The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 11, Number 8
Dec 1987


Photocopying on Archival Paper

by Michael McColgin

Reprinted with permission from ConservatioNews, Sept. 1987.

A few weeks ago Jerry Kyle, Archivist for the City of Tucson, asked me to investigate a problem he'd encountered while photocopying several hundred newspaper clippings onto a well-known brand of permanent/durable paper. The more he copied, the worse the copies became. The problem turned out to be a drum in the machine that was covered with a coating of what looked to be toner. Jerry is planning to have all departments of Tucson city government send permanent/durable copies of appropriate materials to the City Archives, and he wanted to make sure that there was not some kind of weird reaction going on between the toner and the alkaline paper.

I'd heard about this problem, but had never spoken to anyone who knew any specifics, and I had never pursued the topic. Jerry sent a list of all the types of copiers and toners used by the city, so I started calling copier people. None of them had ever heard of such a thing happening, and they all assured me that the pH of the paper would not cause a problem. Interesting, but hardly the information Jerry needed.

I remembered someone mentioning that photocopy paper has a smooth surface compared to normal paper, so I called a couple of the copier people again and Jeff Geeraerts at Calvin Paper. According to then, normal bond paper, regardless of its chemistry, has a "fuzzy" surface compared to paper that is produced especially for electrostatic copiers. If used in any quantity, the "fuzz" will accumulate on the drum of the machine and cause problems. Photocopy paper, on the other hand, has a very smooth surface that prevents this problem.

Several years ago I saw some Archival Bond, a permanent/durable paper by Xerox, so I called them to see if it was still available. According to the sales representative, who had never heard of it, it is available only in cartons of 5,000 sheets. The letter size costs $89.60 per carton, and the legal size costs $113.75 per carton. Another option appears to be Technaclear, a new paper produced for laser printers. Jeff Geeraerts sent me samples and had a chemist call me from the paper mill. Although we did only very limited testing in our office, Technaclear compared favorably with two well-known brands of permanent/durable paper. Technaclear is stocked only in letter size by Galvin Paper and costs $7.50 per standard ream.

The Annual Report of the National Archives and Records Administration for the year ending September 30, 1986, contains a small notice that relates to archival copies. The National Archives commissioned the Government Printing Office to study electrostatic copiers and toners and to identify those that produce archival copies. As soon as we can get a copy of the full report we'll let you know what it says.

[Editor's note: Technaclear has not appeared in the catalogs yet, but it is said to be widely available and to be suitable for ordinary xerographic copying. In fact, the tendency nowadays is to make paper that satisfies the specs for two or more uses, e.g. offset and copying, or offset, copying and bond.]

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