Okay, “spa” might not be the right word for our humidification room, and the smell is more “musty paper” than “essential oils,” but the room does feel a bit like a sauna. And our documents will certainly leave feeling more relaxed!
Flattening documents is important for a couple of reasons. First, creases, folds, and rolling can put a strain on the fibers of papers, and each use of the documents that requires unrolling or unfolding can exacerbate that strain. And second: it’s practical! We need to fit our documents into standardized folders, boxes, drawers, etc…having an odd assortment of rolled and folded materials is not an efficient use of space.
Here at the State Archives, we’re lucky to have a room specifically for humidifying and relaxing tightly rolled/folded records – many of us cut our teeth on humidifying documents using the ever-popular “trash can method,” a popular approach for archivists on a budget which was detailed in this NPS “Conserv-o-gram”
Remember kids: don’t try this at home without an archivist’s or conservator’s supervision. It’s important to do lots of research on humidifying records before beginning. Never humidify photographic prints, audio-visual materials, or electronic records.