Preservation History


1978 to Present—Preservation Research and Predictive-Aging Experiments for Imaging & Information Media

A-D Strips in canIPI began with a mission of research focused on the preservation of imaging media, primarily photography, cinema, and microfilm. The first preservation project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), was a study of the deterioration and preservation issues of nineteenth-century photographic prints. Later projects examined the decay of nitrate and acetate film due to heat, humidity and air pollution and the fading of microfilm and color photography. IPI researched and reported on sulfiding protection for silver images, selenium for microfilm, and the preservation of safety film. IPI developed accelerated-aging test methods for determining the suitability of papers, boards, glues, and albums intended for use as photograph storage enclosures. A three-year study on the effects of indoor air pollutants on the permanence of printing and writing papers was completed.

Practical tools which have had a significant impact on the field of preservation developed during this period. Research and testing led to the development of the Photographic Activity Test (PAT) in 1985. Film preservation studies resulted in the creation of film-based deterioration monitors called Acid Detection (A-D) Strips® in 1995. Since 2006, several research projects have focused on the preservation of digital prints.


1978-1981 Deterioration of albumen prints, 19th c. photographic prints, nitrate and acetate film
1983-1985 Accelerated aging of enclosures – papers, boards, glues, albums
1985 Decomposition of cellulose acetate plastic film supports (vinegar syndrome) and fading of color photographic dyes
1986 Adhesive testing, film, cold fading and cold storage
1987-1991  Sulfiding protection for silver images
1988-1991  Preservation of safety film
1989  Optical disc stability
1989-1993 Effects of air pollution on library microforms
1991 Image stability tests for microfilm and photographic prints
1992 Polysulfide treatment of existing microfilm collections
1994 Environment and enclosures in film preservation
1995 Foundations for technical standards for digital imaging for photographic collections
1998-1999 Effects of fluctuating environments on library and archive materials
2003  Preservation of magnetic tape collections
2006  Development of digital hard copy testing methods
2007   Digital Print Preservation Portal research – through 2010
2010  Pollution Damage Mitigation for Inkjet Printed Materials in Museum Collections – through 2013
2011 Digital Print Preservation Portal Continuation – through 2014
2012 Sustaining Knowledge of the Materials of Photography – through 2015
2013 Preserving Film Collections for the Future—An Essential Web Application – through 2014

Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery for Inkjet Printed Materials in Museum Collections – through 2015


Digital Print Preservation Education & Training – through 2017


1989 to Present—Sustainable Practices in Environmental Management and Collection Preservation Research and Outreach

Over the course of IPI’s preservation research and other work in the field, it became clear that heat and moisture are the primary rate-controlling factors in almost every modality of decay. Control of these factors in the storage environment is of fundamental importance in preservation and is more broadly effective than other, more limited, preservation actions. In the mid-1990s, IPI began work on computer modeling and the development of quantitative metrics to measure the effects of storage conditions on the rate of decay. This led to the introduction of the general quantitative model of organic decay called the time-weighted preservation index (TWPI), published in New Tools for Preservation: Assessing Long-Term Environmental Effects on Library and Archives Collections. Based on this concept, IPI developed the Preservation Environment Monitor® (PEM), a datalogger designed specifically for use in cultural institutions and Climate Notebook® software, a utility for retrieving data from the PEM.

Environmental Tools HistoryThe next step was to apply the tools in real-life situations in cultural institutions. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded Optimizing Collection Life and Energy Costs in Cultural Institutions, a project undertaken in partnership with the Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library. IPI collaborated on this project with energy-management consultants Herzog/Wheeler & Associates. NEH, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the Mellon Foundation then funded Creating a Computerized System to Document the Effects of Environmental Conditions on the Preservation of Collections, a massive field trial of the PEM datalogger and Climate Notebook data analysis software. This work led to improvements in the technology and a much greater understanding of how environmental assessment works in cultural institutions. In addition to TWPI, which was designed to measure the rate of chemical decay in organic material, IPI created quantitative Preservation Metrics for environmentally induced biological and mechanical decay, and these were incorporated into the analysis performed by Climate Notebook. These tools were tested again during Training and Implementation for Effective Use of Environment in Collection Preservation, a three-part field trial funded by NEH. This project included extended training for a number of participants in the first field trial, training for preservation service providers, and testing of IPI’s Environmental Analysis Service.

IPI’s new technologies and practices for environmental assessment and control in preservation were put to use in major contracts with the National Museum of Denmark, Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library. These extensive projects led to the development of MyClimateData, an online data management and analysis program for institutions that need to track large amounts of data and associated information. This site was tested by a group of 15 museum and library research partners during an IMLS-funded research and development project titled Web-based Environmental Risk Assessment, in 2008-2009. At the same time, IPI developed a second web-based program called PEMdata to accompany the 2008 release of the PEM2® datalogger. This free website streamlined environmental management, giving users a simple way to store and graph data and to understand the effect of the environment on their collections. Based on user response, IPI developed eClimateNotebook®, a subscription-based online system that incorporates the best of all three existing data management applications. eClimateNotebook was released in 2012. Preservation environment research and outreach activities are currently focused on sustainable practices for managing the storage environment and optimal operation of mechanical systems.

1994 Preservation Index (PI) and Time-weighted Preservation Index (TWPI)

Preservation Environment Monitor (PEM) datalogger and Climate Notebook software for environmental analysis

Analysis of Environmental Data for Fourteen Sites in Norway using TWPI Methodology, consulting for the Conservation Commission of the National Institute for Historic Photography in Norway

1996 Analysis of Preservation Quality of Various Environmental Control Scenarios for Off-Site Book Storage Facilities for the Library of Congress
1997-2000 Optimization – Collection Life and Energy Costs, with partners at the Library of Congress and The New York Public Library
2000-2004 Creating a Computer Information System to Document the Effects of Environmental Conditions on the Preservation of Collections—(Field Trial I)
2000 The Preservation Calculator program for storage condition evaluation
2001 Tools and Management Processes for Preservation of Library Collection, with the Library of Congress
2002 Stored Alive! Program for understanding environment and deterioration

Southeast Asia environmental monitoring and investigation of hermetic sealing of film-based materials project

The Strategic Environmental Analysis Service to help small institutions document storage conditions and to make practical improvements to extend collection life


Training and Implementation for Effective Use of Environment in Collection Preservation (Field Trial II)

National Museum of Denmark—document and assess collection storage environments


Development of the Dew Point Calculator—development of a web-based collection storage information and environmental management system begins


Review of Proposed Climate Conditions and General Design for Phase III Secure Storage Facilities for the Library of Congress

Collection Information Storage System based on MyClimateData for the Library of Congress

2007-2009 Developing Data Models and Best Practices for Diagnosis and Improvement of Preservation Environments, with the New York Public Library

WebERA—Web-based Environmental Risk Assessment (through 2009)
Environmental Monitoring and Analysis Service consultation with the Library of Congress

Environmental Monitoring and Analysis project with six New York State Research Libraries

Environmental Monitoring and Analysis project with ten historically black colleges and universities (HBCU—through 2010)

Planning Grant to Develop an Environmental Data Management System for the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA)


Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC)—environmental data organization and analysis project

Climate Notes e-newsletter for managing the storage environment for preservation begins

Preservation Environment Monitor 2 (PEM2) datalogger with USB upload available website for online management of PEM2 environmental data released


Online Dew Point Calculator site released –

Research on Energy Saving Opportunities in Libraries, with five partner research libraries: Birmingham Public Library, Cornell University Libraries, New York Public Library, University of California Los Angeles, and Yale University Sterling Memorial Library. (December 2009 – November 2013)


Sustainable Preservation Practices for Managing Storage Environments series of workshops and webinars (January 2010 – December 2011)

Research and Development of Methodologies for Sustainable HVAC Operation in Collection Environments, (May 2010 – April 2014)

Mechanical System Optimization and Environmental Data Analysis with the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC.


Custom Internet-based Environmental Data Management System for the National Archives and Records Administration, (November 2011 – September 2012)

Consultant to Standford University Archive and Recorded Sound, "Planning for Sustainable Preservation for Audiovisual Collections", (Fall 2011 – Fall 2012)

Evaluation of Mechanical Systems in Special Collection Spaces at the Harvard Divinity School Library, (Fall 2011 – Fall 2012)

Environmental Monitoring Consultant to Historically Black Colleges and Universities II (HBCU) through LYRASIS, (December 2011 – December 2013)


Sustainable Preservation Practices for Managing Storage EnvironmentsSeries II  workshops and webinars (July 2012 - September 2013)

Release of® web-based environmental data management system (May 2012)

Sustainable Preservation Environment Project—Phase 2 with the Folger Shakespeare Library (Fall 2012 – Winter 2016)
IPI’s Guide to Sustainable Preservation Practices for Managing Storage Environments available for purchase.


Sustainable Preservation Practices for Managing Storage EnvironmentsSeries III  workshops and webinars (September 2014 - October 2015)

Understanding Moisture Equilibrium for Humanities Collections: A New Path to Sustainable Humidity Control – through 2016

Demonstrating a Sustainable Energy-Saving Methodology for Library Environments  – through 2016

There is a much evidence of the effectiveness and relevance of IPI’s contributions to the field of preservation, helped in no small measure by the funding sources noted below. IPI is one of the few available sources of preservation research and development. Hundreds of institutions around the world including research libraries, specialized libraries, archives, museums, and historical collections now use IPI’s technology and preservation management approaches and hundreds more rely on IPI for advice and information. For these institutions, IPI is a valuable information resource, research partner and service provider. If your institution needs IPI’s advice or technology, please contact us to see what we can do for you.