Northwestern University Library Boxing Protocol
At Northwestern University Library the collections are changing. More objects are being acquired and curators want them to be interfiled with the books and papers on the shelf. Housings are also changing as new products are available and are being used in new ways. Unfortunately, the library building, with structurally integrated shelves that can’t be moved, is not changing.
This situation has led us to develop a boxing protocol which takes into account the object needs, storage location, use and marking. While neither the protocol nor the boxes produced are groundbreaking, considering these factors before beginning a project has resulted in safe, easy to manage and versatile housings for the collection.
Find a downloadable PDF of our boxing protocol here: gowlerrussick_boxingprotocol_printable
Photo Credits: Northwestern University Preservation Department
Irregular shape or multi-part object need to conform to book shelves
Goal: Make it a file folder.
Goal: Make it rectangular for vertical storage on book shelf.
Goal: Keep sets together.
Fragile or Reactive Materials
Goal: Physical and chemical protection.
Goal: Include chemical absorbent in housing such as SilverSafe, Artsorb, or microchamber board.
Object may damage other materials
Goal: Isolate to keep other collection items safe from physical damage, chemical damage, prior pest activity, mold.
Object may be dangerous to people
Goal: Keep staff and users safe from toxic materials that are part of the object like lead or mercury, or have become part of the object like mold or pest control poison residues (arsenic).
While less common in library collections, some objects can present hazards to people. Materials such as lead type, toxic pigments, mold, and pest control poisons may need additional consideration when housing.
Create table of all set measurements
Goal: Create table recording all shelf sizes, maximum box sizes, standard cataloging sizes.
After determining the object’s needs, we identify the storage location. We maintain a table that records all measurements for the various shelving and filing furniture around the building. More important than the actual shelf size is the maximum size of a box that will fit on that shelf. For example, a narrow box that is 40” in length could sit on this shelf, but a wider box would have a maximum length of less than 35”.
Determine your standard sizes
Goal: Utilize standard sizing to avoid change in location or recataloging after housing, save time and money, avoid reverse pyramids of boxes on shelves. Shelf and object dimensions are used to determine standard sizes for each housing project.
Goal: Allow for ease of use and return of objects with all parts intact.
Goal: Keep objects visible and in order without individual handling.
Mark Objects and Boxes
Goal: Permanent and “reversible” marks on objects and housings.
On object: Ownership, call number, donor information.
On box: Instructions on handling, warnings, sponsored conservation treatment or other notices.
Goal: Easy identification and ordering of similar, unmarked objects
Goal: Handling directions for complicated housings
Thanks to the many people whose organizational, housing and marking ideas have been used and adapted to illustrate this protocol.