Four Critical Factors for Document Preservation

You’re probably not storing the original document of the Magna Carta or The Declaration of Independence, but the same basic principles that keep these historic pages from crumbling to dust apply to preserving your own important records.

The four major factors that contribute significantly to the breakdown of materials are temperature, relative humidity, light and air quality. The Northeast Document Conservation Center discusses these factors in a preservation leaflet here.

Let’s take a look at a few of the highlights.


Heat plays a huge role in the rate of document deterioration. The hotter the temperature the faster your records deteriorate.


Extremes in humidity are a big concern. High levels of humidity result in moisture that can lead to mold and insect activity. Low humidity can make your documents brittle. Either case can be disastrous.


Exposure to light weakens document fibers, causing them to become brittle. Light can also render your documents illegible due to bleaching, yellowing, darkening and fading. This damage is irreversible.

Air Quality:

Pollutants, especial acid and soot, contribute document deterioration like discoloration and embrittlement.
Now, of course, not all documents are created equal, and your storage needs may vary quite a bit depending on their importance and the length of time they will need to be stored. At UV&S, we work with you to define your needs for storage and preservation and determine a plan that best meets your requirements in the most cost-effective way.