Shari Theroux contributed “Archives are not a good place to eat,” to the list of what an archives is not.
Archivists, like conservators generally follow the rule of “do no harm” to the collections in their care. One easy way to do this is to prohibit food and drink in rooms where records are stored, processed and used by patrons.
The obvious damage comes from spillage onto documents that at worst would make them completely unreadable and at least deface them irreversibly. Mold can set up in wet documents rather quickly and spread to other documents. It is difficult and expensive to erradicate once it takes hold.
Food is prohibited because it can attract rodents and insects. Once insects have found their way into books, they can be removed through fumigation or freezing. Insects can eat their way through a collection rather quickly leaving only fragments behind.
Removing human food and drink from the archives prevents them from becoming the insects’ and rodents’ favorite snack bar.