Monday, November 21, 2005

Preventing light damage to architectural drawings and prints

The first two weeks of the archive's rehousing project have been very productive. In addition to gathering more information on our holdings, the archive has also been able to document the need for better archival storage, and solve a number of environmental problems related to preserving our research materials. One of the environmental threats to the collection is light damage. In the picture above, you can clearly see that information on the top left of the print has faded out as a result of exposure to sunlight. In the picture below, a print that has experienced light damage is contrasted with a print that has been stored in the dark.

As you can see from the previous image, these two prints were made in the same office, on the same day in 1960, using the same process on the same type of paper. One of the prints has light damage, the other does not. Light damage can occur from artificial as well as natural light. Light damage not only causes the fading of materials, but contributes to the natural breakdown of the paper, causing brittleness. The embrittling of the paper causes it to break easily, and can lead to losses along the edge of the paper, as seen below. Once the prints are housed in flat files, no further light damage should occur - preventing future information loss as a result of fading.