The most common hurdles to long term preservation of physical collections of paper are small but insidious little items we often use every day in our filing practices. They help us in the short term by wrangling our files together in cohesive collections but when it comes to long term preservation, they can ruin valuable documents. These simple items are the dreaded staple, paper clip, and rubber band. To an archivist trying to preserve these documents for the decades to come removing things like these are a must when processing any collection of documents.
Over time staples and paper clips rust and as a result often discolor and stain the text documents they were meant to keep together. In addition, they can fuse pages together making them difficult to separate without damaging the paper they are attached to. Archivists must use tools like the tiny spatula picture here to carefully remove staples and paper clips. The same type of problems arise when dealing with documents formerly held together by rubber bands. As time passes these rubber bands lose their elasticity and begin to disintegrate. An unfortunate byproduct of this process is that like staples and paperclips they stain the documents they are housed with. Additionally, they can also fuse papers together making them difficult to use.
Thankfully for archivists, there are alternatives to using metal paper clips and staples. These alternatives come in the form of plastic paper clips, which are used to replace their more detrimental counterparts in order to keep the documents together according to the original compiler’s intent.