Nowadays, the term “Archival Storage” is tossed around pretty liberally and it’s important to understand what archival really means, and what it can do for you. Just because a product is advertised as archival doesn’t mean it’s safe to use for your memories! It is just a manufacturer suggestion to use if for archival purposes. It’s similar to the “natural” claim made by many food companies.
So How Do You Know What’s Archival?
To be considered truly archival, a product will have to pass the Photographic Activity Test (PAT), which is the international standard for photographic archival storage and display products, developed by The Image Permanence Institute. It’s a voluntary test for manufacturers who wish to submit their products, so not all products are tested. However, I’ve come to find that most manufacturers who are really serious about preservation make it a point to get their products tested, so they can advertise that they adhere to these standards. When you are in the market for a new archival product, don’t be shy about asking the manufacturer if the product has passed the test, especially if it’s not listed on the package.
Also Look For:
I’m sure you’ve come across and fragile, yellowed paper at some point in your life – that’s what you are trying to avoid! Untreated paper made from wood-pulp is usually the culprit. Wood-pulp has a lot of naturally occurring acids, which over time deteriorates the paper. Acid-free paper has been treated to neutralize any of those acids, and the lignin has been removed. Buffered means that it has undergone a treatment to prevent changes in the PH balance over time, which is ideal. Fortunately, acid-free paper it isn’t very hard to find anymore, but double-check your product labels to make sure! If you can get your hands on products made from cotton pulp, even better! Now we’re talking museum-quality paper, which is even more durable, but again, not all products are tested, so find out if it meets all the standards for archival storage and preservation.
Need a bit more help?