Have you ever looked at the bottom of a file folder and thought what those accordion lines are for? Probably not. Conversely, if you work in a law office or in medical administration, you are excessively familiar with file folders. Museums are usually the home of historical objects; Archives are usually the home of historical documents. So, how do you preserve very old paperwork you ask? Well in acid-free file folders of course!*
The accordion lines at the bottom of file folders can be creased to create more room and a way for the folders to remind upright. If housed in an un-creased folder, papers will sag, which might lead to tears, degradation and eventual document breakdown.
Well you ask…why can’t you just lay all the paper records flat? Great question! Regrettably, Archives do not have much space to hold larger flat boxes and flat boxes present the challenge of folders sliding around inside. Flat boxes are particularly useful for over-sized materials, but many institutions prefer standard tall boxes.
Now, what happens if your collection won’t remain upright in the box? Normally, there are enough documents in the box to compel verticality. However, with a smaller collection, a processor must get creative.
In the example below, I have (imposed my will!…I mean…) strategically placed a piece of foam, archival foam to be exact, to keep the folders standing.
File folders offer protection from harmful elements such as light, varying temperatures and humidity. They also, provide documents with protection from one another.
Newspaper is extremely acidic, that is why it becomes yellow and brittle over time. Decaying papers tend to harm nearby documents as well. File folders form a safe barrier between paperwork, so that the damage happening to one record does not injury the one lying next to it. Acid-free folders also help prevent further damage and slows down the decomposition of newspapers. In summation, file folders, especially upright file folders are an integral part of archival preservation. So be aware when you are placing documents in folders, remember to crease the bottoms and keep your records from sagging. This will guarantee your historical paperwork will remain well conserved for generations to come.
*Disclaimer: there are other methods of storage too, but today is file folder day!