Equipment located in the record storage areas charts the temperature and relative humidity 24 hours a day. Computers regulate conditions within close tolerances.

Equipment located in the record storage areas charts the temperature and relative humidity 24 hours a day. Computers regulate conditions within close tolerances.

The Storage Areas

Environmental controls

The stacks areas of the Archives use a sophisticated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system that is separate from the system used by the rest of the building. The conditions are closely monitored around the clock by equipment in the stacks and by computers in the Oregon Department of Administrative Services offices. Measures taken to address challenges to an ideal records storage environment include:

Temperature and humidity: The environment is maintained at a constant 65 degrees Fahrenheit and 45 percent relative humidity. If the temperature fluctuates more than five degrees Fahrenheit, an alarm will sound and technicians will be dispatched to bring the system back into the set parameters. Controlling the temperature and humidity of the stacks is the single most important way to prolong the life of the records. High temperatures combined with high humidity can promote the growth of mold and mildew. Low humidity can dry out paper and cause it to become brittle. Fluctuations of temperature from day to night or from season to season can cause paper and other recording media to expand and contract. Over the course of years this causes the records to degrade prematurely.

Air filtration: The HVAC system also employs a micron air filtration system designed to remove dust particles and other contaminants from the air before it is fed into the stacks. Dust particles can look very much like knives when viewed under a microscope. The particles, when multiplied by the millions, can be abrasive to paper and shorten the lifespan. Chemical contaminants that could otherwise damage the chemistry of the paper are also filtered.

Vermin and insects: Food is prohibited in the entire Archives Building with the exception of the staff and researcher break rooms. These strict controls are designed to make the stacks an unattractive environment for vermin and insects. Monitoring for evidence of infestations and screening of newly accessioned records before bringing them into the stacks also contribute to clean storage areas.

Light: The ultra violet rays and heat of sunlight encourage damaging chemical reactions in paper and ink. Therefore, the stacks have no windows. Fluorescent lights are used because they give off very little ultra violet light and considerably less heat than incandescent lights. Moreover, the light fixtures face up and away from the records. Wall, floor, and ceiling surfaces of the stacks are painted white to maximize the reflective qualities so that less energy is used. Lights in the stacks are turned off except when retrieving records.

Fire: The Archives Building is protected from fire by several means. The stacks are constructed of reinforced concrete and the entry doors are designed to withstand fire from outside sources for long periods. The records are boxed and placed tightly on shelves to discourage the spread of fire. Finally, the stacks employ a sophisticated fire suppression system. This "intelligent head dry pipe system" deploys sprinklers with small charges of water behind each head that are activated only where needed. No water is stored in the pipes but is brought in once a sprinkler head discharges. Each sprinkler head is outfitted with a heat and smoke detector. Only those sprinkler heads that detect heat or smoke will deploy, thus avoiding unnecessary water damage to the records.

Water: Water damage can come from something as small as a slowly leaking pipe or as devastating as a flood. Well designed stack areas minimize the passage of water pipes in or near the area so that the threats of leaks or breakages are reduced. The placement of the Archives Building above the likely flood zone minimizes the risk of catastrophic flood damage. A disaster preparedness plan is designed to further mitigate damage.

Delta On to preservation threats

State Archives • 800 Summer St. NE • Salem, OR 97310

Phone: 503-373-0701 • Fax: 503-378-4118 • reference.archives@state.or.us