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     Video Art / Media Art Preservation:  Studies and Suggestions
                     THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK

Magnetic Tape degradation

 Grossly speaking you can talk about 
     a) technical degradation,
     b) degradation by handling,
     c) degradation by storage and
     d) degradation through playback devices.
The following outline is but just some of the problems:

 

 a) “Technical” degradation of tape:

-          binder degradation

-          lubricant loss

-          magnetic particle instability

-          tape backing/substrate deformation

 

 b) Degradation by handling of tape:

-          dropping tape/cassette

-          contamination by dirt, dust, fingerprints, food, cigarette smoke, air pollution etc.

-          not acclimatised  to the playback environment

-          exposed to sunlight, water or other types of fluid

-          not rewinding tape after use

-          frequently accessed and played

 

c) Degradation by storage:

-          storage on radiators, in windows, on top of TV/monitor, playback machinery, magnetic sources

-          thermal conditions. storage at very high, very low and/or very variable temperature and/or humidity

-          fumigation conditions: storage in contaminated or dirty environment: indoor pollution (“carbonyl pollution”: formaldehyde, acetic/formic acid etc., pest infestation, fungus  etc.)

-          not stored in box/container

-          stored horizontally

 

 d) Degradation through playback devices

-          dirt can make debris/scratches

-          not correct mechanically aligned can tear/stretch tape and pack tape poorly

-      not correct electrically aligned can cause signal problems/inferior playback