Section 1: Care and handling
There are two primary components that make up proper care and handling: storage of the objects and handling of the objects by staff who interact with the media. Storage factors are explored in depth in our Preservation 101 guide1 and will be related to specific AV materials throughout the course of this chapter.
Many materials may end up in multiple storage circumstances throughout their life. The more time they spend in advantageous conditions, the greater the chance of significantly slowing down degradation mechanisms.
There are a number of general practices that improve the longevity of media collections. These include limiting exposure to:
- Dirt, dust, and particulates
- Mold and fungus
- Pollutants and contaminants
You should also be careful to avoid:
- Handling portions of the media where the signal is recorded without appropriate gloves
- Putting weight on the media
- Leaving media unhoused
- Using machine transports that are not functioning properly
- Using machine transports that have not been properly calibrated and aligned
Storage approaches specific to media types will be addressed later in this chapter.
Handling of Materials
Throughout an object’s time held within your archive, it is likely to be handled by multiple people for different reasons. At each of these points, how the materials are handled and treated has implications for the well-being of the recording stored on the original media. Salient activities performed in the life of an object that involve handling include objects being:
- Described and assessed
- Inspected, surveyed, and inventoried
- Retrieved and returned to storage for collection management or patron reasons
- Treated and repaired
- Reproduced and digitized
Determining how an object should be stored and handled is dependent on the physical and chemical composition of the media, as well as the way information is recorded onto and played back from the media. It is not critical to understand the finer details of every format and media type in your collections in order to properly care for them, but having a basic understanding will help bolster your knowledge of how to care for an object once you have properly identified the format. Understanding these aspects and knowing how to act on them is the subject matter of the remaining sections of this chapter. Please note that for the sake of simplicity and understanding, this text will focus on the most predominant material types and formats only, including magnetic media, grooved media, optical media, and film. Fringe media types and esoteric formats are not within the purview of this chapter.
When looking at particular physical audiovisual media, there are three primary characteristics that affect proper storage, care, and handling practices. These are carrier types, media types, and the method of reproduction.
Although this text presents a number of reasons to be cautious when handling media objects, it is also important to become comfortable with these items. Reading about how handling can cause damage is much different than experiencing it. If you have access to, or can purchase, disposable, non-unique material try bending, stretching, scratching, tearing, and breaking it to become more familiar with the look and feel of these objects and the damage that can occur to them.
The following section is an overview of media objects likely to be held in your archive. Each media type’s materials and associated preservation issues will be discussed, but specific format identification will be discussed in Chapter 2.