In-Keeping

This post is by Anne Lane, Instructor for C2C’s Box-Making Workshop.

A stroll through Collections storage reveals two types of containers. The first is a part of the collection. It might be an artifact itself, such as a lap desk, or it might be a piece of original packing. The latter could be as mundane as a pasteboard box with faded printing, maybe with some sort of official stamp, the flaps loose or torn from careless opening or long use. It could be a velvet-lined box with slots for, say, brass and steel drafting instruments. Unscrew the tiny threaded steel capsule to reveal extra points and leads and those little threaded knobs for adjusting line widths on the beautiful ivory-handled ruling pens. Shift aside a small metal catch in the lid to reveal a compartment holding a brass triangle, a minutely etched ivory scale, a tiny protractor.

The other type of conatiner looks pretty dull. It tends to be of either grey or blue cardboard, sometimes with metal-reinforced corners. It might have a short or deep lid, it might have a drop front, it might stand upright for filing documents and photographs. It is made of a special material, free of the short-lived acidic components that make up most traditional packaging. It might even be made of corrugated plastic. It could have been custom-made to accommodate an odd-sized or fragile collections piece. If you open it, you might just find objects sitting in a box, but you are more likely to find at least acid-free tissue or foam padding, stacking trays or dividers.

You might even find my favorite type of container here. It houses a single artifact which might have several components. Perhaps it houses something that is very fragile, or even broken. Here you will find the full arsenal of a box- and mount-maker’s passion. Specially designed padding of foam or fiber-stuffed muslin, cleverly glued or sewn or tied in place to support the object in its original configuration. Foam blocks pinned or slotted in place, cotton ties, strategically placed supports. Drop-down sides and removable trays to keep you from having to handle the object when you want to look at it. Directions to tell you how to open the box, how to reveal the object, how to remove it from the mount if you must and how to get it all back together again.

These are our little secrets, the things the visitors never see, the labors of love we make when there are no exhibits to put up or interns to train or paperwork to mail. Will they marvel or scoff a hundred years hence when they follow the directions on the lid, lower the flaps, pull out the blocks, and find a perfectly-preserved treasure?

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About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on February 3, 2012, in collections access, collections care, Connecting to Collections, guest bloggers, storage, workshops and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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