A major factor in determining the prospective longevity of State records is the quality of the medium on which the information is recorded. For file and paper based records, the quality of the paper is critical.
Paper quality is judged on a variety of factors including acidity of the paper, the length of fibres in the paper and the strength of those fibres.
The State Records Office supports two categories of paper for paper based State records:
- Archival Paper, and
- Good Quality Paper
The type of paper used for a particular record should reflect the intended lifespan of the record, as set forth in an approved Disposal Authority. The quality of paper should be such that it will endure for the expected retention period of the given document. Where a record may be judged to have continuing value, either to the organisation or to the recipient, the use of permanent or archival paper is recommended, whereas a record of temporary value will be adequately served by using good quality paper.
Archival Quality Paper
The projected longevity for archival quality paper is around 500 years. This can be substantially reduced by poor storage conditions, excessive handling and other environmental factors. This paper should be used for records which are of particular significance such as those recording policy, minutes of high level meetings, legal documents, and cultural documents. Records of this type are identified in approved Disposal Authorities as archival.
The National Archives of Australia test paper on an ongoing basis for adherence to an archival quality standard, which exceeds the requirements of the Australian Standard AS4003 - 1996 (ISO 9706). These tests include strenght requirements which is not included in the Australian Standards test. Paper which has been tested to the NAA standard is entitled to carry this watermark:
NOTE: The Australian Standard "AS4003 - 1996 Permanent paper" is not endorsed by the State Records Office of Western Australia for determining paper quality suitable for archival records. Where paper is not able to be stored and used in accordance with long term preservation storage standards, the higher quality NAA archival quality paper should be used.
Good Quality Paper
Good quality paper, no less than 80 gsm and with no recycled content, is suitable for the majority of short, medium and long term records. Paper in this category usually meets opacity, whiteness and brightness criteria but does not have the fibre length, tensile strength or alkalinity to meet permanent paper standards. The projected longevity for this type of paper is around 100 years. This is the largest category of paper use and should be used for records which have a disposal sentence within this range.
The State Records Office understands that it may not always be practical for agency staff to decide at the time of creation of a document whether it will be required for more or less than ten years, or permanently, and recommend the use of this type of paper for the majority of records.
Recycled paper may be suitable for use in printers, photocopiers and facsimile machines. This type of paper may meet the requirements for opacity, whiteness, brightness and alkalinity, but does not contain sufficient fibre length or tensile strength. Recycled papers may last between 10 and 30 years depending on the percentage of recycled material. Recycled paper should not be used for records which will be incorporated into corporate records management systems, records which are frequently handled, or which may be retained for more than ten years. It may be used for documents which are to be destroyed within ten years of creation, in accordance with an approved Disposal Authority. The State Records Office recommends the use of recycled paper in envelopes, draft and information copies, notepads and other ephemeral documents, including brochures and information sheets.
Recycled paper is not suitable for use with records scheduled for medium to long term retention or for archival records. The conditions under which the paper is stored will also affect the longevity of the paper.
Thermal paper, commonly used in facsimile transactions, whiteboard printouts and electronic banking receipts, can be highly unstable. Current evidence indicates that images printed on thermal paper may last less than five years, and often less. Thermal paper is, therefore, unsuited for most record retention purposes. Photocopy such records to appropriate quality paper before filing.
Last updated 6 September 2013