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AMIA-L  January 2006

AMIA-L January 2006

Subject:

Re: Reply: Storage of Acetate Magnetic Media

From:

Mick Newnham <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association of Moving Image Archivists <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 16 Jan 2006 10:10:49 +1100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (66 lines)

There are some large unknowns in the life expectancy of magnetic fullcoat
film. In all the collections I have surveyed the incidence of vinegar
syndrome in magnetic fullcoat film, as indicated by AD Strips, has far
exceeded picture film elements. This doe not include audio tapes where I
haven't had as much experience with surveying.

Now there may be a few reasons for this, firstly it has been suggested on
many researchers that the gelatin emulsion in image materials acts as a
buffer for the acetic acid and hence the effect of vinegar syndrome is
masked. Secondly and a bit harder to evaluate is the problem that AD Strips
are influenced by components of the binder (best guess). The late Ed
Zwaneveldt tried to run this one down a few years ago but was stonewalled
by the manufacturers who would not reveal the components of the binders or
give any clues about why these otherwise unaccountable results may be
occuring. It is possible that one of the lubricants is causing the
indicator in AD Strips to give a reading. I have seen an AD Strip reading
of over 2 in a polyester based film that was brand new
straight-out-of-the-box. This means that any stability survey of mag film
collections is suspect right from the start!! From memory the ISO TC42 WG5
headed up by Peter Adelstein is looking at tests for mag stability but I'm
not sure how far this has progressed (Jim W/Jim L et al, any updates from
the last meeting?)

The rigorous standards recommended give predictions indicating that films
will "last" for hundreds of years are occassionally accused of being
excessive ("...who will be around in 400 years to prove whether they
worked..." etc etc). The problem is not how the film ages in the storage
vault, but how it has aged PRIOR to entering controlled storage. Even film
stored under "good" conditions has been accessed and kept under "less than
good" conditions for some period of time. For this reason alone cool/cold
dry conditions are needed to ensure that the film has the longest possible
useful remaining life. With mag materials it becomes a matter of placing
the carrier on life support until the content can be migrated to a current
format.

 So what we are left with is a material that we know deteriorates with:
1) no way of determining its stability
2) has been stored under unknown conditions for a significant portion of
its life so far.

So, all we can do is keep things cool and dry because we have enough
knowledge to show that this this does slow things down a lot!

As to why audio tapes don't appear to demonstrate vinegar syndrome is
harder to explain. Some basic information is needed such as; are the
binders/lubricants the same or similar? The thickness of the bases and
method of transport are sufficiently different so that maybe there are
significant differences in the binder components. Given the previous
attempts to get information from manufacturers this will be very hard to
answer. As Jim W (and others) say "research on one reel of tape tells you a
lot about that one reel".

mick

Mick Newnham
Senior Researcher
National Film and Sound Archive
McCoy Circuit, Acton Canberra ACT 2601

Tel: +61 2  6248 2118  Fax: +61 2 6248 2165

www.nfsa.afc.gov.au

The National Film and Sound Archive collects, preserves and provides access
to Australia's historic and contemporary moving image and recorded sound
culture. We are part of the Australian Film Commission.

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