Dust can cause damage to documents by general soiling or by speeding up the chemical processes that lead to material breakdown. Removing dust or protecting items from dust in archives can be a labour-intensive job. Archives invest in cleaning their storage areas and boxing their collections in an effort to preserve them for as long as possible.

In 2013 we initiated a project to assess the effectiveness of our cleaning and boxing strategies and identify any areas for improvement. Working with colleagues from across The National Archives and experts from other cultural heritage organisations, our Collection Care department carried out research to:

  • identify the sources and composition of dust in the storage areas
  • measure dust levels and calculate rates of deposition in the storage areas
  • measure the effectiveness of boxes in limiting the risks to the collection, and determine which factors influence the amount of dust entering the boxes
  • evaluate different cleaning methods and strategies

The results of this work have improved our understanding of the risk that dust poses to our collection and, importantly, has influenced decisions and policy regarding the cleaning of the storage areas at Kew.

For more information on this project please read our blog posts.