Archival Performance of Paper as Affected by Chemical Components: A Review
Keywords:Permanence of paper, Aging, Decomposition, Hydrolysis, Storage stability, Conservation, Paper properties
For about two millennia, paper has served as a main medium for preservation of people’s ideas, stories, contracts, and art. This article reviews what is known about the various components that make up paper from the perspective of their long-term stability under typical storage conditions. Literature evidence is considered relative to the susceptibility of different paper components to embrittlement, acid hydrolysis, microbiological attack, and discoloration, among others. The cellulose that makes up a majority of most paper items is demonstrably stable enough to persist for many hundreds of years on the shelves of archival collections, though it is susceptible to acid-catalyzed hydrolysis, which can be accelerated by byproducts of decomposition. Though less attention has been paid to the archival performance of various minor components of modern paper products, evidence suggests that at least some of them are subject to likely breakdown, embrittlement, or decay in the course of prolonged storage. Based on these considerations, one can envision different categories of paper that can be expected to meet different levels of storage stability: ancient recipes for handmade papermaking, e.g. washi and hanji, archival-grade paper products, ordinary modern alkaline paper products, and paper manufactured without concerns for its longevity.