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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


Mold Information

About - Mold (including mildew and fungi, there are thousands of distinct varieties) is a perennially present problem in book and paper collections, especially in hot and humid climates. Mold spores are everywhere and are spread by touch, handling, air circulation, or generative growth. Molds are usually dormant, waiting for climatic conditions that are favorable to their feeding and growth. Molds feed on organic material present in paper, adhesives, leather, photographs, and other materials common to book and paper collections.

Health & Safety - Molds present a real threat to the health and safety of immediate users of the collections (custodians, handlers, users) and non-users (others present in the building - mold travels and thrives in air-handling systems and walls). Some molds are toxic in small amounts, all molds can be dangerous in excess amounts. Threats to health and safety may differ between persons depending on their medical histories; repeated exposure to molds can result in increased allergic reactivity.

Preventing Outbreaks - High humidity (above 70% for most molds) is extremely favorable to mold regeneration, speedy growth and equally speedy destruction of the material on which the mold feeds. Stagnant air and darkness are also favorable to mold growth, because the two keep the humidity levels constant. Dampness due to seasonal conditions, leaks, and water-damaged materials are excellent breeding grounds for the source of an outbreak. Please see section above on Temperature and Relative Humidity and Bibliography for readings on mold.

Responding to Outbreaks - Use common sense and consider health and safety first! A severe mold outbreak can be extremely hazardous to your health. If the situation does not appear safe, do not attempt to touch, move or clean materials without outside help. Consult immediately with preservation support organizations who offer disaster-related support (see Disaster Prevention, Preparedness, and Response below). They can help you determine the severity of the situation, point you to appropriate resources and some may be able to assist in recovery efforts. Inform your disaster action team, administration and physical plant. If it is a small outbreak or if you are familiar with emergency mold response, do as much as you safely can to: determine the cause of the outbreak; isolate materials or restrict access to the objects or room; take steps to lower the temperature and relative humidity, install and empty dehumidifiers frequently; consult print and web resources, preservation support organizations or your disaster recovery contacts regarding recovery, cleaning, disposal and remediation of the source problem.

Quarantine - Incoming materials can be a blessing or a boon to your collection, depending on what they bring with them! Your accession protocol should provide a time period for inspection and observation in a "quarantine" room isolated (ideally, physically sealed) from the collection. Quarantine inspection identifies any problematic materials or possible infestation in the objects and packaging materials. The affected materials can then be treated before integrating them into the collection, preventing larger disasters. Please see the Bibliography for further resources.

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