Heat, Humidity and Collections Care
By Rebecca Larson-Troyer
The humidity and fluctuating temperatures of late likely have many of us thinking about the preservation and care of our collections. The degree to which changes in temperature and humidity affect collections is debated by experts, but most agree that controlling environment is key to preservation. (When considering preservation, think prevention.) Recommended guidelines for environment vary depending on a number of factors. Thankfully, a wealth of free resources exists for determining the best (or better) storage environment for collections. Here are a few:
- Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) Temperature, Relative Humidity, Light and Air Quality: Basic Guidelines for Preservation
- National Parks Service (NPS) Museum Collections Environment
- American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) Environmental Guidelines wiki
Beyond monitoring and maintaining temperature and humidity, understanding threats to collections, knowing how to choose appropriate enclosures and establishing guidelines for proper handling of materials are all essential elements of collections care. These resources offer some guidance based on material type or format:
- Library of Congress Collections Care
- AIC Caring for Your Treasures
- NEDCC Preservation Leaflets
- NPS Conserve 0 Grams
Of course, no preservation efforts are complete without having a plan in place in the event of disaster. If your disaster plan needs an update or if you have yet to make a preparedness plan, add it to your short list of things to accomplish this year. Visit these sites to get started:
- NEDCC Disaster Planning
- Heritage Preservation Resources for Response and Recovery
- dPlan: The Online Disaster-Planning Tool for Cultural and Civic Organizations
In the event that conservation (repair, stabilization or treatment) of materials is needed, look to an expert. Several organizations offer resources and services:
Inevitably, preservation and conservation projects require time and resources. A variety of funding sources are available to aid in your efforts. Below is a list of national-level funding resources, but don’t forget to look to state and local grantmakers as well.
- Lyrasis Funding Resources for Preservation (PDF)
- Heritage Preservation Funding For Collections Care
- National Endowment for the Humanities Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions
- NEDCC Federal Grants
When it comes to preservation, even small, common sense steps can go a long way toward caring for collections. Consider bookmarking these sites for easy reference, and please share your go-to preservation resources in the comments section below.
Rebecca Larson-Troyer is a Region 3 representative of the Ohio Local History Alliance and a librarian in the Special Collections Division of the Akron-Summit County Public Library in Akron, Ohio.
92 in the Shade by James Emery is licensed under CC BY 2.0. This image was cropped and recolored for use on this website.