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Aged maps and documents require protection from light

Updated: 2011-07-29 13:19:18.0 CST Category: Archiving Methods

Many older pieces that don't seem to be worth very much can turn out to be quite valuable. This is especially true for maps, which weren't often made from the most durable of materials and are particularly sensitive to sunlight and fading. However, when they're properly archived, maps and antiquated documents can be beautiful pieces of art or meaningful bits of history. Currently, a well-preserved 60-year-old atlas is up for auction in London - and the volume is attracting attention.

The atlas, which was made in 1672, is being put up for sale by the widow of the man who bought it in 1949, according to the Daily Mail. Though he purchased the collection of maps and diagrams for only £250 ($400), it is expected to fetch upwards of £100,000 ($160,000).

The atlas depicts the British Isles in extreme detail in addition to areas of Europe and North America. It also includes one of the most accurate maps of the East Coast of the United States until that point. It was created by a famous mapmaker named John Speed - and though originally produced in black and white, it is believed to have been colored at some point during the 18th century.

Preserving maps and documents
One of the most important aspects of document preservation is protection from light. Like color photographs, the hues and pigments used to render pictures were derived from organic compounds. It was not until the advent of digital printing in the past few decades that inorganic dyes became popular.

Organic coloring will naturally fade, though the process can be slowed by using the right archival materials and creating a temperature-controlled environment. Keeping the pieces away from sunlight is very essential to extending their shelf life.

Collectors and map enthusiasts should be sure to use archival materials such as archival paper, envelopes and foam board to separate pages in an atlas or a collection of maps while they're being stored. Of course, many people enjoy displaying antique maps. If they're being framed, maps should be enclosed in a structure that uses an OP-3 acrylite glazing that protects against UV rays.

Additionally, when maps are displayed, they should be moved from one wall to another depending on the movement of the sun. During seasons when the day is long and light comes directly through windows, maps should be placed away from the rays of the sun. It is also not recommended to leave paintings on display for an entire year - collectors should use archival materials to responsibly store the works every six months.

Storing maps
Some collectors go so far as to create temperature-controlled environments that protect against the natural degradation of pigments and dyes. The most important variables to consider are temperature and humidity, which should be maintained at between 70-45 degrees Fahrenheit and 65 and 45 percent, respectively.

A news storage kit, which is meant for newspapers and periodicals, can be used to store smaller maps. A collection of maps can be separated using archival file folders that are placed in a Museum Case for an elegant storage solution that will keep papers and documents safe.

Maps that aren't terribly old and may have been printed with inorganic dyes in the past few decades can be preserved the same way that black and white photographs or sketches might be - using archival paper, flap envelopes, polyethylene bags or archival tissue.

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