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  • 1.  Acid-Free Paper

    Posted 07-12-2018 03:40 PM

    Is there really a difference in acid-free papers? For example, is acid-free paper from Gaylord any better than from Staples? If so, why? I understand that the qualities could be different, but if the sole purpose you're buying paper is for the lack of acidity, then is there really a difference? 

    The project: separation of paper in archival situations.


    Sarah Dickerson
    Collections Manager
    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 2.  RE: Acid-Free Paper

    Posted 07-13-2018 06:58 AM
    Hi Sarah,
    The term Acid Free is sometimes used to indicate different things- that the paper is PH neutral (7), or that the paper has been buffered (an alkaline chemical added to counteract any acidic action) to an alkaline PH, ready to counteract any acidic reaction. 

    In paper, lignin, a compound in wood pulp, is the culprit for most acidic damage. 
    There are are several ways to make acid free paper without a buffer, but essentially the paper is made from materials that lack an acidic compound (like paper made from cotton pulp- usually referred to as Archival paper- or modern "Japanese" paper made from the pulp of plants that do not naturally have lignin), or the paper is made from wood pulp, but specially processed to neutralize the lignin. 

    Ultimately the the difference between Gaylord paper and Staples all depends on what is advertised. Staples is unlikely to regularly stock cotton rag paper, their usual acid free paper is likely a wood pulp chemically treated to neutralize the lignin. With Gaylord, you will see a huge variety of wood pulp and cotton rag papers, archival papers, etc., and all are likely to be more expensive. 

    My opinion is this:
    If you're using the paper for standard, everyday museum use (folder inventory, reports, interleaving modern papers), Staples paper is fine.
    If you're using paper that will be in physical contact with an artifact or valued paper artifact, or photography artifacts of any kind, use a cotton rag paper. 

    Hope that helps!


    Kristi Moore,Conservator
    Moore Archives & Preservation
    Fredericksburg VA

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 3.  RE: Acid-Free Paper

    Posted 07-13-2018 09:03 AM
    Hi Sarah,
    Kristi has a lot of really good information in her reply. The concern with archival supplies from any office supply store is that the term 'archival' has been used so much, that it has lost a lot of its meaning. You want to look for products that are PAT-certified, which means they have passed the Photographic Activity Test and are much more stable for long-term use. Items that are labeled 'archival' are only guaranteed to be acid-free at manufacture, but may degrade soon thereafter. So, it really depends on your use of the paper. Items that are archival, fragile/unique, or that you are packing up for a long time, should have the best quality you can manage to provide. Daily use items may not need that much attention/investment.  

    Karen Garcia
    Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
    Miami FL

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 4.  RE: Acid-Free Paper

    Posted 07-13-2018 12:08 PM
    Hi Sarah,

    There is a difference between the acid-free paper from Gaylord and the acid-free paper from Staples. Often paper from Gaylords, or other major companies specializing in archival materials, have been approved for their acid-free quality by institutions like the British Museum, who have taken the time to properly test the products. Just because something is called "acid-free" does not mean the product is truly neutral on the pH scale.

    If you click on the "Database of materials test results" you will find materials approved through an Oddy test: Selection of Materials for the Storage or Display of Museum objects (Oddy test)

    However, saying this, I realize that many institutions do not have the funding to buy from places like Gaylords, so sometimes it is about buying the product that one is able to both afford and better protect the object.

    Regan Shrumm
    Assistant Curator

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more