Policy on Preservation of State Records

1. Preservation of State Records

The State Records Office of Western Australia holds in trust for the government and community of Western Australia, and the wider community, State and Local Government records which have been determined to have continuing value to those communities, known as State archives. Appropriate preservation and conservation strategies will ensure that these records will continue to have authenticity and integrity and that context is retained. This policy provides direction for the maintenance, preservation and appropriate use of material in the State Records Office collection, and guidelines for the preservation, maintenance and use of State archives which are retained by Agencies.

2. Rationale

The identification and implementation of strategies, standards and practices designed to ensure the long term preservation of the archives is vital. State archives are retained for their value as records of accountability, as well as for their informational and evidential value. It is therefore necessary to maintain the individual item as well as the contextual evidence surrounding its creation and use, to ensure the authenticity and integrity of the record.

Sir Hilary Jenkinson stated that the moral and physical defence of the archive was a central tenet of archival work (Sir Hilary Jenkinson, A Manual of Archive Administration, 1922, 1965). There is little point in obtaining records of continuing value if little or no effort is put into maintaining their continuing existence. Equally, the records must be available for reference and use by the agencies which created them and by researchers. This preservation policy seeks to balance current demands for access against the needs and requirements of the future.

3. Guidelines

3.1 Environmental factors

Materials should be stored in clean, dry secure areas, with temperature and humidity ranges appropriate to the type of material stored. Such storage reduces the need for intensive intervention at a later date. Appropriate storage conditions are identified in Solid, Safe, Secure by Ted Ling of the National Archives of Australia, the New South Wales Standards for Storage, and LISWA Procedure Instruction No.72 "Shelving and Storage Standards for LISWA Collections."

3.2 Housing

Housing materials for the collection (the containers, boxes, file folders and wallets in which the archives are kept) should be chemically inert, and of a structure and size to ensure protection of the material from damage from handling and storage.

A standard archive box measures 385 x 250 x 168mm, and made in one piece with a flap lid inclusive. The size takes both A4 and foolscap documents, and is easy to lift and handle. The inclusive lid ensures that the documents are not exposed to dust and other environmental factors. Larger items should be stored in size appropriate containers to ensure that movement, dust and external factors do not affect the item. Wherever possible plans, maps, etc should be stored flat in acid free portfolios or mylar enclosures. Photographs, negatives, film and other format records must be stored in appropriate containers. Preservation Services staff should be contacted in the first instance for advice on appropriate housing.

Where containers are not constructed of acid free or chemically neutral materials they must be lined or buffered to prevent exposing the archives to the chemicals involved. Buffering materials must be chemically inert, such as polypropylene or polyester (mylar). Tyvek is also acceptable.

Replacement of file covers, use of barcodes or other identifying labels should not take place without prior discussion with the Preservation Program Co-ordinator.

3.3 Handling

Hands should be clean and free of hand or barrier creams, food stuffs, etc. Clean nitrile gloves may be used. Food and drink should not be consumed or stored near the archives. Pencils only should be used when working with archival records. Pages should be turned carefully, with a whole hand or both hands if necessary, and aids such as licked or wet fingers, rubber finger stalls, etc must not be used. Pages must not be marked, scored or dog-eared. Use acid free paper tags to mark pages. Under no circumstances should "post-it" or other adhesive markers be used.

Materials should be supported fully at all times. Use trolleys whenever transporting more than one or two small items, such as files, and whenever transporting single larger items such as plans and boxes. Where items need to be transported to and from the repository they should be in appropriate containers designed to limit exposure to environmental factors and handling damage (eg. folders, archive boxes, plan and art folios, phase and solander boxes). Should the items be fragile, or of a format where retrieval or transportation poses a risk, then the item should not be retrieved. Consideration should be given to alternative means of access eg. Public Works Department plans created prior to 1900 are too fragile for transportation to the Department of Housing and Works but may be sighted in the State Records Office Search Room.

3.4 Copying

Copying for preservation purposes, either to reproduce the entirety of an accession or series, or for individual pages within an item, must be carried out in accordance with international archival copying standards. Preservation microfilming is the preferred method, and should be carried out in accordance with the standards detailed in the State Records Office Standards and Policy Manual - Standard 3. Archival photocopying should be carried out in accordance with the guidelines of the Library of Congress and National Archives of America, with a view to the permanence of the paper, quality of the ink and degree of bonding to the paper. Digitisation should ensure that context, authenticity and integrity are captured both in the image and in the metadata.

Copying for access purposes should only be carried out with due consideration of the physical integrity of the item. Fragile, brittle or damaged items should be encapsulated or protected by mylar or similar to reduce handling damage. Carbon papers and files with notable acid staining are unsuitable for copying as are photographs, documents on thermal paper, etc. If in doubt refer to Preservation Services for advice. During copying items should be supported at all times. No bending of the documents should occur.

The platen of the photocopier or other copying surface must be clean. Archival files should be disassembled before copying and metal items removed (NAA, Archives Advice 1). Folio numbering of documents may be required before copying can take place.

Large items should only be copied when assistance with handling and supporting the item is available. Books and bound items should only be copied using a book platen or cradle to ensure the item is fully supported at all times. Physical support of the document and protection from environmental factors may require the item to be placed in a mylar envelope or encapsulation before copying can occur.

No page or item should be copied multiple times due to the cumulative damage from heat and light exposure. Any item for which frequent copying is required should have a permanent copy from which additional copies can be made. Microfilms should have both a master, the original, for preservation and a working copy from which access copies can only be made. Photographs should have an access copy, either a photographic print, negative or photocopy from which additional copies can be created. Such copies should be clearly identified as duplicates or reproduction copies.

3.5 Preservation

Cleaning and mending of State archives which are fragile or show signs of degradation should only be carried out under the guidance and control of the Preservation Services Branch of the State Library of Western Australia. The Department will provide advice and guidance on all issues of storage, collection care and environment for State records.

Adhesive tape, lamination and other "temporary" repair measures should not be used as they will permanently damage the items.

Significant damage to items, poor quality paper, acid staining or other problems relating to records in the State Records Office collection should be reported to the Preservation Program Coordinator.

3.6 Display

Short term displays
Items may be displayed in secure display cabinets for a period of up to three months in low to medium lux levels (50 - 150 lux). Temperature and humidity should also be monitored, both within the cabinet and in the general display area, so that it is maintained at around 20 degrees C and 50% relative humidity (NAA, Archives Advice 16). In general, books displayed as open should be displayed in appropriate book mounts or supports. Carbon paper copies, and files with moderate to severe acid staining are unsuitable for display. Original photographs, thermal papers and other photosensitive materials should not be displayed. Photographic reproductions including photocopies and facsimile prints are recommended

Long term displays
It is recommend that items be used in facsimile only. As the purpose of display should be to increase the profile of the organisation, and increase awareness of the records, these should be available to researchers both during and after the display. Using original items on display would not assist in this. The separation of items from the file or original record poses a risk to original order, and also creates a problem should researchers wish to view the file.

Preservation Services staff should be consulted at the planning stage for advice on the suitability of specific items for display.

4. Policy Context

This policy has been prepared by the State Records Office of Western Australia in consultation with staff from Preservation Services at the State Library of Western Australia. It sits within the framework of the State Library's Preservation Policy, 1991.

The policy should be reviewed on a five yearly basis.

5. References

  • American Library Association (1990) - Guidelines for Preservation Photocopying of Replacement Pages.
  • Jenkinson, Sir Hilary (1965) - A Manual of Archive Administration: A reissue of the revised second edition. London; Percy Lund, Humphries and Co.
  • Library and Information Service of Western Australia (2000) - Procedure Instruction No. 72: Shelving and storage standards for LISWA collections. Perth; LISWA.
  • Library of Congress - Preservation Photocopying.
  • Ling, Ted (1998) - Solid, Safe, Secure : Building archives repositories in Australia. Canberra ; National Archives of Australia
  • National Archives of Australia (NAA) - Archives Advices.
  • National Library of Australia (NLA) - Policy on Preservation Microfilming.
  • State Records Office of New South Wales - Solutions for Storage: Guidelines on the Physical Storage of State Records.
  • State Records Office of Western Australia - Policies and Standards Manual: Standard 3 - Guidelines for microfilming public records. State Records Office of Western Australia.