The Need to Preserve Permanent Records
Permanent records document many aspects of the historic development of the denomination and the commitment to the community of faith. In addition, they are valuable in understanding legal and financial developments and have ongoing administrative uses within the synod, presbytery, congregation, and national office. It is therefore, crucial to preserve these records indefinitely.
Causes of Deterioration
Light: Natural and artificial light are damaging to all record formats (paper, tapes, films, cassettes, computer disks, etc.) Sunlight is the most damaging of all.
Temperature: High or fluctuating temperatures can damage all record formats. Temperature fluctuation is more damaging than a constantly high temperature.
Humidity: Extremely dry or extremely humid environments damage all record formats. Mold and rust can develop in high moisture environments and quickly damage most formats. Extremely dry environments cause paper, film, and other materials to become brittle.
Handling/Storage: Records are easily damaged through handling. Papers are often folded, bent or rolled. Improper storage and handling can also cause books to warp, tear, or develop sagging text blocks. Computer tapes, disks, audio cassettes and reels become damaged through over-handling, careless storage, or exposure to magnets or magnetic fields.
Security: High risk areas, such as unlocked, unsecured rooms or space under plumbing or leaking roofs, can also pose threats to records.
The following are some basic steps you can take immediately to reduce environmental threats and extend the life of your records. In addition, the Society offers digitization services at a subsidized rate for all PC(USA) congregations. Storage for permanent records is available free of charge to PC(USA) congregations in our secure, climate controlled archives storage area.
Light: To help minimize light damage, store records in an area without windows, or block out the windows using dark shades or other means. Keep lights off when the area is not in use. Install ultra-violet sheaths on florescent lights.
Temperature: Keep temperature at a low, constant level (68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, if possible). Temperature fluctuation is more damaging than high temperatures, so it is better to maintain a constant high temperature of 80 for a 24-hour period, for example, than to have a nighttime reading of 70 and a day time reading of 85.
Humidity: Maintain a relative humidity of 50%. The use of de-humidifiers, humidifiers, and air-conditioning can help maintain a good environment. Photocopy brittle materials like newspaper clippings onto acid-free paper.
Handling/Storage: Handle permanent records with care. Make sure books and files are not being curled, folded, or bent in storage. Do not use tapes or metal fasteners (staples, metal paper clips, etc.). Do not use Post-itTM notes on permanent records. The glue remains on the paper and accelerates deterioration.
Environment: Store permanent records in a dark, cool, dry environment away from food areas and any areas susceptible to damage caused by leaks, floods, excessive light (natural or artificial), and pests.
Born-digital records: Records of permanent value created digitally face distinct preservation challenges. Carriers of data, and the hardware to read them, can fail or become obsolete. Software publishers may stop supporting the products used to create records. In use or in storage, files can become corrupted; absent the software that made them, proprietary file formats can be unreadable. Unlike paper-based records, born-digital materials can deteriorate within five to ten years of their creation. By refreshing carriers, migrating files to preferred formats, and emulating software, archivists can preserve the bitstream, appearance and functions of digital objects. Please contact the Society for advice about digital preservation.