In my last post, I mentioned that I had been preparing to undertake a small project and that I would share images here once the work was complete. Back in July, I wrote about seven textile swatches from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that are one component of a small collection of objects. I conjectured that the core of that collection was assembled during Wellington’s American centennial celebrations in 1876. The project I finished yesterday was the construction of a customized archival storage box to house the entire grouping of materials.
I purchased a standard archival storage box from a known preservation supply company. I then laid out all the objects and decided that in order to fit them comfortably inside the box, I would need to construct a two-layer support structure inside of it. The larger, more three-dimensional objects would rest on a removable tray in the bottom of the box, while the flatter textiles would be elevated on a second removable tray above.
After laying out the objects on two trays (cut from acid free, corrugated board), I cut out eighteen one-inch strips of a chemically stable corrugated plastic sheeting called coroplast. The strips were then adhesed together into two columns of nine strips each. These columns were secured inside the archival box, to provide the support structure for the upper tray.
The image above shows the lower tray placed inside the box. The coroplast supports are visible at the top and bottom. The upper tray, holding the textiles, will sit on top of these supports once it is placed in the box. You can see that I have put tabs, made of an inert plastic called mylar, on either end of tray for easy removal.
When thinking about how to build the box, I knew that I wanted to devise a method of displaying all the objects that would minimize the need to handle them individually. Pulling objects in and out of overly tight enclosures sometimes causes more damage than if they had been left unsecured. I settled on using transparent mylar strips to attach all but one of the items to the blue board. They can be easily removed if necessary, but as they are, all the information on the identifying cards can be read without any touching being required.
To secure each textile, I cut small slits on either side of it, then ran a strip of mylar through the slits and fastened both ends on the back of the board. With just that minimal amount of intervention, the textiles are immobilized, even if the board is turned upside down. In the image above, all but one of the textiles have already been secured with mylar; the slits for the final and largest of the fragments are still visible.
Here we see both trays completed, with tabs attached to each, ready for final assembly inside the archival box. Also visible in this image is the tallest of all the objects in the collection, a small round keepsake box housed on the bottom tray. In that instance, rather than trying to secure the keepsake box with mylar, I decided instead to make three small “bumpers” out of scrap coroplast, which I wrapped in a soft Tyvek tape so that they would not scratch the object, should the archival box ever be unexpectedly jostled.
Finally, tray one sits securely on top of tray two, with all objects having plenty of space and air circulation. I intentionally purchased an archival box that had passed the P.A.T., or Photographic Activity Test, meaning that once the lid is closed, these objects are protected from future damage caused by light exposure. They are also protected from dust and other atmospheric pollutants. With any luck, they should still be around for Wellington’s quadricentennial!