Archives Series: Preservation and Security in the Archives

We’re doing a mini-series that offers a glimpse into how the City of Vaughan preserves its history. 

The main role of the City Archives is to manage government records with long-term business value. The City Archives also collects, preserves and makes available for research permanently valuable non-government records from the Vaughan community that document the rich and diverse heritage of the City of Vaughan. For more information, visit the City of Vaughan Archives webpage. 

To view more from the City’s archival collections, visit the City of Vaughan’s Facebook page. 

Here is the fifth post in the series:

***

Archival records are permanent records, meaning they must last for as long as possible. The City of Vaughan Archives employs a variety of preservation* procedures to ensure that the City’s records are housed safely and securely.

The City takes a number of measures to ensure that records will last indefinitely:

Climate-Controlled Facility
One way archivists preserve records is by storing them in a climate-controlled environment and constantly monitoring that environment.

1_HVAC

An electronic precision thermo-hygrograph and a temperature and relative humidity thermometer help us monitor the climate in the Archives’ storage area in City Hall. A state-of-the-art Leibart HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system controls the temperature and humidity, as well as filtering gases and particulates in the storage facility.

The City of Vaughan Archives houses a variety of media types – textual records, photographs, audiovisual materials, maps, architectural drawings, microfilm, artwork and artifacts. We try to keep the climate conducive to preserving all types of records, at a temperature of about 20 C and a relative humidity of about 45 per cent. If the environment is too humid, mold can grow; if it is too dry, the fibres in records will start to tighten and the records will curl or become brittle. Poor environmental conditions can promote chemical deterioration, something the Archives facility is built to avoid. 

2_Storage Facility

The City Archives’ storage facility is in the lower level of City Hall and is completely climate controlled. Pictured here are the mobile shelving units which maximize storage space. When loaded with records, the shelving units are so heavy that the ground floor is the only level in the building strong enough to support them!

*Note: preservation should not be confused with conservation which is the treatment and repair of individual records and the restoration of those records to a usable state (conservation procedures were previously discussed in blog post #1).

Use of preservation-grade storage containers
The City of Vaughan Archives houses all records in acid free storage containers (e.g. boxes, envelopes and folders) all purchased from reputable archival supplies and equipment manufacturers. Colour folders such as those purchased at general office supply stores contain acid and other impurities which, over a long period of time, will stain documents and gradually cause records to deteriorate.

3_Containers

Boxes, artifact tags, book markers, file folders, envelopes, tissue paper and labels are all acid free. We also use plastic or vinyl-coated paperclips which don’t rust and we remove staples when processing a collection of records.

Note: don’t be misled by items that claim to be “archival quality.” If you are scrapbooking at home or are storing printed photographs, use materials that say “acid free.”

Emergency preparedness response
The City of Vaughan Archives’ storage facility contains drains beneath the floor that allow water to be channeled away from the Archives. This means that in the event of a fire when the sprinkler systems are activated, water will not rise and submerge the records. The mobile shelving units also provide protection from the sprinklers. The HVAC system has a water alarm which is connected directly to the front security desk and is monitored 24/7, and the walls and doors of the storage room are fire resistant.

Security
All researchers who visit the Archives and access the City’s records are required to sign in and provide their contact information. More importantly, archival services staff checks the researcher’s ID before allowing them to view any records. This ensures that should a record go missing, we can track it down.

4_Registration

Pictured above is the City Archives’ visitor registration form. Identification of each researcher is checked before allowing them to access any records. 

There are also video cameras in all storage facility exits as well as the office area and reading room. These cameras are monitored 24/7 by security. Archival Services staff keeps a close eye on researchers in the reading room and no one is allowed into the storage room unless accompanied by Archival Services staff.

5_Office

6_Cameras

Video cameras are located in the office area, reading room and all storage facility exits.

Reading room etiquette
All clients accessing original City records are required to wear cotton gloves which prevent dirt and fingerprints from transferring to the records. Researchers are shown how to carefully handle records and properly turn pages so that tearing and deterioration do not occur. When possible, microfilm or digital copies of records are used to prevent the wear and tear caused by constantly handling original documents. Only pencil is allowed when researchers are taking notes and no food or drink is permitted in the reading room. If a camera must be used because a record is too large or fragile to be photocopied, flash must be disabled. 

7_Researcher

Municipal Archives manage government records that document important municipal policies, decisions, functions and activities. The preservation of these archival records is therefore extremely important as it ensures the availability of documentary evidence and helps the City stay accountable and transparent. The preservation of the City’s community records also ensures that the City’s rich and diverse history will continue to be available for future generations.

Please feel free to contact the Archives if you have any questions or would like further information about our conservation procedures.

Until next time,

Archival Records Analyst
City of Vaughan Archives
City Clerk’s Office
archives@vaughan.ca

Visit the City of Vaughan’s website at vaughan.ca.

 

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