Summary of Paper

This paper provides a summary of the progress made to date in our understanding of the stability of information carriers. Each of the following problems will be addressed:

  • How do the polymers that make up information carriers breakdown. What is special about the structure of the materials used as information carriers which make them susceptible to the environment.
  • How to identify breakdown. What is the final point at which a material that is degrading but the information can be recovered. At what point does the breakdown become irretrievable. What happens in the “grey area” between these two points. Here simple observation of materials, together with an evaluation of “chemical” test methods, will be covered. Emphasis will be placed on the value of identifying which materials are at risk of deterioration.
  • How is breakdown influenced by archival storage conditions. Temperature, humidity and storage containers will be discussed.
  • How can the life expectancy of such materials be extended. Information carrier materials do not last forever but we can double, or even triple, their life by careful control of environmental conditions.