How do I store electronic media?

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Category: Storage
Posted by Conservation Answers(Questions:33:Answers28)
Answered On 28 February, 2014 8:34 am

Proper storage can extend the natural lifespan of electronic media considerably. Optimal conditions vary by medium, but cool temperatures and low humidity are key factors across the board. The best long-term storage conditions for audio or videotape call for temperatures between 50 and 60º F, with 25 to 35% relative humidity. Magnetic media should never be stored at temperatures below 46º F (which will cause the lubrication to separate from the binder) or near magnetic sources such as motors, transformers, electrical fixtures, loudspeakers, or vacuum cleaners, which may demagnetize them.

Tapes should be stored upright, on either their spines or edges, in plastic polypropylene cases. Magnetic media should not be stored in cardboard, which is not an archival material and is especially vulnerable to water and fire damage. (For the same reason, no paper should be stored inside the plastic cases.) Tapes should be wound to the end and then rewound back to the beginning before they are stored. It may take several tries before achieving a good, flat tape pack. Storing tape in a cued wind leaves it exposed to possible hydrolysis.

Film should be stored in a colder environment than magnetic media. Color film should be stored at the coldest possible temperature to reduce fading–0º F is preferred, but if that is not realistic, temperatures up to 30º F with 25 to 35% relative humidity will suffice. Black-and-white film can be stored at 25 to 50º F, also with 25 to 35% relative humidity. Like tape, film is best stored in plastic containers with no paper, which increases the acid level in the environment and can accelerate vinegar syndrome.

In terms of digital media, storage simply refers to saving digital files, usually on magnetic tape or optical devices such as CD-ROMs or DVDs. As previously discussed, the physical components of these formats are subject to natural deterioration and raise concerns about storage conditions, handling, and exposure to dirt and dust. Optical digital media, such as CD-Rs, CD-ROMs, and DVDs, can be stored at higher temperatures and relative humidity than other electronic media–62 to 68º F and 33 to 45% relative humidity–but cooler temperatures (as low as 50º F) and a relative humidity range of 20 to 50% will ensure longevity for the physical media itself. Optical media should not be stored in plastic sleeves, which can stick to the disc. Discs should be stored in jewel cases or, preferably, in the same type of inert plastic containers used to store magnetic media and film.

If a collection numbers in the hundreds, an organization may choose to store material in a professional off-site storage facility. If ongoing access is necessary, however, or if off-site storage is simply not in the budget, constructing a designated storage room is a good alternative. In-house storage rooms should be clean and dark, although basement levels, which tend to be humid, should be avoided. Metal shelving is recommended, and cases should be stored with adequate airflow (rather than packed tightly together) and kept away from heat sources, sprinklers, and water pipes. As already stated, motors, speakers, and TV monitors, as well as magnetic items like cabinet latches, can all negatively affect magnetic media and should not be stored in the same facility as audio or videotape.

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