State of Preservation
Many of the materials used in the physical construction of the research records are chemically
unstable. Some records are already beginning to show evidence of degeneration. The layered
construction of the activity charts and Esterline Angus charts only compounds the challenge of
preserving these records in their original paper format. Storing the collection in a warehouse
without climate controls is another factor that is exacerbating processes of degeneration. The
major problems in preserving this collection in original hard copy format are as follows:
We have consulted with Franklin Mowery, director of the conservation laboratory at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Paul Banks, formerly of the Columbia University conservation program, and other experts in paper conservation. The consensus of opinion is that the collection of Esterline Angus and activity charts presents formidable conservation problems. An effort to deacidify and repair charts would be labor-intensive and enormously expensive. Because of the poor quality of materials used to construct the charts, conservators advise against an extensive paper preservation project. They have, instead, recommended photographing or microfilming the charts for the purpose of preserving the data and information in the charts.
Preservation, Occupational Health, and Data Conversion
Because of lead dust contamination in the collection, occupational health issues have become
inextricably intertwined with considerations for preservation of records and conversion of data.
Whereas the presence of lead dust on the records does not have a deleterious effect on the paper,
it does represent a significant hazard to humans who would be exposed to the dust when handling
the records over a concentrated period of time. We have consulted with Dr. Julian Chisolm and
Dr. Mark Farfel of the Lead Poisoning Program at the Kennedy Kreiger Institute and Dr. Peter
Lees of The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health.
Activity charts and Esterline Angus charts that had been stored on open shelves are the most heavily contaminated records. Fortunately, most of the Esterline Angus charts were stored in map drawers, and are, therefore, not as heavily contaminated as the charts stored on open shelves. Logbooks were mainly stored in glass enclosed bookcases and thus spared extensive exposure to lead dust. Logbooks stored on open shelves were easily abated by wet-wiping their covers and spines with a high phosphate solution. The interior pages appear not to have been contaminated by lead dust.
We have tried to no avail to decontaminate the Esterline Angus charts and activity charts. After industrial hygienists conducted various abatement trials with the charts, they always found lead dust in the post-abatement swipe tests. Since paper is a porous material, lead dust becomes embedded and cannot be thoroughly abated by any known decontamination process.The layered construction of the charts also interferes with lead abatement since dust particles collect in the ridges and folds of the various layers.
We have, therefore, concluded that a comprehensive project for total lead abatement of the contaminated charts would not be feasible. At this time our main objective is to concentrate on protecting the people who would be handling the records from exposure to lead dust. We have considered the following occupational safety options:
Since the estimate for conservation and encapsulation does not include costs of cataloging, it does not represent the full extent of funding that would be needed to process this large collection. Developing intellectual controls for access, retrieval, and use of the charts should be a foremost consideration. The intellectual needs for access to and use of the data ultimately outweigh any benefits of preserving and encapsulating a vast collection of charts in original hard copy formats. We have concluded that the intrinsic value of the research records from the Psychobiology Laboratory lies not in their physical format, but in the data that are represented. Thus, converting the data to electronic formats would enhance access to and use of the collection. Remote use would be possible and a larger audience of users would benefit.
Preserving the research records in their original format is ultimately infeasible; yet, it is critical to
preserve the data and information in the records. Our preservation goals are as follows:
Control of Lead Exposure During Document Processing