From my recent research on nitrocellulose discs ("acetates", a
misnomer) and their deterioration, I suspect that VS and palmitic
acid (PA) share at least one thing in common - they are both
autocatalytic reactions (ie. VS and PA deterioration are
accelerated in the presence of acid, and VS and PA both produce
I conjecture that an ideal container for tapes would be an
acid-free cardboard box that is buffered. As a tape deteriorates
and produces acetic acid, the box absorbs and neutralizes the
acids with its buffer. This mitigates the autocatalytic nature
Lacking a buffer in plastic or metal containers, air circulation
is important to keep the concentration of acid down.
Given the prevalence of plastic and other semi-inert containers,
it might make sense to just place a piece of acid-free buffered
cardboard in with your tape, which will provide enough of a
buffer to protect the tape from itself.
Nothing like an extra line of defense. And its relatively
The Audio Archive
---- Original message ----
>Date: Fri, 9 Sep 2005 21:12:52 -0400
>From: "Richard L. Hess" <[log in to unmask]>
>Subject: [ARSCLIST] A tape Vinegar Syndrome experience
>To: [log in to unmask]
>An update on Vinegar Syndrome in audio tapes. More anecdotal evidence
>that helps support the well-known rule of storing film in vented cans.
>I received four reels of Kodak sound recording tape that were
>recorded in 1962 and 1963. All are Triacetate backing. Two are 1.0
>mil on 5-inch reels and two are 1.5 mil on 7-inch reels.
>All of the reels were very loosely wound. The two 7-inch reels were
>in plastic bags inside their boxes. One of them reeked of vinegar
>when I opened it and when I rewound it. I had to move away from the
>prep machine during initial rewind.
>It did not seem to suffer from any of the loss-of-lubricant we've
>started to see in Sony reel-to-reel tapes and 3M dictation cassettes
>The outside of the tape pack could be easily depressed 1/4 to 3/8 of
>an inch, the pack was so loose. I wonder if that much material was
>lost? The tape still played fine and appeared dimensionally stable,
>but this is as far gone as any I have seen judging from the odor.
>I have never seen this before with tapes stored in the more usual
>cardboard boxes without being sealed in a bag. Doug Nishimura of IPI
>has more examples than I, but I am concerned that we're going to
>start to see significant degradation of acetate-based tapes. The risk
>of this tape is growing, IMHO.
>I'm glad these are getting transferred. They are interviews with
>people who were at one of the Shaker communities in the early 1900s.
>Apologies for the cross posting. I'm not looking to get into a major
>discussion about this -- just a heads up for those who are keeping
>track of at-risk media. Probably if we do discuss it, it should be on
>AMIA-L as that is where most of the knowledgeable VS people reside
>(due to the issue surfacing in film archives a bit more than in tape
>archives). If you are interested in the list go to
>Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
>Media web: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/
>Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
>Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm