Preserving Archives, 2nd edition

Mar 2013 | 336pp

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Preserving Archives, 2nd edition

Helen Forde and Jonathan Rhys-Lewis

A brand new and fully updated edition of this seminal work on archival preservation.

Access to archival material – the documentary heritage of people all over the world that gives them their identity and ensures their rights – is dependent on the survival of fragile materials: paper, parchment, photographic materials, audiovisual materials and, most recently, magnetic, optical and increasingly digital formats. The primary importance of such survival is widely acknowledged but sometimes overlooked in a rush to provide ever better means of access. But without the basic material, no services can be offered. Preservation is at the heart of archival activity.

Archivists in all types of organizations face questions on how to plan a preservation strategy in less than perfect circumstances, or deal with a sudden emergency. This book considers the causes of threats to the basic material, outlines the preservation options available and offers flexible solutions applicable in a variety of situations.  It offers a wide range of case studies and examples from international specialists. This revised edition includes additional material on digital preservation and green building as well as a new chapter on the management and training of volunteers, reflecting a key concern for many archival institutions.

Key topics are:

  • Understanding archival materials and their characteristics
  • Managing digital preservation
  • Archive buildings and their characteristics
  • Safeguarding the building and its contents
  • Managing archival storage
  • Managing risks and avoiding disaster
  • Creating and using surrogates
  • Exhibiting archives
  • Handling the records
  • Managing a pest control programme
  • Training and the use of volunteers
  • Putting preservation into practice.

Readership: Archivists, librarians, curators and enthusiasts, trained and untrained, in museums, local studies centres and voluntary societies in need of good clear advice.

Introduction to the series - Geoffrey Yeo

1. Introducing archive preservation

  • Introduction
  • How has the relationship between conservation and preservation developed?
  • Definitions
  • Summary
  • Notes

2. Understanding archival materials and their characteristics

  • Introduction
  • Paper
  • Parchment
  • Inks: from carbon ink to laser printing
  • Photographic materials
  • Analogue audiovisual materials: wax cylinders, shellac and vinyl discs and film
  • Optical materials: CDs and DVDs
  • Magnetic materials: tape, hard disks and floppy disks
  • Minidiscs
  • Portable digital storage
  • Summary
  • Notes and references

3. Managing digital preservation

  • Introduction
  • Why is digital preservation management important?
  • Why is digital preservation difficult?
  • Costs of digital preservation
  • What should be preserved?
  • Who should be involved?
  • What is the starting point?
  • What happens next?
  • Summary
  • Notes and references

4. Archive buildings and their characteristics

  • Introduction
  • How has the concept of archive buildings developed?
  • How did archive buildings develop in the UK?
  • What other ideas have developed for archive buildings?
  • What should be considered before building or adapting an existing building to house an archive?
  • What needs to be explained?
  • Location
  • How should the architect be briefed?
  • What are the problems with adapted buildings or historic buildings?
  • Summary
  • Notes and references

5. Safeguarding the building and its contents

  • Introduction
  • Security
  • Fire prevention, detection and suppression
  • Water detection
  • Environmental issues
  • Summary
  • Notes and references

6. Managing archival storage

  • Introduction
  • Why do environmental conditions matter?
  • What needs to be controlled?
  • Mould: why is it such a threat?
  • Measuring and monitoring temperature and humidity
  • Measuring and monitoring pollution levels
  • Special arrangements
  • How can comparative costs be assessed?
  • Shelving, racking and plan chest specifications
  • What kind of equipment is needed?
  • Possible future developments
  • Summary
  • Notes and references

7. Managing risks and avoiding disaster

  • Introduction
  • Why undertake an ‘operation-hope-not’?
  • Definitions
  • Who is responsible for disaster planning?
  • What should be saved first?
  • Development of a disaster control plan: where to start?
  • Prevention
  • Preparation
  • Reaction
  • Recovery
  • Evaluation
  • Summary
  • Notes and references

8. Creating and using surrogates

  • Introduction
  • Copying archive material
  • What copying techniques are available?
  • What problems arise?
  • Developing a preservation copying policy: why do it?
  • How can the copies themselves be preserved?
  • Selecting correct copying methods
  • Preparation of material
  • Copying of material in-house
  • Use of outside agencies
  • Summary
  • Notes and references

9. Moving the records

  • Introduction
  • What are the risks?
  • Planning the project
  • Briefing a suitable removal firm
  • Minimum removal equipment specifications
  • Preparing for the move
  • The move itself
  • And afterwards...
  • Summary
  • Notes and references

10. Exhibiting archives

  • Introduction
  • How can the overall risk be minimized?
  • Managing the care of documents in exhibitions
  • Planning and preparing for an exhibition
  • During the exhibition
  • And afterwards...
  • Summary
  • Notes and references

11. Handling the records

  • Introduction
  • The problem
  • Improving the quality of care: how can it be achieved?
  • Where and how can good practice be demonstrated to readers?
  • How can staff be best trained?
  • Summary
  • Notes

12. Managing a pest control programme

  • Introduction
  • What are the common pests?
  • What damage do pests do to archival materials?
  • Where are they likely to be active?
  • What are the signs of an infestation?
  • How can they be prevented from getting into the collections?
  • Why are previous eradication measures no longer used?
  • Why is integrated pest management (IPM) now adopted as a strategy?
  • How can IPM be introduced?
  • Setting traps
  • Dealing with an infestation
  • Ongoing management
  • Summary
  • Notes and references

13. Training and the use of volunteers

  • Introduction
  • What options for preservation training are available?
  • What areas of preservation should be covered?
  • The use of volunteers
  • What are the key challenges of using volunteers?
  • Using volunteers for preservation activities
  • The importance of documentation
  • Volunteers and the interface with conservation
  • Summary
  • Notes and references

14. Putting preservation into practice

  • Introduction
  • Choices and options
  • Who is responsible?
  • What is a preservation policy?
  • What about strategies?
  • Costs, funding and options
  • How is a programme planned and put into action?
  • And the results?
  • Notes and references


  1. The National Archives Conditions for Loans policy
  2. A conservation workshop
  3. Compiling a Preservation Policy; an advisory template
  4. UCL Library Services: Volunteer Agreement
  5. Benchmarking entries: MLA

British and international standards relating to archive preservation

"Helen Forde and Jonathan Rhys-Lewis are serious invigilators of their chosen profession; their practical reference with its rich historical details is a gift to all cultural heritage organizations."
- Archival Issues

"…a welcome update…The vast practical experience of the two authors clearly enriches the text. Archivists and librarians will find it a great tool to turn to for high level preservation advice, and for students it will provide a good broad overview of the varied issues facing collections."
- Business Archives

"It is a book that all archive managers should read at least once, as it will guide them to developing that vital preservation strategy that is right for their archive and will be much needed when it comes to implementing improvements in the care of collections."
- Archives and Records

"Forde (fomerly Preservation Services, UK National Archives, and educator) and Rhys-Lewis (preservation and collections management consultant, and curation and stewardship, U. College London, UK) provide a completely updated second edition of their book on archival preservation. Topics include understanding archival materials and their characteristics, archive buildings, safeguarding the building and its contents, managing storage, exhibiting archives, and training and the use of volunteers."
- Reference and Research Book News

"This second edition...is a must-read handbook for three main audiences: those who already work within the area, those who want to work within it, and those who need to understand the issues or elements involved to be able to manage a quality archives operation."
- Australian Academic and Research Libraries

Helen Forde is a professional archivist who has worked in local authority, private and national archives. Until 2001 she was Head of Preservation Services at the UK national Archives, where she had previously been in charge of both the library and the Museum. She has taught preservation management and worked as an independent consultant on archives.

Jonathan Rhys-Lewis is preservation and collections management consultant with over 25 years experience within local government and as an independent consultant. He trains, lectures and publishes on preservation and preservation management.

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