The Preservation Handbook Online

Table of Contents

I. Preservation
II. Assessment
III. Collection Assessment
IV. Agents of Deterioration
V. Monitoring collections
VI. Materials
VII. Storage
VIII. Conservation
IX. Disaster Planning
X. Housekeeping
XI. Resources / Suppliers
XII. Preservation Grants

Assessment Basics

The building assessment should outline areas that could be potential elements of collection deterioration from top to bottom.


A possible source for water damage. Sufficient drainage and structural integrity must be maintained. Skylights increase the level of ultraviolet exposure and possibilities of water leaks.

Windows / Screens

Windows are an entry point of moisture, ultraviolet light, and corrosive gasses.
Broken screens and windows invite human predators, rodents and insects.


Should not be used to store collections. Areas below ground level have an increased risk of flooding. Flooding can be caused by broken sprinkler lines and plumbing mishaps. Sources of water should be kept away from collections. Irrigation systems should be located away from the building's periphery.

Food sources

Staff lounges and kitchens in historical sites provide incentive for unwanted pests and should be distanced from archival holdings. Trash should be collected a safe distance from collection. Plants should be quarantined and examined before entering exhibit or storage areas.


Heating and cooling components should be a safe distance from materials. Collection housings should not have direct currents blowing on them and should be monitored for consistent temperature and relative humidity levels. Instruments such as data loggers and psychrometers are a must for preservation efforts.


Fire is one of the most damaging element to a collection due to it's rapid and unpredictable nature. Hazards such as faulty wiring or natural gas sources should be rectified. Heat and smoke detectors should be installed. Fire suppression systems can be designed according to needs and resources. Dry pipe systems are desirable since they are less prone to accidental discharge and subsequent water damage. Halon 1301 gas systems are ideal for valuable collections but cost can be an inhibitive factor. Alternative gasses and carbon dioxide systems are available but are used primarily in offsite storage.ii Fire prevention is discussed more extensively in Disaster Planning.


II. Hopkins, M. (2002) Planning your fire suppression system. OCLC.:Online
<> Accessed February 2003.
III. Halon Alternatives Research Association.
Alternatives to halon for special fire hazard fire protection. Arlington, VA.: Halon Alternative Research Corporation.
Online <> Accessed January 2003.