Preservation and Conservation

Archives at NCBS: Preservation and Conservation

Rev 1: Feb 15 2024

The Archives at NCBS ( is a public centre for the history of science in contemporary India. Over 250,000 processed objects across 30+ collections are in various forms, ranging from paper-based manuscripts to negatives to photographs, books, fine art, audio recordings, scientific equipment, letters, and field and lab notes. The 2000-square-feet state-of-the-art physical centre at NCBS includes space for research, processing, exhibitions, recording, and a leading-edge storage facility with monitors for temperature, light, humidity, air quality, water, fire, pests, and noise. 


Digital Preservation and Digital Access -- Specifications

Our digitization standard is compliant with the Federal Agencies Digital Guideline Initiative (FADGI) protocol - three star rating. After the digitization process, all original digital TIFF files and their derivative TIFFs, JPGs and PDFs are run through checksum software to ensure data integrity. Checksums are verified after transferring to our local storage. Digital files are stored physically in a server farm on campus, with backups. All archival and digital object metadata are created and maintained on ArchivesSpace, our catalog system, and synced with DSpace, our asset management system, which also operates as our digital preservation system with its Archival Information Package (AIP) Backup and Restore function for all digital objects and their associated metadata. 

Digitization Platform Specifications (2023)
Scanner Model: Book2Net
Scanner software: Tocosa Copy Software Version 6.68
Camera/sensor brand and model: Microbox X71
Lens brand/model: Schneider Kreuznach Apo Componon 4.0/45mm
Aperture: f/8 
Exposure time: 0.3 sec
Focal Length: 45 mm
ISO Speed Ratings: 100

We have implemented our catalogue in ArchivesSpace and our archival objects are described in line with the International Standard for Archival Description (ISAD), delivering finding aids that are compliant with the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) standard. Our data complies with the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) standard. Our digital objects are hosted on an open source asset management system, DSpace, and our digital objects are served through an IIIF endpoint, and an embedded viewer.

Conservation + preservation practices and monitoring
Our physical objects are first received in a monitored quarantine facility. After initial assessment, they are processed and finally stored in industry-standard archive-grade folders and boxes in storage rooms where we monitor and log data for 10 environmental parameters, following the 10 agents of deterioration as outlined by the Canadian Conservation Institute:

Relative humidity (rH)
Water leakage or flood
Pest control
Light level
Air quality
Physical forces


Archives at NCBS - Preventative checklist document

Archives at NCBS - Disaster management document

Almost 70 percent of our collections is made of paper and derivatives. The remaining is fabric, photographs, negatives, films, slides, and mixed material equipment. The most common issues that have been observed in paper objects in our collection are foxing, prominent creases, tears, acidity and brittleness. In photographs, we have come across deterioration due to silverfish. Negatives and films have had problems mainly due to bad storage. Where possible, we attempt to change the immediate storage environment after receiving material, and then preserve in archive-grade larger containers. Oversized objects are stored in oversize horizontal cabinets. In 2024-25, we will be appraise and move photographic material to dedicated controlled low temperature and humidity containers.

In our workflow, we assess physical quality of received material at two points - the first time as a high-level survey for deterioration points (like mold, fungus) right upon arrival at the Archives at NCBS, and then, a second time after archival processing, where we aim to assess the health of every folder. This assessment protocol is captured on our internal catalog as a related item for our physical collection’s finding aid. The report template records the condition of the incoming collections, processed collection and conservation treatment summary. The report documents the major deterioration factors that are commonly observed in the received archival materials (materials include paper, photograph, textile, film, negatives etc.). Based on this triage process, we have a conservation lab where we treat and conserve specific objects. 

In our collection-level condition reports, deteriorated objects are numbered on the grade of 1 (urgent need of conservation treatment) to 5 (to be observed regularly for physical changes), and we prioritize conservation based on this metric. A detailed examination report is made for an individual object, and based on that, the treatment is decided. After the treatment and completion of the treatment report, the objects are placed back in the original storage, or new housing. Access of some of the conserved objects may be limited.