The Effects of Tape on Paper Documents

By Joseph Patzner

Recently, we received a request from a patron to digitize loose materials to aid his research about a lodge. As I was preparing the materials for digitization, I found repairs had been made to the torn pages by applying pressure sensitive tape. While the tape helps to repair damage at the moment, the tape can cause damage over time, as the chemicals in the adhesive will darken and stain documents.  As a result of the stains, text can become obscured. And, the ink can be transferred to the tape, thereby removing the text from the page if the tape is separated from the paper.

While pressure sensitive tape was once the primary solution for paper repairs upon its release in the 1930s, the use of Japanese papers with Kozo fibers has become the standard practice by conservators for mending tears within paper collection. Japanese papers with Kozo fibers are translucent and do not discolor over time, thereby preventing text from being obscured.  Despite the recommendation for use of Japanese papers, certain objects may still require the use of an adhesive. According to the NEDCC , the adhesives selected for repairs must not discolor the paper to which it is applied, adhesion should be maintained indefinitely, and the repair needs to be reversible without damaging the original object.  Most of the commercially available adhesives should also be avoided, as they do not meet the NEDCC criterion and are likely to damage the paper they adhere to.