As with any collection, the processing archivist needs to be mindful of preservation concerns. Luckily the DDN collection was maintained with some degree of professional standards. Collections that are not maintained by a trained archivist are often full of staples, adhesives, and other acidic material. The staff at the paper was knowledgeable of basic archival preservation and, fortunately, there were no serious signs of deterioration when the collection arrived at WSU. The photos, microfilm, negatives, and microfiche are all housed in material that protects them from immediate environmental concerns and they are usually separated from the acidic newsprint. There are, however, a few issues that will need to be addressed for long term care of the material.
The most immediate preservation concern is that all of the material is housed in acidic folders. The collection is roughly one-third the size of the Archives current holdings; it is several thousand linear feet and all of it is housed in folders that do not meet the professional grade requirements. They seem to be a higher quality folder because they are not deteriorating the photos, however transferring the items to acid free/resistant folders is essential if the collection is to last into the future.
The folders for the Subject Files Numeric Files subseries are the first priority because these folders are not of the same quality as the rest of the collection. They are very brittle and fall apart easily. The photos in these folders, unlike the rest of the collection, do not include identification material on the reverse. As such, if these folders deteriorate and lose their identification, it will be increasingly difficult to identify the material within.
The Associated Press (AP) Proofs series are an assortment of “laser print” photo proofs. The bulk of this material relates to the first Gulf War and events in the Middle East. Unlike the other photos in the collection, the proofs have a tendency to “bleed” onto the folders they are housed in. The photos leave a silhouette of the image on the folder and it is clear this will severely damage the proofs over time.
Another concern is that the labels on the Personality and Subject File folders are held on with an unknown adhesive. The adhesive that holds the labels to the folders is diminished to point that the label easy falls off. Most photos in the Personality and Subject Files have their information on the reverse, however without clear indications on the folders themselves, it is difficult to locate the correct folder in the record storage box. It is not advisable to place the fallen label into the folder as this will transfer the remaining adhesive onto the photo (thus causing a new preservation concern). The current strategy is to staple the label back onto the folder. This however introduces a metallic object to a nonacid-free surface and it will result in new concerns (rust) overtime if this is a common practice.
Aside from the acidic folders the biggest concern is the environment. This, of course, is a common concern in the profession. When removed from their envelopes the photos have a great tendency to curl very quickly. This obviously presents several problems as the photo will be damaged if it is either left alone or attempts are made to re-house the curled photo. Possibly solutions to curb the environmental effects are digitization of some photos to ensure that the images are not lost; place the photos into archival quality photo sleeves; finally, assure that the collection is kept in an environment with steady temperature and humidity levels.
The abundance of newspaper clippings in the adds other preservation concerns. The clippings are housed in two ways; they are either stuffed into large folders or placed into small letter size folders. The obvious concern is that the acidic folders will deteriorate the low-quality newsprint. However damage to the clippings was not evident on any of these folders we have come across. The large envelopes are usually labeled with the adhesive labels that fall off quite easily. The letter size folders and large folders in the Pamphlet File subseries are labeled with a typewriter and are in very good shape. The future of the clippings is unclear considering complete editions of the DDN are available on microfiche/film. As there is not clear damage and the majority of the labels are intact, rehousing the clippings is a very low priority—particularly those held in the small envelope size folders.