Environmental Conditions Archives and Library Collections

ISO/TR 19815, Information and documentation – Management of the environmental conditions for archive and library collections is a technical report that sets out a framework for decision-making relating to appropriate environmental conditions for archive and library collections within the context and resources of the institution and the climate. The technical report covers much of what was included in British Standards Institute PAS 198, designed for the temperate climate of the UK. The difference in this document is the focus that has been broadened to a larger range of environmental conditions and narrowed somewhat to focus on the materials found predominantly in archives and libraries.

This document is important because no one set of conditions is appropriate for all collections in all circumstances, because environmental specifications are tailored to the needs of a specific collection, the resources of the institution and the context within which it operates, and the local climate. This document sets out a framework for decision-making related to appropriate environmental conditions for cultural collections in the specific climatic zones.

This document provides access to research that led to some of the changes in ISO 11799:2015, Information and documentation – Document storage requirements for archive and library materials. This document covers much of the same ground as BSI/PAS 198. The main difference is that BSI/PAS 198 was designed to be applied in British conditions with a temperate climate. 

Although there is no doubt that a controlled environment within parameters appropriate to the materials is significant in the preservation of collections, it is now accepted that daily and seasonal variations in temperature and relative humidity will not cause harm to most collections. This document is intended to support decision-making in the design and operation of environmental controls within these broader parameters. The document describes a team-based approach, including architects, engineers (during design and building of a facility), and facility management with archive and library administration and preservation and curatorial staff.

This document provides tools to explore the responsible design of archive and library buildings for the preservation of cultural heritage while giving preference to solutions that are sustainable and reduce the use of energy. The intention is to broaden the range of specified temperatures and relative humidity based on the most recent research results and to encourage team-based decision-making in providing the preservation environment.

Knowledge of the collections, and of the risks, is indispensable for preservation administration. Every collecting institution can and should be able to carry out the assessment steps, no matter how limited their resources, and irrespective of their climate using the tools provided in this document.


We express our appreciation to Ann Siebert for providing the information for this article.