Preservation and Covid-19 – FAQs

Preservation and Covid-19 – FAQs

The Covid-19 pandemic has required social distancing measures that have placed unprecedented limits on movement and changes to work arrangements, posing a variety of challenges to the sector. Managing the conditions and security of collections is particularly challenging as archivists are currently unable to physically access or monitor their collections and storage.

The SCA Preservation Committee have been liaising with colleagues about how the sector can best work together to pool resources, share information and address some of these challenges.  We have summarised some of the questions posed by colleagues regarding incident response, along with some suggestions for mitigating risks in the current situation. These answers are by no means exhaustive or definitive however, we hope they will be helpful. The Scottish Council on Archives will be publishing more comprehensive Emergency Planning Guidance and templates for archives by May 2020 and will notify the sector when this becomes available.

If you have any questions or concerns about collections management issues, please get in touch at (FAO SCA Preservation Committee) and we will do our best to offer support and advice. If you would like to share some tips and advice from your own experience of managing your collections in this challenging situation, we would like to hear from you.

We will update and publish any new questions and advice on this page.

Below are also some links to helpful guidance on collections management and security.

COVID-19 – General Guidance on Collections Management and Security  

COVID-19 FAQs and Advice on Incident Response and Collections Management

1. How can we best prepare to deal with a large scale disaster during the current situation, given the potential reduction in availability of staff who could respond during this time, and the increased risks to staff in attending to deal with an incident?

Draw up a short, simple list of priority collections and high-risk areas in your stores.

Work closely with your Estates and Facilities Management and make these lists available.

If your archive service contracts a document recovery service, you should either receive, or seek an update on the status of recovery work in the event of an incident.

 2. How can we still pool resources at this time?

Personal Protective Equipment has been donated by many archive services, to key front-line workers and most organisations have a limited working supply with no prospect of replenishing in near future.

Ensure all your volunteers who have supplies at home still have access, give details of what supplies you can access and identify where these are on your sites. If it is safe and secure to do so, store supplies close to entrances to enable quick access.

Any masks that are intended for use to prevent exposure to fungal spores must be graded as a  HEPA or high-efficiency particulate absorbing and high-efficiency particulate arrestance, this is an efficiency standard of air filter. There are three grades of HEPA filters and the numbers refer to the percent of particles (e.g. 0.3 microns in size is FFP3) that the filter is capable of removing from air that passes through it.

Filters that remove particles 0.2 microns in diameter are recommended to be available for use.

In the UK and Europe the standards referred to are FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. These masks must be correctly fitted to work to their full potential so be sure to follow instructions carefully.

Eye protection to prevent eye irritation should always be considered, especially for contact lens wearers. To note, irritation is low risk unless extensive and prolonged exposure is anticipated.

NOTE: Many users find that facemasks become damp and less effective and comfortable after an hour or so of use. FFP3 type masks have an exhale valve built into them that allows exhaled air to bypass the mask material and thus reduce dampness. These facemasks are more comfortable for longer use throughout a working day. Additional information can be found here:

Please also see the following guidance on making masks:

3. Is anyone creating a new or temporary disaster plan for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Many organisations will be producing new protocols in light of the current situation by reviewing risk and resilience however, there are significant limitations given the pace of developments.

The Scottish Government is publishing updates and guidance and it is advisable to keep up to date with this and make any adjustments to planning accordingly: Scottish Government Guidance

4. How do we plan for members of staff who would usually be contacted who are ill/self-isolating?

Every organisation will have its own approach to managing the situation however, producing a central daily tracker to update on the status of staff is advisable, e.g. self-isolating, ill  Ensuring that the status of all staff is regularly updated will assist Senior Management in co-ordinating the overall staff situation and available resources.

5. How do we access current contact details for disaster network colleagues at the moment? Are there any changes to the key phone numbers for people?

The SCA office can be contacted at to supply any contact details required.

6. Are the Scottish Archive Disaster Networks effectively on-hold during this period, as realistically it would be difficult to maintain social distancing in the event of a disaster?

Social distancing without PPE would be very problematic however, maintaining contact virtually, is possible and encouraged. If you would like the contact details of a local network co-ordinator or member, contact SCA for assistance at

The Edinburgh Collections Response Network (ECRN) is considering establishing a Whats App Group for members and the SCA Preservation Committee has a direct link to this group.

7. How can we check any temperature / RH data loggers are working and download any data now?

It depends on the system you are using. If you can view data remotely, you should communicate any concerns to your Estates or Facilities colleagues, who may be able to make adjustments remotely.

8. Will data loggers have enough battery power?

This is variable and dependent on what system you use but an annual battery replacement is normally recommended with a possibility that batteries may last longer.

9. If you normally manually record temperature / Relative Humidity is there anyone who still has access who can record readings?

If access is possible, assistance would be required from Estates and Facilities colleagues, they should also be advised of any priority risk areas for water ingress.

A review of the weather can also be helpful to determine if there could be significant changes to conditions. It can generally be assumed that in dark secure storerooms, where collections are boxed, conditions should be stable.

Dr Catherine Ross, Archivist at the Met Office has provided some useful information about how to monitor conditions and keep informed of weather warnings, using the Met Office App, which can be found here.

If you search for a location using the App, you will get forecast data including key factors such as temperature and RH – although this may appear exact to a postcode, it is of course extrapolated. There is the option to view ‘last 24 hours’ and this will give data for the nearest observation station.

Using the actuals as well as the forecast data may assist archivists in checking patterns and looking for the sort of consistent changes that would impact on an archive.

If a leak is prone to occur within a building, in certain wind directions, the forecast (and actuals) advise on wind direction and strength which may also be of assistance.

10. How can someone access our stores in an emergency? Who has keys, access codes etc.

Estates and Facilities colleagues should have all of this information. If they do not have this information already, you should also supply them with an up to date electronic copy of your disaster plan, and the location of any hard copy.