The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 13, Number 2
May 1989


Finland Requires Permanent Paper for Government Records

In Finland, the government not only sets permanence specifications for paper to be used for archival records, but tests it on demand and publishes an annual list of materials and methods that pass the tests. The specifications are based on recent research, and reflect current standards. (Sweden also has permanence standards, but they do not mention pH or alkaline reserve, because they were set in 1964.)

By law, the National Archives of Finland decides what materials and methods are to he used by state and municipal authorities when preparing records to be kept permanently, according to Bureau Chief Pirkko Pirilä Tests to determine the permanence and durability of all materials used in production of those records are performed by the State Technical Research Center at the request of the manufacturer, importer, user or supplier. The Research Center submits the test result to the National Archives, which publishes annually, in a February issue of the Official Gazette, a list of materials and methods found suitable for the preparation of permanently retained records.

The quality criteria are stated in the recently published standard SFS 5453, "Papers and Boards for Archival Storage." It sets two main levels of permanence: Permanent (at least several hundred years) and semi-permanent (over 50 years but not indefinitely). Both kinds must be watermarked, and the permanent paper must bear some identification in the watermark of the manufacturer, the number of the paper, and the year of manufacture. The furnish can be either rag or chemical pulp, but not recycled fiber. For permanent papers, carbonate content has to be at least equivalent to 2% calcium carbonate and pH at least 6.5, but semi-permanent paper need not contain any carbonate, as long as the pH is above 5.5. Permanent paper for writing has to have the highest pH of all: a minimum of 7.5. Durability is measured by fold and tear. There are specifications for minimum brightness and opacity too (75% and 80-85%, respectively.)

All these specifications seem reasonable enough, and not far different from permanence standards developed in this country. What really sets this standard off from all the rest is the accelerated aging test. After three days in an oven at 105°C, the papers must retain most of their folding endurance, pH and brightness. For the highest quality of paper (writing papers for permanent records), folding endurance must decrease no more than 20%, pH must be above 7.0 and brightness above 70. (A more realistic aging test would have lower temperatures and would include some moisture.)

Copies of this law, in English (unofficial translation), are available from the Newsletter office for a SASE with 45 postage on it.

Standards also exist for microfilms and magnetic tapes for Finnish archives.

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