Rehousing is a key part of conservation. But why is it so important? Find out in this week’s blog from Special Collections Conservator, Emily…
We recently received a large number of drop spine boxes to house the Laing Western manuscript collection. This was a part of a month-long project to conserve this collection, which you can read more about by following this link. These boxes are handmade to match the exact dimensions of the book. Not only do they look great on the shelves, they also provide excellent protection for the books. However, they are relatively expensive and time consuming to make. So the creation of these boxes is often outsourced, and reserved for our most important collections.
We use a range of boxing solutions for our books, and the type of box chosen depends on the condition of the collection, the quantity of books that require rehousing and the budget available. Below are some examples of the book boxes we use to house our collections.
Good housing is essential to prolonging the useable life of our collections. It protects the item from accidental damage whilst in storage and prevents scraping of the book covers as they are being taken off and replaced on the shelf. Boxing also protects collection material from incidental light damage. Extensive exposure to light causes media to fade and paper to bleach or darken. By storing collection items in boxes, it reduces the amount of light falling on the objects which occurs when the lights in the store room are turned on to access other items. Since light damage is irreversible and cumulative, this is vitally important. Potentially damaging dust can also be prevented from accumulating on the item through boxing. You can read more on the dangers of dust here.
Good housing also provides a barrier to changes in the environment. Fluctuating temperature and relative humidity cause collection items to expand and contract, which results in micro stresses within the item, which will eventually weaken it. Although the environment in our store rooms is controlled and constantly monitored to ensure the conditions don’t exceed the ideal parameters, boxes provide an added layer of protection and keep conditions immediately surrounding the item even more stable. Finally, in an emergency situation, such as a flood or fire, boxes protect the collection items by absorbing excess water and protecting them from smoke damage.
As you can see, this simple conservation step has multiple benefits, and by boxing clever, we can ensure our collections will be fighting fit for years to come.
Special Collections Conservator