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Humidity and indoor air quality in archives

Humidity and indoor air quality in archives
Archives and works of art are sensitive to humidity, air temperature, indoor pollution and light.
Relative humidity of air and temperature are determining. So the indoor air of museums, exhibition premises, archives and warehouses is to be closely monitored.

Humidity and temperature are inseparable

Humidity and temperature interact. These parameters have an impact on the release and the speed of the chemical reactions that affect documents and works of art. They also contribute to microorganism occurring and insects’ survival.
Thermal shocks, that are strong variations in temperature and relative humidity, are to be avoided.

Hygroscopic materials, paper, canvas, parchment, leather, wood, silk … react to relative humidity; the excess humidity is absorbed, whereas too dry air causes water evaporation from materials and contributes to weaken paper, leather, parchment or canvas.

Ideal humidity and temperature for conservation

Humidity and temperature of archives premises are defined in the ISO 11799 standard “Recommendations for storing archive and library documents”:
- ambient temperature ranging between 16°and 24°C,
- relative humidity of between 40 and 60%.
This is to avoid premature aging or alteration of documents in paper, leather or parchment.

In museums –from exhibition rooms to storage-, some material conservation rules are to be met. According to the ICOM’s (International Council of Museums) standards, a constant environment of 50% relative humidity at a temperature of 18°C is required to optimise the conservation of works of arts.

Depending on the environment, defining critical points and logging CO2, humidity and indoor air temperature during a representative period can be a first preventive step in monitoring conservation requirements.

Consultancy and ventilation systems

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Indoor air acidification

Depending on its manufacturing time and its composition, paper can contribute to make the indoor air more acidic and favour corrosion –that would not be necessarily due to excess moisture then- .

Only indoor air quality diagnosis allows to identify prospective pollutants (chemical, particulate and biological) and to take appropriate corrective actions.