Archival........So Stories Can Remain Told
Conversation with Ian Batterham from the National Archives of Australia on the longevity of Zetta Florence archival products:
Fact: The paper in this paper, folders and boxes will, if stored appropriately, last for 500years.
Q: Really? How do you know that?
Well, the National Archives of Australia (NAA) put the Zetta Florence paper through a ‘tear strength’ test. According to the NAA standard, archival paper should retain 87.5% of its strength after artificial ageing for the equivalent of 125 years. Extrapolating on this result, the paper should retain half its strength after 500 years.
Q: Since none of us is 500 years old, how can you be confident in that claim?
The NAA test involves baking paper samples at high temperature for an extended period. The general equivalence for artificial ageing is 30 days of baking at 105 degrees Celcius = 250 years.
Q: So how did the Zetta Florence paper survive the test?
Brilliantly. But don’t just take our word for it. “In fact your paper retained 91% of its strength after the equivalent of 125 years of artificial ageing. This can be extrapolated to retaining 64% of its strength after the equivalent of 500 years and 28% of its strength after the equivalent of 1000 years. So you could argue that your paper will be usable after 1000 years, if 28% of its strength is considered sufficient strength to be useable.” (Ian Batterham, NAA).
Q: Why is Zetta Florence paper so strong?
It’s the manufacturing specifications we set from the start to achieve maximum strength, rather than just meet the standard.
Q: How does the 500 Year paper compare with, say, newsprint?
Newsprint, as a test comparison, will have no physical strength at all after 10 years.
Q: How is your paper manufactured?
We use a mix of fully bleached (the bleach is biodegradable) wood pulp and cotton called alpha cellulose. Cotton offers far better physical strength properties than wood pulp but is less readily available and a more expensive commodity. Happily, we’ve got the mix right. The process removes all acid and lignin (a naturally occurring component in plants) which could damage the the fibre of the paper so that it ultimately loses its strength. The paper is buffered with calcium carbonate to absorb any residual acids and lignins, and prevent them ‘migrating’ within the paper. Finally, Zetta Florence paper is watermarked with the NAA’s registered trademark so it can be recognised as truly archival.
Q: Can Zetta Florence archival paper be used safely in a laser printer or for photocopying?
Yes. That’s because we have used just the right amount of calcium carbonate buffer. An excess of calcium carbonate is known to cause problems of ‘burn off’ leading to smoking in high speed photocopying.
Q: How does your archival paper stack up alongside recycled paper?
Firstly, recycled paper is made with harsh chemicals to remove the inks from prior uses, so it would not stand up to any sort of archival test. But consider the impact on the environment from the manufacturing process. The manufacture of archival paper is far less harmful to the environment than the manufacture of recycled paper. The harsh chemicals along with the ink removed from recycled papers eventually flow into our drains and threaten marine life. On the other hand, archival paper manufacture uses biodegradable bleach and does not cause damage to the environment. The use of cotton reduces use of forest products.
Q: Is archival paper the only archival product available for preserving records? What about preserving photographs, or medals and the like?
Zetta Florence makes a full range of archival materials - papers, cardboard boxes, acid-free polypropylene (plastic) for slides or photographs, and a wide range of albums.
Q: Why should I consider using archival materials?
If you want your precious family mementoes to last for the enjoyment and knowledge of your descendants, then these pieces of family history need to be stored appropriately. That means using acid-free papers, boxes and film sleeves stored to be free of dust and away from light and heat. Ordinary albums, for example, and especially those with plastic film over the page, will discolour and damage photographs over time.