Imagine sticking the Dead Sea Scrolls together with Sellotape

It always seems such a simple notion: you have some paper and you want to store it.  So you put it in boxes, store it, and get it out again when you need it.

Which is by and large what people have always done.

The problem is that what can seem a good idea at the time can turn out to be a disaster a little bit later.

Take, for example, the Dead Sea Scrolls.

These dated from around 300 BC to 70 AD and they survived because the caves in Qumran in which they were located, on the shore of the Dead Sea, were incredibly dry.

The first scroll scholars – who were all eminent experts drawn from various research institutes – worked at piecing together the fragments, and are generally considered to have done amazing work in making sense of the find.


As these self-same scholars found fragments that they thought were related, they stuck them together with sticky tape (which had just been invented).

The trouble is that although the tape clearly made their lives easier and was thought to be a great bonus in their work, the research team had no idea that the chemicals in the adhesive worked their way into the organic material, stained it and wiped out letters.

But that was not the only damage.  In the 1970s, scholars pieced together fragments using rice paper and plastic material, which caused additional damage.

My point is that, even when the world’s top experts are at work, storing and working with paper-based products can be problematic.

Which is why simplicity is often the best. A stable dry environment into which you can place all the materials you want stored, and which can be retrieved by you and your colleagues – but by no one else.

Keep it simple, and it will be safe.

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