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National Technology AllianceMagnetic Tape Storage and Handling

A Guide for Libraries and Archives

Dr. John W.C. Van Bogart
National Media Laboratory
June 1995

The Commission on Preservation and Access
1400 16th Street, NW, Suite 740
Washington, DC 20036-2217

and the:

National Media Laboratory
Building 235-1N-17
St. Paul, MN 55144-1000

This report is a joint project of the Commission on Preservation and Access and the National Media Laboratory, developed within the Commission’s Preservation Science Research initiative. The initiative encourages new techniques and technologies to manage chemical deterioration in library and archival collections and to extend their useful life.

Copyright Information

Table of Contents


Author’s Acknowledgments

1. Introduction
1.1 Magnetic Media Compared to Paper and Film
1.2 The Scope of the Report

2. What Can Go Wrong with Magnetic Media?
Figure 1. Diagram of a Tape Reel
Figure 2. Cross Section of a Magnetic Tape
2.1 Binder Degradation
Lubricant Loss
2.2 Magnetic Particle Instabilities
2.3 Substrate Deformation
2.4 Format Issues
Helical versus Longitudinal Scan Recording
Figure 3. Helical Scan Recording
Figure 4. Types of Mistracking for Helical Scan Recording
Figure 5. Longitudinal Recording
Analog versus Digital Storage
2.5 Magnetic Tape Recorders

3. Preventing Information Loss: Multiple Tape Copies

4. Life Expectancy: How Long Will Magnetic Media Last?
4.1 Tape Costs and Longevity
4.2 Practical Life Expectancies

5. How Can You Prevent Magnetic Tape from Degrading Prematurely?
5.1 Care and Handling
Frequent Access
Transportation of Magnetic Tape
5.2 Storage Conditions and Standards
Temperature and Relative Humidity
Figure 6. Temperature and Humidity Conditions and Risk of Hydrolysis Variations in Temperature and Humidity
Figure 7. Bad Tape Wind Examples
Dust and Debris
Figure 8. Size of Tape Debris Relative to the Tape/Head Spacing
Corrosive Gases
Storage Recommendations
Table 1. Current Recommendations for Magnetic Tape Storage
Table 2. Key Features of Access and Archival Storage of Magnetic Tape
Removal of Magnetic Tapes from Archival Storage
Table 3. Acclimation Times for Magnetic Media
Removed from Archival Storage
5.3 Refreshing of Tapes

Ampex Guide to the Care and Handling of Magnetic Tape
Recommended practices
Figure 9. Tape Debris
Tape handling
Rotary Head Recorders
Estimation of Magnetic Tape Life Expectancies (LEs)
Figure 10. Life Expectancies for a Hi Grade VHS Tape
Further Reading
Resources for Transfer and Restoration of Video and Audio Tape


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