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Model predicts 'shelf life' for library and archival collections

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  3 Jan 2016 12:00 AM GMT

LONDON, Jan 2: Scientists at University College London (UCL) have developed demographic models of decay and loss to predict when a large library or archival collection might age beyond repair.

“Although some library materials might easily survive thousands of years some have interl clocks triggering faster decay. Using the demographic models we can now easily predict how much more degradation will be induced by a hotter and more humid climate in the future, and perhaps more importantly, how this can be mitigated,” lead author professor Matija Strlic said.

The model developed by Strlic’s team explores what makes an historical paper unfit for use, the degradation of historical documents due to handling, and how heritage resources can be maged and stored with more economical and environmental sustaibility, according to a UCL statement.

The team developed an equation describing how the length of cellulose, the domint macromolecule in paper, decreases with time depending on the acidity of paper and the environmental conditions during storage. Another model described how wear and tear accumulates with instances of reading of a book or an archival folder.

The scientists looked at more than 600 historic documents from all over Europe to arrive at a general demographic model describing how ageing progresses and fitness is lost.

“We considered a heritage collection as a population of people and used census methods and ageing models to predict how a large library or archival collection might age beyond repair,” Strlic said.

“In relation to the outcomes of the recent COP 21 climate change conference in Paris, the projected average increase of 2 degrees centigrade in the global climate will increase the rate of degradation of some heritage collections by around 50 percent, and a four degrees centigrade increase would halve their lifetime,” the professor from the UCL Institute for Sustaible Heritage added. (IANS)

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