Tuesday, November 18, 2008

From the Preservation Lab

This past Friday and Saturday I attended the New England Archivists' fall meeting, held in Boston. The central theme of the meeting was preservation and the discussions ranged from traditional item-level preservation to collection-level digital preservation projects. I was excited to attend the Saturday morning discussion session titled: Storage Solutions for Prints and Negatives, facilitated by Martha Mahard, a faculty member from Simmons College. As a former student of Martha's I knew that it would be a lively discussion, but as a practicing preservation librarian, I had a specific storage question I hoped to have answered during the session.

My problem was this: the library's collection of 51 tin type photographs were in need of new housing and I wanted a professional opinion on what would be an appropriate housing solution. The tin types feature portraits of Massachusetts legislators from the 1860s, one of which is pictured above. The grid on which the tin type is pictured above is a one-half inch by one-half inch grid - yes, these photographs are only one inch tall and three-quarters of an inch wide.

The tin types currently are housed in specially made Mylar envelopes that have a small pocket built inside to house the portrait. Each envelope contains one portrait and all the envelopes are contained within two archival boxes, pictured below. The Mylar envelope is nice because it allows a user to view without touching the item. However, the Mylar is held together with double-sided tape that is failing due to the curves created by folding the Mylar. As the Mylar sides pulled apart from one another, the enclosure failed, leaving the portrait free to float around the envelope and become lodged in the sticky residue of the tape.

After discussing the situation with Martha in the NEA session, I formulated a storage plan. Each tin type will receive a custom-made four flap box built out of .010 folder stock with a pH of approximately 8.5. Each of the inside flaps will be the full length of the portrait, alleviating any concern about the flap becoming lodged between the portrait and the metal frame. Once the portrait is placed inside the box, each box will be place inside an individual acid-free folder, which in turn will be placed inside a new archival box. With this plan in place I began creating a template and prototype this morning and now have a work flow for creating these boxes. Stay tuned to the blog for pictures once the tin types have been rehoused.

I must say, it's kind of fun working in miniature for a change. Each box is so tiny and I am somewhat surprised by the cuteness of the finished product. Even the lab intern volunteered to make a few boxes after she saw the prototype. With fifty-one boxes to make, I have plenty of time to enjoy the smallness of this project.

- Lacy Crews, Preservation Librarian