A goal of utmost importance to museums and libraries is preventing deterioration of the materials in their collections. Whether the work is preventive from the very start with a new object, or reactive to mitigate any further damage to an object that has already aged, the information in this section will increase your knowledge and recognition of the multiple deterioration pathways possible for digitally printed materials and is critically important.
Digitally printed materials share many deterioration effects with traditional prints, although the actual mechanisms behind those manifestations can be quite different. Digital prints also have unique decay manifestations such as bleed and smudging that do not occur with traditional prints. Below are pictures that link to discussions of the various types of deterioration that might be found in a collection of digitally printed materials.
Because the specific types of decay are very dependent upon the printing technology and materials used to create the print itself, it is extremely important to know as closely as possible which technology was used in the creation process (see Identification). Of course, the environmental conditions in the storage, display, and usage areas also play a critical role. For example, light can be quite detrimental to silver-halide photographs but will have a much lesser effect on pigment inkjet prints. On the other hand, atmospheric pollution can be a major problem for inkjet prints but not be a factor for the silver-halide photographic prints. These examples clearly illustrate why a strong understanding of the environmental, display, and usage stresses and the different print materials will be critical to anticipating and mitigating the various deterioration effects.