“I use this stuff on my family photographs and documents.  It says it’s archival.  It’s okay to use isn’t it?”  It’s the inevitable question after every “caring for your family treasures” talk.  Or, “I saw this product at a scrap booking store and it says its acid-free.  What do you think?”  Of course I launch into “archival” doesn’t really mean anything in this situation and “acid-free” is only one concern of many.

These products always catch me by surprise and I can only address their properties in a very general way as they relate to what we consider appropriate for conservation.  I guess I should spend more time in scrap booking and hobby stores.  What’s out there? How much of it is acceptable?  Everyone who seeks our advice generally has good intentions when they start out organizing and caring for their collections, but then cost, availability and ease of use affect their decision making.

Are sticky blue dots or adhesive dot rollers something we should approve if individual handmade, Japanese tissue photo corners  attached with hand-stirred wheat starch paste are not really an option?  Let’s face it, archival photo corners often fail quickly and what we expect from conservators goes well beyond the skills, knowledge, and patience of anyone else.  Is there something in between?  Sticky blue dots state that they are photo safe and permanent.  No mention of staining over time or cold flow issues.  Will it soften emulsions over time?  Indirect contact or not, there is opportunity for adverse chemical reactions, but are there any?  Adhesive dots are from the same company that brought us Post-It, a removable adhesive that becomes pretty permanent over time.  Did they warn us about that?  I’m not picking on 3M, I love their stuff, but our intentions and expectations my be different when viewed with time as a variable and also reversibility as a criteria.

Maybe you all can help me out with my grocery list.  What have you been asked about? What have you heard about or seen that made you go “hmmm?”  Perhaps I’ll have a chance to do some simple testing on my own and at least understand what the potential risks are.

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