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Infosave: saving our national written heritage from the threat of acid deterioration

Resource, the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries funded a third phase of the ongoing programme to establish a facility for mass deacidification to serve the UK, now known as INFOSAVE. The National Preservation Office was the managing consultant for this project and an Advisory Group was formed including representation from Resource, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the British Library and the Public Record Office. This important funding initiative followed on directly from the second phase, completed in December 2001 and funded by the British Library's Co-operation and Partnership Programme. During this second phase of the project, the net was widened to include post 1850 paper-based collections in museums.

Key outcomes from the second phase were the formation of a South East Pilot Group to survey their collections using the National Preservation Office (NPO) Preservation Assessment Survey (PAS), adapted by the NPO to determine the level of acid deterioration in their collections, and the compilation of an outline specification for mass deacidification. The information from the Pilot Group's findings was passed to the NPO who were able to add this to the existing survey database and include the new definitions, based on a new set of criteria for acidic papers. The Pilot Group demonstrated mechanisms for identifying material suitable for the processes available. In addition, the Pilot Group identified the logistical requirements for a collaborative process. With Phase 1 and Phase 2 successfully completed the Steering Group agreed that it was necessary to prove the technical and commercial environment and develop the consortial funding apparatus (Phase 3) needed to apply for funding to establish a mass deacidification system for archives, libraries and museums in the British Isles (Phase 4). The Phase 3 project aimed to:

  • Develop a full technical specification for the deacidification of brittle paper in post 1850 books and manuscripts
  • Identify a pilot batch of materials suitable for mass treatment
  • Negotiate with the commercial suppliers to carry out the test trial
  • Review the outcomes of the test and refine the technical specification
  • Prepare an outline funding proposal for a collaborative bid for a mass deacidification system

A major objective of the project was to process and test sample batches of material in order to further refine the technical specification. The project approached commercial suppliers of mass deacidification services, in particular those referred to in The Enemy Within report to ask for their support in this project. Each supplier was asked to process a batch of substantially similar but not identical material, representing the types of artefact and papers that may be submitted for mass deacidification. The demonstrator was accompanied by a specification and the project included consultancy for bringing together the batches, and the services of a paper chemist to facilitate the pre and post treatment testing.

 Previous reports:

 Report on the second phase - January 2002 (PDF format) 147KB

 The Enemy Within - February 2001 (PDF format) 448KB