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Northwestern University Library Boxing Protocol

Purpose

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

Author(s)

Stephanie Gowler
Project Conservator
Northwestern University Library
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston, Illinois 60208
847-467-4469
stephanie.gowler@northwestern.edu
 
Susan Russick
Special Collections Conservator
Northwestern University Library
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston, Illinois 60208
847-491-3840
susan-russick@northwestern.edu
 

Photo Credits: Northwestern University Preservation Department

Publication: 2016 

 

Description

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Irregular shape or multi-part object need to conform to book shelves

Goal: Make it a file folder.

This irregularly shaped and multi-part letter written on a petri dish from Nam June Paik to John Cage needed to be interfiled with other correspondence in a legal size document box.

This irregularly shaped and multi-part letter written on a petri dish from Nam June Paik to John Cage needed to be interfiled with other correspondence in a legal size document box.

This glorified folder made of blueboard and Volara with a Velcro closure is stored vertically, like a file folder in sequence with the rest of the correspondence.

This glorified folder made of blueboard and Volara with a Velcro closure is stored vertically, like a file folder in sequence with the rest of the correspondence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goal: Make it rectangular for vertical storage on book shelf.

This Ester Scroll needed to fit onto the shelf vertically like a book.  The interior of a Kasebox was fitted with slots to hold the rolling rods and are secured by spacers in the lid, when closed.

This Ester Scroll needed to fit onto the shelf vertically like a book. The interior of a Kasebox was fitted with slots to hold the rolling rods and are secured by spacers in the lid, when closed.

 

Goal: Keep sets together.

These duck puppets used in a 1960s TV show are housed with their accoutrements.  If a piece is missing, the housing will make it obvious.

These duck puppets used in a 1960s TV show are housed with their accoutrements. If a piece is missing, the housing will make it obvious.

 

Fragile or Reactive Materials

Goal: Physical and chemical protection.

Fragile and reactive materials such as parchment, books with historic paper covers and materials prone to chemical reaction are also given special consideration.  This collection of parchment documents from the 13-1400s sits in layered folders.  Mat board is under the parchment, while the seals are surrounded by Volara padding.

Fragile and reactive materials such as parchment, books with historic paper covers and materials prone to chemical reaction are also given special consideration. This collection of parchment documents from the 13-1400s sits in layered folders. Mat board is under the parchment, while the seals are surrounded by Volara padding.

 

Goal: Include chemical absorbent in housing such as SilverSafe, Artsorb, or microchamber board.

When chemically reactive materials are present, such as the tarnishing silver foil used for stamping this book, a chemical absorbent can be included in the housing.  The cards that line this traditional drop spine box can be easily detached and replaced when exhausted.

When chemically reactive materials are present, such as the tarnishing silver foil used for stamping this book, a chemical absorbent can be included in the housing. The cards that line this traditional drop spine box can be easily detached and replaced when exhausted.

 

Object may damage other materials

Goal: Isolate to keep other collection items safe from physical damage, chemical damage, prior pest activity, mold.

Housings are used to isolate objects that could damage other materials, such as this chained book, which could scratch adjacent materials.

Housings are used to isolate objects that could damage other materials, such as this chained book, which could scratch adjacent materials.

This drop spine box, fitted with an additional flap, also protects the binding from the chain.

This drop spine box, fitted with an additional flap, also protects the binding from the chain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

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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.

 

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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. 

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Goal:  Allow for ease of use and return of objects with all parts intact.

Our Fava masks are the only materials in Special Collections to circulate.

Our Fava masks are the only materials in Special Collections to circulate.

The handles are laced through box tops to keep parts of the housing together and make them easy to carry.

The handles are laced through box tops to keep parts of the housing together and make them easy to carry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goal:  Keep objects visible and in order without individual handling.

These coffin plates from the Death Collection are displayed on trays that fit into standard sized boxes.  Because of the trays, the objects are visible, in order, and do not require individual handling.

These coffin plates from the Death Collection are displayed on trays that fit into standard sized boxes. Because of the trays, the objects are visible, in order, and do not require 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.

We mark objects and housings in several ways.  The old, inconsistent, pencil inscriptions on these cuneiform tablets were superseded by paper labels with the ownership and call number information.

We mark objects and housings in several ways. The old, inconsistent, pencil inscriptions on these cuneiform tablets were superseded by paper labels with the ownership and call number information.

 

Goal: Easy identification and ordering of similar, unmarked objects

These objects are not directly labeled or marked.  The folders and boxes bear ownership, item identification, other information.

These objects are not directly labeled or marked. The folders and boxes bear ownership, item identification, other information.

Photographs used on labels allow browsing in the stacks without opening boxes.

Photographs used on labels allow browsing in the stacks without opening boxes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goal: Handling directions for complicated housings

We put a lot of thought into the creation of our boxes and always try to make handling intuitive. This box required handling instructions.

We put a lot of thought into the creation of our boxes and always try to make handling intuitive. This box required handling instructions.

 It was produced for a stained glass and wood award and was given a “sewing machine” style of box, where labeling on both the interior and exterior was needed.

It was produced for a stained glass and wood award and was given a “sewing machine” style of box, where labeling on both the interior and exterior was needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Thanks to the many people whose organizational, housing and marking ideas have been used and adapted to illustrate this protocol.

 

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