Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between preservation and conservation?
Preservation is the protection of cultural properties through activities that minimise chemical and physical deterioration and damage to prevent loss of informational content; its primary goal is to prolong the existence of cultural property and it encompasses conservation.
Conservation is the preservation of cultural property for the future, with a focus on understanding the material, its construction, production, history, condition, and deterioration to inform preservation activities, through documentation, examination, research, analysis, treatment, and other preventive measures.
How do I preserve my collections?
· Generally, most materials prefer a stable environment that is cool and dry, which will differ based on the material type and its format.
· Keep away from direct sunlight, heat, water, and food sources.
· Store in suitable enclosures.
· Maintain good handling practices.
· Do regular housekeeping and check for signs of pest or mould.
What are good handling practices?
· Handle with clean bare hands for paper-based materials.
· Do not apply hand moisturiser or nail polish, or wear chunky jewelry or accessories.
· Depending on the type and condition of materials, use appropriate gloves where necessary.
· Use a support for transporting large and/or heavy materials.
· Hold frames on its sides and bottom, not by its top edge.
Do I need to wear gloves?
The need to wear gloves depends on the type and condition of materials:
· Use clean bare hands when handling paper-based materials, especially if they are fragile.
· Wear cotton gloves if necessary when handling dusty boxes or sturdy materials.
· Wear latex gloves if necessary when handling contaminated or infested materials.
· Wear cotton or latex gloves when handling photographic and audiovisual materials, or hold them by their edges.
· Follow the instructions of staff when browsing reference materials in libraries and other institutions.
What are good storage practices? How should I store my collections?
· Keep your collection in a cool and dry place with a stable environment conducive to the format or material type (refer to Selected Resources).
· Keep away from direct sunlight, heat, water, and food sources.
· Fragile or sensitive materials may require its own enclosures.
· Use archival materials for enclosure where possible (archival polyester sleeves, boxes, acid-free tissue, etc.)
· Large books/albums are best stored flat.
· Large format materials like maps and posters are best stored flat.
· If oversized items are rolled due to storage space constraint, keep the hollow diameter to 60mm or larger.
· Wrap rolled items with acid-free tissue or archival polyester before tying gently with unbleached linen or cotton tape.
· Do housekeeping regularly and check for signs of pest or mould.
Can NAS/NL assess my collections?
· While we are currently unable to accommodate public requests to carry out assessment of their personal collection, we do conduct assessments for materials donated to the National Archives of Singapore/National Library of Singapore (NAS/NL) collections.
· If you are interested to donate materials to NAS/NL, please get in touch via this link.
Can I send my collection to NAS/NL for conservation or digitisation work?
We focus on the conservation and digitisation of NAS/NL collections to improve public access to the materials. Currently, we are unable to accommodate private requests from individuals. If you are interested to donate your collection, please get in touch via this link.
How can I be certain that my donated collection will be well preserved?
All archival records and rare materials in NAS/NL collections are stored in environmentally controlled rooms and repositories with high security. Their conditions are also assessed and selected for conservation work, if necessary.
Where can I buy preservation supplies?
A quick internet search will provide you with several online shop options. Choose one which focuses on preservation and conservation work and supplies products to conservators, galleries, libraries, archives, and museums. Look out for products labelled “archival” if they are to be in direct contact with your materials.
What does “archival” mean?
By general definition, an archival material is of neutral pH or higher and contains less than 1% of lignin content. The storage of photographic materials would require the passing of PAT (Photographic Activity Test) to be photo-safe. However, “archival” is not a permanent state and is only true at the stage of manufacture. In a polluted environment or prolonged contact with an acidic material, pH equilibrium will be reached over time and the archival product will no longer remain as archival grade.
What should I do if my collection is mouldy?
Mould can stain surfaces and is hazardous to human health. If the mould appears powdery, it is dormant and can be brushed off with a soft brush. If the mould appears moist and furry, it is likely active and requires isolation. While extreme heat can destroy the mould, it is damaging to your materials as well. You might want to wrap it in two layers of resealable bags and place it in the freezer to delay any further degradation while you engage a conservator. For extensive damage or mould outbreak, please consult a conservator immediately.
What should I do if my collection gets wet?
Depending on the degree of wetness, there would be different approaches. For books that are slightly damp, you may use an absorbent material such as kitchen towel to wipe the exterior, fan out the pages and allow a fan to blow it dry. For books that are significantly damp, you may need to use the kitchen towel to interleave every few pages to absorb more moisture prior to repeating the steps above. For extensive water damage, please consult a conservator immediately.
How can I tell if I have pest infestation?
Look for signs such as piles of fine, sandy-coloured dust, or small brown pellets and stains. Small holes and chewed-on paper edges are other telltale signs of potential infestation as well.
What should I do if my collection has pest infestation?
Clear the area, isolate the infested materials away from the non-affected items and contact a conservator who can best advise the next steps to take. A regular pest eradicator can be engaged to clean the infested area.
How do I get rid of foxing (brown spots commonly observed on papers)?
We do not advise its removal without professional guidance. You can prevent foxing to a certain extent by ensuring your collections are well preserved and cared for in a cool and dry environment.
Does NAS or NLB offers courses or training on preservation?
No, we do not offer courses but we do hold talks on preservation and collection care. You can refer to the Selected Resources below for more information regarding conservation webinars, online courses, and resources.
Where can I find conservators in Singapore?
Depending on the type of your collection and your needs, you can approach art galleries, auction houses, antique dealers or art movers for their recommendations in and around Singapore. Some of them may have contacts of in-house or trusted conservators they frequently work with.
How can I safely display my collections?
· Use archival materials for the mounting and framing of your collection, i.e. archival photo corners, archival mount board, archival tape, archival glue, conservation framing, microclimate framing, etc.
· Keep away from direct sunlight and heat-emitting light sources. If spotlights are in use, avoid intense lighting and ensure an even distribution of light over your collection.
· Ensure that the items in your collection are properly supported by acrylic book cradles, frames, shelves, walls, hooks, archival foams, etc. to prevent slipping, falling, distortion or any other form of damage.
· Avoid displaying your collection at narrow corridors, near doorways, food and moisture sources such as kitchens, bathrooms, and windows.
· If displayed in glass cabinets, monitor for signs of pest and mould. Ventilate the glass cabinets periodically if oxygen scavengers (e.g. silica gel) are not used.
AIC FAIC https://learning.culturalheritage.org/public
AIC Wiki http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/Main_Page
Canadian Conservation Institute https://www.canada.ca/en/conservation-institute/services/conservation-preservation-publications/canadian-conservation-institute-notes.html
Connecting to Collections Care http://www.connectingtocollections.org/resources
Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/preservation/
Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) https://www.nedcc.org
The Book & Paper Gathering https://thebookandpapergathering.org
The Conservation Center http://www.theconservationcenter.com/article