Local Records :: Conservation Services Default :: Conservation Services Plastics

Conservation Services Notes



The way a book or map is housed can have a very real impact on how long it will last. Information about the negative effects of poor quality storage materials is more readily available these days. Many companies are making storage enclosures that better conform to desired archival standards, and vendors are beginning to realize that consumers are more informed about what they need to protect their records.

However, some companies are still selling enclosures made of poor quality plastics for the storage of archival collections. Since we can't always tell by looking at a sleeve, envelope or plat book cover whether or not it is a good quality item, it is important that we know exactly what to ask about the properties of the material in question.

Also be aware that formulas and materials can change at any time without you knowing it. The brand of good quality sleeves that you thoroughly checked out two years ago might be completely different now. Therefore, it is a good idea to ask these questions periodically to be sure that you have the most up-to-date information.

Here is a list of some questions that you may wish to ask of your supplier. If the supplier cannot or will not answer these questions to your satisfaction, you might want to ask yourself why.

Questions to ask your supplier

  1. What type of plastic is the enclosure made of? Look for enclosures made of polyester, polypropylene or polyethylene. These are the ONLY plastics that should be used for storage of archival collections. Particularly avoid anything made of polyvinyl chloride (also called PVC or vinyl.)

  2. Is the plastic manufactured to archival standards? Does it have any additives such as unstable plasticizers, dyes, surface coatings or ultraviolet inhibitors that could damage your artifacts in the future?

  3. Will the company provide you with written specifications for its products?

  4. Does the company stand by its product? Will they replace the items if they prove to be faulty or damaging in the future?

For Further Information

  • The conservation staff of the Local Records Preservation Program is available to provide additional guidance and support.

Local Records Preservation Program
PO Box 1747
Jefferson City, MO 65102
(573) 751-9047
[email protected] 

Published by the Local Records Preservation Program, a division of the Missouri State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State: (573) 751-9047

Revised April 2001

The Missouri Secretary of State and employees of that office cannot be held responsible for interpretation or negligence concerning information presented in this handout which ultimately results in damage to cultural property or presents a health risk.