SPR Bulletin 09-04

(This Bulletin supersedes SPR Bulletin 2-93 and SPR Bulletin 5-94.)

TO: Public Records Custodians
SUBJECT: Recording Material for Permanent Paper Records Requirement to Use Archival Paper and Archival Ink
EXPIRATION DATE: Until superseded
PURPOSE: This bulletin provides guidance and the requirements for the use of archival quality paper and ink for the recording of textual information of enduring value and permanent paper records.

Our Government has a fundamental obligation to record information concerning its operation, policies and procedures. It has a duty to preserve for the public good, the records and publications by which this information is documented. In the past, much of the information regarding these activities has been recorded on paper containing destructive acids. Extensive research has proven that the acid present in most writing and printing paper as well as non-archival quality inks produced since the mid-nineteenth century has drastically reduced the life of public records, archives, books and other paper-based documents.

The Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued Executive Order No. 293 on December 31, 1990, mandating the use of permanent paper for records of “enduring value”.  (N.B. Only the original, official record or required original copies of the record as mandated by the Record Conservation Board or this office, must comply with this standard.  Subsequent, non-original copies of the record, whether certified or not do not need to conform to this standard.)

Records and publications of enduring value are defined as those that should be permanently preserved because of their historical significance. Such records include but are not limited to Executive Orders, annual reports, and minutes of public meetings as defined by chapter thirty-A and chapter 66 of the Massachusetts General Laws, and birth, death, and marriage certificates.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard Z39.48-1984 is the benchmark for the specification of permanent paper.  The Federal Joint Committee on Printing (JCP) has reviewed the requirements for permanent paper extensively.  The JCP has agreed on several types of permanent paper that meet or exceed the ANSI standards.

1) JCP-A270 is more stringent than the ANSI standard in some of its durability requirements and is the recommended permanent paper standard for the Federal Government.

2) JCP A560 and JCP O-560. JCP A560 is the alkaline-based version of JCP A60, an offset book paper widely used for general printing, and JCP O-560 is the first JCP standard for alkaline-based xerographic paper for use in copiers and laser printers.

3) Finally, as a third option, the International Standards Organization (ISO) has developed a standard for permanent paper.  This standard is known as ISO 9706:1994.  For more information on this standard, visit the website www.iso.org.

Permanent paper having any of these designations is acceptable by Commonwealth agencies and municipalities.  Papers meeting these standards are readily available at costs comparable to ordinary office paper.

There are many implements available for creating records. (i.e., pens, typewriters, laser printers etc.)  Not all of these implements are appropriate for creating documents of enduring value and permanent records. Certain inks and toners may have chemical properties that cause them to fade, smudge, or have a deleterious effect on paper.  Inkjets printers do not provide lasting contact between ink and paper and felt tip markers are not encouraged.

The Supervisor of Records is authorized to set standards for the media to be used in the creation of public records and to secure their preservation. See: G. L. c. 66, § 1, 3-4. The Supervisor of Records is responsible for administering the provisions of Executive Order No. 293.

The following recommended “Best Practices” should be employed in this endeavor:

Permanent Paper:

  1. All official, original records and publications of enduring value should be recorded on archival quality, permanent paper.

  2. Record custodians should refer to their respective disposition schedule to identify those records that are considered to be permanent or of enduring value and the number of original, official copies that must be retained.  If a record series is not listed on a disposal schedule, custodians should consult with the Records Conservation Board for state government records and the Records Management Unit for local government records for assistance in scheduling the records. Until records are scheduled, they should be recorded on permanent paper using permanent ink.

  3. The requirement to use permanent paper also applies to blank forms purchased from vendors. Where forms are used to create records of enduring value, the custodian must ensure that those forms are printed on permanent paper.

  4. The State Library has been statutorily designated as the depository library for Massachusetts state publications. Each state agency is required to furnish the state library with eight copies of its publications for permanent preservation. (see: G. L. c. 6, § 39A-39B) Because these copies are considered to be of enduring value, they must be printed on permanent paper, whether or not the remainder of the issue is printed on permanent paper.

Permanent Ink:

1. In creating permanent written records, custodians shall use recording materials i.e., ink, toner, etc. that meet the following performance standards.

A. Lightfastness. Ink shall show no appreciable change when exposed to light, in a test comparable to the Fade-ometer test, for 24 hours. Black inks that contain carbon do not fade, and are preferable for permanent records.

B. Water resistance. Ink shall demonstrate high water resistance ability of the image to resist deformation or change in color with immersion in water. No obvious effects shall be seen when test strips are immersed in water and various chemicals for 1/2 hour.

C. Alkalinity. Ink should have a neutral or slightly alkaline pH (7.0-8.5) to prevent damage to either the paper or the writing implement.

D. Fluidity. Liquid ink shall produce good line continuity without splitting, excessive deposits of ink on the paper or writing tip, variations of lines width and intensity, agglomerates of undispersed pigment or other undesirable writing characteristics.  Liquid ink shall not feather or spread. It shall not penetrate to the reverse side of the paper or legibly transfer to another sheet of paper.

E. Reproduction:  All colors shall be capable of reproduction by microfilming, and black ink shall be capable of reproduction by thermography, dry copying or direct-image offset processes.

F. Xerographic Toners. Liquid toners for xerographic reproductions have been found to be more suitable for archival applications than dry toners as the liquid toner is absorbed into the paper fiber. When copies are being created for long term or permanent retention they should be created on xerographic machines using the liquid toner process.

Questions regarding access to public records should be directed to:

Public Records Division
1 Ashburton Place, Room 1719
Boston, MA 02108
Phone 617-727-2832
Fax 617-727-5914
Email pre@sec.state.ma.us

Questions regarding this bulletin should be directed to:

Records Management Unit
Massachusetts State Archives at Columbia Point
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
Phone 617-727-2816
Fax 617-288-8429
Email recman@sec.state.ma.us