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

What can go wrong with magnetic tape?

 Grossly speaking you can talk about
     a) technical degradation
     b) degradation by handling
     c) degradation by storage and
degradation through playback devices.

 I shall try to outline 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 acclimatized  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

 Well – this is not a comprehensive survey. If you want a more detailed and technical check you might for example find it in John W. C. Van Bogart: “Magnetic Tape Storage and Handling. A Guide for Libraries and Archives” published jointly by the American CLIR/Council on Library and Information Records and NML/National Media Laboratory in 1995. You can download the guide from the Internet: