Oh the Things You Will Find…Preserving Materials at the ALA Archives

Every archivist has encountered a collection that has given them a hard time or left them with a puzzled look on their face as they ponder where to start. As an archivist, preserving materials is one of the most important tasks that we face in our jobs.  Here at the ALA Archives, we receive collections with materials that range from oversized posters, 100 year old documents, and pictures, and it is our job to keep these historic materials in the best shape as possible.

While working on reprocessing a collection that included Executive Board minutes from ALA meetings, I encountered an interesting situation. The documents were all bound together by different materials, some screwed together with metal, some with plastic, and it was my job to get the potential paper damager out.




While some bindings were extremely easy to remove, others required a great deal of effort. As metal gets older, it tends to rust making it more difficult to unscrew. After removing the screws from the binding, I was able to see rust residue on some of the paper.  Although removing the paper from this binding may seem like a trivial task, it is important to remember the nasty effects that these materials can have on documents.


After the screws and pins were removed from the binding, I then moved the Executive Board Minutes into acid free folders to continue the preservation process. After each book of minutes was put in folders, they are housed in archival storage boxes that protect them from light and other potential damage. This is done to ensure the best care for the materials housed here in the ALA Archives.


As Preservation Week passed just a few weeks ago, it’s a reminder to all how important it is to maintain care of the materials in archives. Regular maintenance like reprocessing a collection such as the one above, will ensure longevity in each collection.

To learn more about preservation done at the ALA Archives, visit our Twitter page at @ALA_Archives and check out our tweets from Preservation Week!