Sustainable environmental management

To deliver effective stewardship of our collections we are:

Mapping our collections

We are mapping our collections in terms of material, condition and storage requirements. We are exploiting existing information available from the catalogue and our document ordering system, incorporating information from other databases.

We are using specially developed computer-aided design (CAD) software to process this information and to create visual images or maps of the collections.

Building Environment Simulation (BES)

To extend the useful life of our collections, we store records in environmental conditions which slow down chemical degradation, prevent mould growth and mechanical damage. Our repository building in Kew is serviced by vast heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. These need to maintain appropriate conditions for records in storage throughout the year, and also to provide comfortable working conditions for readers and staff.

A 22-month research project began in December 2008 to investigate the environmental conditions provided for collections housed at Kew. Led by the Centre for Sustainable Heritage at UCL, in collaboration with The National Archives, this project was completed in September 2010. The aim of the project was to develop a building model that would simulate the environmental conditions (relative humidity and temperature) on three floors of repositories at Kew, and provide us with the information needed to optimise building performance and achieve a stable preservation environment with reduced energy use.

Building environment simulation project (PDF, 0.05 MB)

Environmental monitoring and assessment

Environmental data (on relative humidity and temperature) generated by our environmental monitoring system forms the basis for our environmental assessment. This assessment defines the standards of preservation for our repositories.

Four interdependent factors affecting the quality of the preservation environment are considered:

  • chemical degradation
  • environmental stability
  • probability of mould growth
  • impact of the external environment on conditions achieved inside the repositories

This method of environmental assessment does not rely on or reference any published standards or guidelines for relative humidity or temperature.

Related references

K Ntanos and S VanSnick, Environmental assessment without limits at The National Archives (Choices in conservation: practice versus research, ICOM-CC Graphic Documents Working Group Interim Meeting 6-8 October, Copenhagen, 2010 pp 19-22)

Environmental assessment without limits (PDF, 0.39 MB)