What Is Archival Paper and What Is It Used For?
Archival paper can be made from a variety of materials, such as wood pulp, cotton, rice, grasses and even elephant poo. (That’s right, there is paper made of elephant poo!) These materials are typically broken down either chemically or mechanically into a cellulose fiber base. It’s in how the materials are processed that allows us to have such a variety of papers to choose from.
So, what exactly is archival paper?
Archival paper is a permanent, durable, acid-free paper, intended to last a very long time. It is typically broken down into two categories, conservation-grade and archival-grade.
- Conservation grade is commonly made from buffered wood-based pulp and is not suitable for long-term storage, as the alkaline reserve may become depleted over time, allowing it to deteriorate.
- Archival grade is a cotton rag paper made from cotton pulp. It is also sometimes known as museum grade or museum quality. It is the most archival option in terms of stability for preservation and long-term storage.
Unfortunately, there is no universal definition of how long an archival print should last. The level of permanence is determined by the paper used, the inks used, and how the prints are stored and shown. Here are a few key factors from the established criteria from the international standards ISO 11108 which qualifies paper to be Archival grade.
- Paper is acid-free (or neutral pH above 7) and lignin free
- Contains no unbleached cotton
- Free of any optical brightening agents (OBAs)
How does this benefit you as an artist or printer?
There is a reason why archival-grade is also known as museum-grade or museum quality. Simply put, archival grade paper is superior in quality and stability compared to other paper types, particularly in fine art. An archival print is designed to last a century — or longer.
That is exactly what Museo offers with our coated archival cotton rag paper. Fine art paper crafted to the highest of standards for long-term life and galley use. Each award-winning paper has been meticulously designed to give you the color depth, density, gamut, and tonal range you seek.
Most of Museo’s cotton rag papers are considered Archival grade, and can be found right here. If you’re interested in ordering a sample pack, find our diverse selection here.