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Why Do Archival Labels Need to Be Acid Free?

Labeling artifacts and specimens presents researchers, curators, and historians alike with quite the challenge. Archival applications usually entail vulnerable items in variable storage conditions. To track and manage these inventories with care, our archival labels were designed with a few factors in mind.

Archival Label Specifications

White label affixed to archival animal skull sample

There are two major concerns to consider when it comes to archival labeling, a label’s adhesive, and its face stock. A label is considered ‘acid free’ if the label adhesive has a neutral pH level. Choosing an acid free option for archival applications is important because over time, acidic labels will degrade and discolor the surface they’re stuck on. This poses the risk of your artifact being tarnished, especially if it’s in storage for a long period of time.

If you’re in the market for a paper archival label, it’s also important to find one which is ‘lignin free’. “Lignin is a chemical compound found in wood; When it’s mixed with bleach during the refining process, it will turn into hydrochloric acid as the paper ages.” comments our Products Department. Once again, the acid could compromise the surface it’s on, so it should be avoided at all costs.

Archival Label Options

Choosing which archival label is right for you depends on the level of durability that your application requires. Our semi-gloss paper option is alkaline based (lignin-free!), acid-free, and ideal if you’re looking for a cost-effective option and don’t require maximum durability. If you’re looking for extra durability, our white gloss polyester option is also acid-free, but has the bonus of being tear and chemically resistant. Which poses the age-old question, paper or plastic?

Are Archival Labels Right for You?

We have quite the “history” with archival label customers. Some of our most memorable applications include working with the National Botanical Garden of Belgium and Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. But whether it’s botanical specimen bags, prehistoric artifacts, ancient texts, or private collections of art, we can point you towards the best labels for you. To ensure that your pieces of history stay in pristine condition, contact The Label Experts.

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Electronic Imaging Materials