Archival Film Preservation at the Iowa State University Library
Walters, Tyler O.
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The Iowa State University [ISU] Library Special Collections Department has over twenty years of experience in managing collections of 16mm moving image film. The department’s American Archives of the Factual Film [AAFF] was founded in 1974 as a center for preserving films and is comprised of 25,000 16 mm films. Preserving so many films can be a daunting task, especially when budgetary constraints are considered. We have studied the problems and have devised holdings maintenance procedures to extend the life of our archival films collections. Cellulose triacetate, or "safety film", is as inherently unstable as the nitrate-based film it replaced. Acetate-based film collections deteriorate and the images they hold disappear. Acetate films are afflicted with acetic acid degradation, or "vinegar syndrome," so nicknamed due to acetic acid’s strong vinegar-like odor. ISU employs film testing, cleaning and treating techniques coupled with proper environmental conditions that have greatly extended film life expectancy.