I was driving to work the other day and I heard a story on NPR that caught my attention. As I mentioned recently
I have purchased some acid-free plastic sheet protectors and notebooks in my enthusiasm to begin my new project. Then I heard this story on NPR.
Apparently, in the mid-twentieth century a method for preserving documents became popular – something that anybody who was ever in school in the 80's and 90's would be familiar with: laminating. You put a sheet of plastic on either side of a document and run it through the machine and voilà – your document is protected and impervious to spills and dirt. School papers and historical documents are different, though, and there were some very serious long-term effects of sealing paper inside of plastic.
I suppose we've learned a lot since the 1960's. The plastic sheet protectors that I bought are acid free (so the packaging says) and "archival quality". But, what will we learn in the next few years about these products? Will there be a chemical that we learn the hard way is doing damage that we are not currently aware of? One thing I think that we can be sure of is that we have learned the lesson of rushing into the latest craze. I feel that professionals have learned that time-tested methods are the ones to rely on, and if there is a new product or method available, they'd probably (hopefully) be skeptical; let others try them and watch for results before subjecting a state's original signed Constitution to the new ideas. Ideas that have consistently proven to be effective are about limiting the documents from exposure to damaging circumstances: humidity, light and unstable materials like glues, plastics and papers that are not archive-appropriate.
I think in my next job I want to work in a place that preserves and repairs books. Perhaps that's where my true calling is. When that happens I'll be sure to let you know about it here. Until then, I remain,