Archives and collections are usually packaged in paper, cardboard or plastic materials. One important property is the acidity level (pH value) of the materials used for packaging. A distinction can be made here between:
- Acid-free: paper or cardboard that does not contain any acidic or acid-reactive substances. This means that the pH value or acidity level is greater than 7.
- Buffered: acid-free paper or cardboard to which an alkaline reserve has been added, making it harder for external acidification to penetrate.
- Inert: packaging material with a neutral pH (usually specially produced conservation plastics).
The ideal acidity level for packaging material varies according to the items in your archive and collections. It is advisable to use acid-free materials for covers and boxes for the majority of archive items.
Packaging materials protect your archive and collections from harmful external influences such as light, air pollution and moisture. The quality of your packaging materials largely determines how long your archive and collections will survive. Paper always suffers from acidification in the long run (visible as yellow and/or brown discolouration, with increased brittleness at a later stage), so acid-free materials should be used in general. This significantly delays the acidification process, but please note there are some exceptions! Blueprints, for example, must be stored in inert packaging. And photographs, which are already the result of intensive chemical processes, are better stored in inert materials. One example of an inert plastic is polypropylene without plasticisers. In the event of any doubt, please contact a specialist organisation.
De choice of packaging materials depends on multiple factors: your budget, the materials and objects present in your archives or collection, the properties of your depot space, etc. Be sure to check out the FARO Erfgoedwijzer (link in Dutch) for more information on which packaging materials to choose for your archives or collection.
For some items in your archive or collection it may be more interesting not to pack them, but to store them instead unpacked in a suitable storage facility. For more information, visit the FARO Erfgoedwijzer (link in Dutch).
You can order acid-free archival boxes and folders from the supplies department of the National Archives of Belgium, Rue de Ruysbroeck 2, 1000 Brussels (tel: +32 (0)2 548 38 14; fax: +32 (0)2 513 76 81; email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Note: the minimum order is 50 archival boxes or 250 archival folders.
Below is a list of suppliers of conservation and restoration materials:
- Cami nv (Belgian distributor of Stouls, acid-free gusset envelopes and archival folders)
- GMW (formerly Gabi Kleindorfer, German company with materials for paper storage and restoration)
- Jansen-Wijsmuller & Beuns (Melinex interleaves from Secol, acid-free archival folders and photographic paper, Fourflaps, Melinex rolls)
- La Route du Papier (restoration materials, Smoke Sponge, acid-free materials e.g. silk paper)
- Monochrom (packaging for photographic materials)
- Antalis (Woodfree envelopes and gummed offset paper, acid-free cardboard, Canson distributor of e.g. barrier paper)
- Schrijen (including Pyxis acid-free archival boxes)
- Eurolists (various types of acid-free cardboard, frames and framing materials)
- Schleiper (Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, Hasselt; acid-free glues)
- Serac France (Melinex folders in various dimensions)
- Atlantis France (expensive)
- Preservation Equipment (Smoke Sponge)
- Veha Barneveld b.v. (acid-free archival boxes)
- BCCM/IHEM Scientific Institute of Public Health (Brussels, fungal research – mycology section, germ count measurements for fungal outbreak)
- 't Kaderke Inlijstatelier - Leopoldlei 9, 2220 Heist-op-den-Berg, +32 (0) 15 24 89 09 (professional framing and framing materials)
- Delcorde & Wilberz bookbinding accessories - Sleeckxlaan 44, 1030 Schaarbeek, +32 (0)2 242 74 00