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Storage and Care of Architectural Records

This guide is meant to be a general overview of best practices that can be implemented and resources that can be consulted for the preservation of architectural record materials. The intended audiences are institutions that hold architectural records as p

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Overview

This guide is meant to be a general overview of best practices that can be implemented and resources that can be consulted for the preservation of architectural record materials. The intended audiences are institutions that hold architectural records as part of their collections, and private individuals who are caretakers of architectural records and who may be considering their transfer to an archive or repository. For in-depth recommendations on topics and further information, several resources have been created that can be linked to from the menu on the left.

Topics covered include:

  • Light
  • Temperature and Relative Humidity
  • Biological Enemies
  • Storage, Use and Handling
  • Disaster Prevention, Preparedness, and Response

Definition For the purposes of an architectural archive and these recommendations, architectural records are any document or object where architecture (including: building, engineering, planning) is the subject. Beautiful renderings or perspective drawings are often assumed to be the only valuable part of a collection, but supporting documentary materials such as specifications, site photographs, and contracts are equally important to the history of architecture and historic building preservation. These types of record materials provide valuable information that is lacking in presentation drawings. Presentation drawings, the end result of the design process, are very pretty but they are not as useful as the other types of records because they often do not reflect the “as-built” design. When a building has been altered or destroyed, these other records may be the only witness to the architect's or builder's original design, and the intended relationship to the environment.

Types of Records Architectural records include a great scope of material types, including:

  • original drawings (working drawings, colored renderings, structural drawings, sketchbooks, trace papers, linens)
  • reproductions (blueprints, sepias, white lines, photographic, hectographic, photomechanical, plotter prints)
  • documentation (specifications, planning documents, office records, photographs, films, video, oral histories, computer records)
  • three-dimensional objects (architectural models, plaster maquettes, awards, original office furniture, product samples)

Within the material types listed above there coexist an astounding multitude of physical types (paper, plastics, wood, photographic materials, adhesives, traditional art media, magnetic and digital media on tapes, diskettes or other recording medium) all of which are vulnerable to degradation at different rates and by different processes. Light and heat provide energy and humidity provides a pathway for naturally occurring deteriorative processes. Humidity and heat also provide life support for pests and molds. Of course, light, heat and humidity are present in a working environment. The goal for preservation-minded collections managers is to reduce exposure and maintain a stable balance of conditions that are appropriate for the materials. Minimizing environmental impact on your collections by reducing and limiting exposure to light, heat, humidity and handling will reduce deterioration significantly for all material types.

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