The original development of paper was a changing point for human civilization. Not only did it lead to easier communication of information and better record keeping, but it also gave people an outlet to express themselves in artistic ways — and to do so much more. Even today, in our highly digital age, paper is a ubiquitous product in nearly every aspect of life. The problem with paper is a pretty basic one: it doesn’t last forever. Because it’s made from natural materials like wood pulp, paper isn’t the most durable product. Something as seemingly innocuous as water in the air can cause enough damage to wreck a centuries-old book or work of art.
Why Paper Deteriorates
Unless you’re working with waterproof paper, you’re going to have to consider the natural properties of paper when it comes to its ability to last. While most of us tend to think of paper as being made from wood pulp, it can also be made from a range of other materials, like cotton or rice. By and large, though, standard sheets of paper are made from wood pulp or recycled paper products (which are still cellulose fiber, or wood pulp, at the core).
Since most standard paper products are made from wood fibers, they are going to be affected by the original structure and chemical makeup of the wood/cotton/organic blend. Specifically, paper made from wood pulp naturally contains lignin, which is the reason paper will turn yellow and become increasingly brittle as it ages. The lignin causes the paper to break down on its own over time, but the naturally acidic nature of paper also means that external factors like light and heat help speed the breakdown process along. This is why you’ll see UV-protective cases and temperature/humidity monitors in pretty much every museum across the globe. Since wood pulp paper is naturally acidic, measures need to be taken to prevent the breakdown when it comes to preserving important documents and works of art.
When You Need More Than Regular Paper
Generally, it’s up to preservation and conservation teams to help preserve those valuable, delicate items we already have that were made with wood pulp paper (and other comparably deteriorative products). There are an impressive number of techniques and skills used to help preserve decades-old books, scrolls, prints, and other similarly meaningful items in museums and archives around the world. The concern with paper products, even today, is how to help the more important documents and works last long enough that they, too, could one day be housed in a museum.
Ongoing Acid Concerns
Acid doesn’t need to be the movie-element, burns-through-everything sort of substance to cause harm. Even the oils on our skin have a low level of acidity that can cause damage over time. When it comes to preserving paper-based items, you’ll need to consider the paper itself, mat boards, frame, glass, adhesives, and how you handle everything. While all of these elements can contribute to the deterioration over time, the paper you use for the important document or print is going to play the largest role. This is where archival paper comes in.
Archival paper is a broad category that encompasses products which are acid-free or acid-neutral and intended to last longer. They may be made of wood pulp that has gone through special processes to remove the acidity, or they may be made of other less-traditional materials that are inherently more durable and acid-free. Whatever the case, archival paper is designed to resist damage caused over time by acid.
Here at TerraSlate, we pride ourselves on making paper products that last. Our waterproof paper is entirely waterproof — not just water-resistant — and colorfast so you don’t have to worry about your documents, prints, or photographs getting ruined by an accidental spill. Not only that, but our waterproof paper and other products are also acid-free. Our paper isn’t made from wood-pulp, so there are no concerns about natural acidity that will slowly break it down. And, to make matters even easier, our waterproof paper works with the standard inkjet printer so you can print important documents, photographs, and so much more. Explore TerraSlate online to see our full range of waterproof paper projects and explore all the benefits!