Preservation Lab at the National Archives– Boxing our Treasures


What we call boxing here is really protective
housing. And a box is sort of like a microenvironment that protects the items within it. We have
all kinds of things that require custom housing and this particular item is from the Office
of Legal Advisor files. It’s a pistol. And it’s set in a well that is lined with a
soft foam so that the gun can be lifted in and out with being abraded. Because it’s
customized, each one’s a little different. Things we box are items that you just can’t
buy a box for. We can make different types of boxes all on the same board. This machine
starts them and does them all at once. It’s pretty amazing to watch. This is a digital
measuring device. It’s on a cart because we can move it to the stacks where ever we
need to measure a book. We have the book here, we place it against the little barrier. And
this device here, this is on a grid system. You take it up to where the book is and you
press a button. And the spine. And then it’s on the computer and then the next step is
laying it out. I’ll go into the database and look for all of the volumes that he made.
You can rotate this whole box any way you want to situate it on this board. So what
I’m trying to do is maximize the use of the board. I may want to try to get another
box on that side of the sheet. We have specification for our board and papers and glues and everything
we use in housings. It’s usually got a high content of cotton, acid free, lignin free,
fold endurance, burst endurance, things like that. And this is the Indian treaty of 1761
from the governor of Louisiana and its agreement with the Cherokee chief Okana Stote. Because
of the distortion we didn’t want it to have to touch the lid of this folder, so I made
a sink mat. Smaller items usually are housed underneath. This is a little four-flap folder
box that we make for items that are going to be housed in a more sturdy box. Close it
up. Before we had to basically measure by hand using a measuring tape and hand making
boxes. About sixty percent of our holdings need some level of preservation. But a great
many of that can be solved by proper housing. The box provides a lot in terms of caring
for the collection.

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