them more suitable in some archival storage applications.

Paper is porous and allows documents to breathe, this prevents gasses from becoming trapped, and allows moisture to escape. Trapped moisture can cause mould and mildew to form which if left untreated could destroy the object.

Archival paper enclosures also offer the additional option of buffering. The additional buffering agent, calcium carbonate, which is added to the paper pulp, helps to neutralise acids in the storage environment that would damage the stored object. You can read more about buffered and unbuffered storage here.

Paper is opaque and blocks light, this is excellent protection from UV, but does mean that viewing the contents is more difficult and could increase handling.

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