Detailed view of four-flap secured within the custom housing, April 19, 2019, courtesy of Alison Reppert Gerber, Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Fitting Unusual Collections into Standard Boxes

In celebration of Preservation Week, we’ll take a look at a recently created custom housing for a fragile fabric-covered box found within Accession 18-009.

Happy Preservation Week! Recently, I had the pleasure of creating a custom housing for a unique object found within Accession 18-009, Frank A. Taylor Papers, 1835-2003. Since space management is always something we take into consideration when rehousing collections, I decided to create a housing that could easily fit within our standard record storage boxes.

The papers contained within the small, fabric-covered, paper-lined box were removed and placed in a four-flap enclosure. Due to the fragility of the box, I knew I wanted to store the contents separately so researchers could easily access the papers without handling the box. However, I still wanted to keep the items together to maintain the association.

Image of an envelope inside of a folder. A box rests above the folder. The envelope perfectly fits i

Using archival blueboard, I began creating a custom enclosure that would hold all three items – the paper contents, the box base, and the box lid – in a vertical manner, so that it could sit like a folder within a record storage box. The base of the tray was cut to the same dimensions as a legal-size folder. I then began building up the sides and supports of the tray using pieces of blueboard, until the board was level with the height of the four-flap.

Close-up level image of a book in an envelope fit inside a a cut folder.

On the right side of the enclosure, I created two sections that would hold the box. The blueboard was built up in the same way as with the four-flap. Since the box lid was much shallower in depth than the box base, I added Volara® polyethylene foam to its section to build up the height and add cushioning.

Aerial view of the envelope in the housing unit. In this photo, there is also a piece of foam in the

Due to the friability of the paper lining in the box and lid, I covered the entire right side of the tray with Tyvek® in order to create a smooth surface for the box and lid to rest against. This will reduce friction and potential loss of the lining. The Tyvek was secured using double-sided tape.

Image of a flat box with two smaller box shapes cut into it.

This tray was then placed inside a blueboard cover. Using three pieces of blueboard – two for the covers and one for the spine – I created a book-like structure to fully encapsulate the inner tray. This would hold all the contents in place once it was stored vertically within the record storage box.

Image of a flat box that includes spaces for an envelope and two other objects.

For archival collections, fitting unusual collections within standard size boxes can be a common occurrence. But with a little creativity and thinking outside the box, you can safely fit those collections back in your box!

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