For the last couple of months, I’ve been volunteering with the local history museum to process a collection they recently ingested from the local Pride Center. It has been interesting work, and given me much more experience with working on archival collections. Mostly what I have been doing is refoldering documents, making a list of documents for the collection guide, and removing anything that doesn’t age well, like metal fasteners and extraneous sticky notes, as well as removing duplicates of documents. And the number one thing I have learned is:
Staples are the actual devil.
I hate them. I especially hate when people’s long dead staplers were broken, or insufficient to the task. I’ve had staples where the prongs bent outwards instead of inwards. Rusty staples that leave unremovable stains on the papers. And just this week, a packet of papers stapled together with no fewer than 6 rusty staples, not one of which went all the way through the packet, some going from both sides of the packet, and not all of them on the same level of the packet. It was a nightmare trying to remove the staples in the right order so as not to rip the paper or anything.
Paperclips are comparatively easier, but unfortunately they’re almost always rusty and they leave both stains and usually a bend in the paper that cannot be flattened out. Tape is simply unremovable, and will degrade quickly, leaving the parts of the paper taped down un-readable in a short period of time. I have grown to hate all these fastener tools. The only good fastener as far as I’m concerned are plastic paperclips.
So, next time you’re thinking about stapling pages together, think ahead to your poor future archivist and DON’T. I’m begging you.