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Special Collections & Archives Student Assistant Guide: Preservation Photocopying

A helpful guide for student assistants working in Special Collections.

Preservation Photocopying

Highly acidic papers are often in such immediate danger of crumbling or fading and transferring acid marks onto surrounding documents that they should be photocopied to preserve their informational value. Newspaper clippings, thermo-fax copies, coated paper copies and carbon copies are the most commonly occurring paper types in collections that will necessitate photocopying onto cotton fiber, lignin-free neutral bond paper. 

The quality of preservation photocopies is immensely important to maintaining the information integrity of a collection.  If the copy of the original fails to capture all of the text and images on the document, the information may be lost forever. If the original is much easier to read than the copy, place it in between two pieces of bond paper, but add a new photocopy as well. Certain documents will require special instructions, and sometimes it is important to know that a document was a carbon copy or the color paper it was originally on.  An archivist will discuss the particulars of a preservation photocopying task before you begin.

Some general points to consider when completing preservation photocopying projects:

  • Originals should not be shredded, thrown away or otherwise deaccessioned without the approval of the archivist overseeing the processing of the collection.

  • Documents for photocopying should always be handled carefully. Look for missing and torn pieces that can be reassembled before photocopying. Staples, paper clips and other fasteners should be carefully removed before copying.

  • Maximize legibility by manipulating the copying machine’s exposure settings. Be aware of comments or corrections in pencil or pen over a typed or printed text that might escape the transfer onto the duplication.

  • Use Georgia Bond (lignin-free paper) for all photocopies. Bond paper is less stark-white than regular copying paper and has a water mark that is visible when held up to a light.

  • The preservation photocopy should be double checked against the original for accuracy. Check for legibility (dark, light or fuzzy spots), torn segments, and missing lines.

  • Preservation photocopies should be replaced in the folder to maintain the original order of items in the folders.

  • NEVER, EVER, use the feeder! These one of a kind documents could get jammed inside the mechanisms of the copier. So always to each page individually on the glass scanner. Make sure you close the lid down as to not waste toner.

  • Be sure not to leave an original document on top of the copier.