The British Standard BS 5454 Recommendations for the Storage and Exhibition of Archival Documents has been in existence in one form or other since the late 1970’s. Throughout this period, it has been a fairly succint document (last revision contained just 25 pages) and has been primarily used to give guidance on archival conditions for long-term preservation, for example, museum conditions. In this respect, it has often been misquoted as a general standard for the design and operation of business archives.
The British Standards Institute has now withdrawn this standard, together with the associated guide PD 0024:2001, and have instead made available a Published Document PD 5454:2012 Guide for the Storage and Exhibition of Archival Materials (pub. March 2012). This new document is a more subsantial publication, being 76 pages, and really brings the previous standard up-to-date. Although it still has an emphasis on preservation of valuable documents – such as manuscripts – and the exhibition of such documents, it is now much more applicable in a business archive scenario. It also addresses storage of digital media.
The document begins with detailed guidance on the nature of documents and best practice for their storage and use. This includes topics such as environamental ccontrols for different media, protection against mould, infestation and pollution, environmental monitoring, environmental control, packaging and security. The guide then goes on to describe the repository building and measures that can be taken in the design and build of an archive facility. This section includes hazard avoidance, security, construction, environmetal stability, fire and water protection, load distribution, shelving and lighting, to name but a few.
I think this new publication is a more useful document than the old British Standard and has a much wider scope of application. However, care should be taken to avoid treating the content as a standard, expecting absolute compliance. Indeed, the cover warns “This publication is not to be considered a British Standard”. PD 5454:2012 can be obtained from the BSI Online shop (£244.80 non-member price / £122.40 member price).