These are general guidelines to improve short-term storage conditions for your tapes. If you plan long-term storage, and are rehabilitating an existing storage area or building a new one, you will need to do more research and might want to consider outside consultants. If you are investigating off-site storage, additional research will help you to evaluate your needs and the prospective sites. See the Resources section for suggestions.
Temperature and Humidity
Tapes should be kept in a cool, relatively dry environment. For access storage, which means you are taking tapes in and out of storage on a regular basis, the recommended range for temperature is 60 - 73?F and a relative humidity of between 20 - 30%. If you are storing at the lower end of the temperature range, the humidity can be at the higher end. If you store at the higher temperature, the humidity should be at the lower end of the range. For example, 68?F at 25% RH would be within range.
Storage guidelines for access storage should help keep tapes in a useable state for ten years. Archival storage recommends lower temperatures that will give tapes a longer shelf life and will drastically minimize further deterioration in older tapes. See Resources section for more information on long-term storage.
Avoid temperature and humidity fluctuations; a range of no more than 7?F is recommended. For fluctuations in relative humidity, recommendations vary from fluctuations of no more than 5% RH to fluctuations of no more that 20% RH.
Allow tapes and any equipment used with them to come to the ambient room temperature and humidity before you play them.
High humidity and temperatures can cause binder and mold growth. Thus, the lower your relative humidity the better; however very low humidity can create static which attracts dirt. See Dr. Peter Adelstein's article "Videotape Storage" in Playback: A Preservation Primer for Video in the Resources section.
Monitor the Storage Environment
Invest in a device to monitor the temperature and humidity, and set up a regular schedule for logging the information.
The Storage Room
It's preferable to have a room dedicated to storage because the environment is easier to control. Don't store tapes in areas that are subject to unexpected or uncontrolled extremes of temperature or humidity; avoid attics, areas near heating, plumbing or sprinkler systems, or lower floors, which may be prone to flooding. A windowless room is preferred; if your storage area has windows, be sure the tapes are not stored in direct sunlight. The room should be as free of dust as possible and easy to keep clean, without carpets, fabrics or exposed insulation. Allow no smoking, eating or drinking. Choose a well-insulated room with good air circulation; if possible air should be filtered. Room lights should be kept off when the room is not in use.
Store tapes on metal shelves; it is best if they are grounded. Wood isn't recommended because it is a fire hazard, can emit gases and has a tendency to hold moisture and provide a medium for fungus growth which will damage magnetic media. If the metal shelving has been used, check to be sure that magnetic book ends weren't used because they can magnetize the shelves. If the shelving is motorized, be sure that tapes are stored away from close contact with the motors because they are a source of magnetic fields. Be aware of static discharges with metal shelves if the environment if very dry; generally these discharges probably won't damage the magnetic material.
Store Tapes Upright
Store tapes vertically, in an upright position, supported by the hub. They should not be stored horizontally, laying flat on the side. Allow for air circulation around shelving.
Avoid Magnetic Fields
Damage is usually caused by direct exposure, exposure for long periods of time, and exposure to strong fields. It is best to avoid exposure. Don't leave or store tapes near magnetic fields created by motors, generators, television sets, elevator installations, headphones, speakers, microphones, airport security scanning systems, or magnets of any sort.
Separate Your Tapes
In an ideal situation, duplicate tapes and high quality masters would be stored in different locations, or at least in two different parts of a building. In case of fire, flood or similar catastrophes, you may not lose all existing copies of a tape.
Labels, Containers and Winding
See the section on "Care and Handling".
Resources on Storage - Publications and Sites
Fifer, Sally Jo, Tamara Gould, Luke Hones, Debbie Hess Norris, Paige Ramey and Karen Weiner. (eds.) Playback: A Preservation Primer for Video, San Francisco: Bay Area Video Coalition, 1998.
Murphy, William T. Television and Video Preservation 1997, Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1997. See the chapter "The Materials and their Preservation Needs" for a discussion on recommended temperature and humidity for tape. You can order the study from the Library of Congress.
Reilly, James M., Douglas W. Nishimura and Edward Zinn. New Tools for Preservation: Assessing Long-Term Environmental Effects on Library and Archives Collections.
SMPTE RP 103-1995 - Tape Care, Handling, Storage
SMPTE RP 190-1996 - Care and Preservation of Audio Magnetic Recordings.
Van Bogart, John. Magnetic Tape Storage and Handling: A Guide for Libraries and Archives. Provides guidance on how to care for these media to maximize their life expectancies. The paper was a joint project of the Council on Library and Information Services (CLIR), Commission on Preservation and Access, and National Media Lab, and is available at NML site. The report also contains links, a glossary, a bibliography and the Ampex Guide to the Care and Handling of Magnetic Tape.
Vitiello, Stephen, and Leanne Mella. "Facilities for Cleaning, Restoring, and Remastering Videotape." The Independent (October 1991).
Wheeler, Jim. "Videotape Storage: How to Make Your Videotapes Last for Decades...or Centuries." American Cinematographer, 64:1 (January 1983).
Wheeler, Jim: "Long Term Storage of Video Tape." SMPTE Journal (June 1983).
American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
The ANSI web site includes a searchable database of standards documents. An example of an ANSI standard is ANSI/PIMA IT9.23-1998: Imaging Materials - Polyester Base Magnetic Tape - Storage
Council on Library and Information Services (CLIR)
The web site includes abstracts and ordering information on an extensive list of publications
National Media Lab
National Technology Alliance Online provides access to the National Media Lab's Media StabilityTechnical Reports. Included is a report "Storage and Handling of Recorded Information
Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers
SMPTE is engaged in the development of standards and practices and engineering guidelines, serving all branches of motion-imaging including film, video, and multimedia.
RP 103-1995 - Tape Care, Handling, Storage
RP 190-1996 - Care and Preservation of Audio Magnetic Recordings.
Southeastern Library Network, Inc.
Solinet is a not-for-profit library cooperative for the southeastern United States and the Caribbean. As part of the section Related Internet Resources there are many links to such topics relating to environments and buildings, such as pest control, carpets and mold.