Friday, 2 August 2013

Fade to grey

Have you ever looked back at a receipt for that expensive purchase for an insurance claim and found it’s faded and difficult, if not impossible, to read? 

This is due to the type of paper used, that shiny stuff similar to the old Izal toilet paper. It was also used in fax machines and this presents an obvious problem for archives in how to preserve the information they contain. (If you want to know more about the history and capability of fax (Wikipedia has a fascinating article). The National Archives of Australia advises that the information on the thermal papers that faxes use can disappear in as little as 5 years which is a scary thought for a service whose aim is the permanent preservation of archival heritage.

A fax from 2001. If you can't read it -
that is the point!
I've been working on a collection of records for an action group that began its life in the 1980s and is still campaigning today. This means that their records span a number of changes in technology from the typewriter to the computer. There are a number of faxes tucked in amongst the different types and qualities of paper. Many have already started to fade with some that are already barely legible. While there is nothing we can do to stop the information vanishing taking photocopies can give us a surrogate that will endure.

Preserving the records that document our lives is essential to not only safeguard our memories, but also to provide evidence of our lives and the world around us. So check that receipt hasn't faded before you really need it.

Carol Walden 
Project Archivist

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