July 26, 2012

The Danger of Scotch Tape

Filed under: the process of archival processing — susanwoodland @ 5:31 pm

It was 1971.  Sanford Solender, then Executive Vice-President of FJP, received a letter from Bernard Warach of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA) about a gift from Simon H. Scheuer to finance a new apartment building for the Jewish elderly in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

The particular letter pictured below comes towards the end of a 2-year correspondence and includes a probable date for the completion of the building construction within the following 12-18 months.  The letter is for the most part business as usual, discussing details of the gift, of ownership, and of the dedication ceremonies.

The letter serves, however, as a strong reminder as to why standard archival practice dictates that tape of any kind should never be used once a document is transferred to the archives.  As archivists of course, we have no control over how documents are handled (or filed) while they are still in active use.  The letter ripped at some point during this period, and either Mr. Solender or someone on his staff taped it together.

Front of the letter

On the back, even more damage is apparent.

Back of the letter

The tape that turned yellow is some kind of cellophane tape that has either acidic glue, acidic cellophane, or both.  Less visible is a small piece of  “invisible” tape (to the upper right of the cellophane tape) that did not discolor the front of the letter, and may be made from acid-free materials.

In the archives, when we encounter a torn or ripped document, we may “preservation photocopy” it onto acid-free paper to retain the content.  Or we may clip the document between sheets of acid-free paper.  Or we may scan the document.  What we do is determined by the artifactual value of a document, the danger of loss of content, and how much time we have, among other factors.  For more information on preservation photocopying of newsprint, please see our earlier posts on carbon copies.

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