Preview of STASH Storage Tips session in Miami

STASH_logoSafe storage for collections is one of the primary goals of preventive care for collecting institutions, and individuals charged with collections care and cultural institutions often face challenges in designing storage and support systems for individual items or collections. There are few tasks more concrete and practical than devising a storage mount that preserves an object while making efficient use of an institution’s human, financial and material resources. Constructing a successful storage solution requires numerous choices regarding materials, techniques, time and skill.
In May 2014, FAIC, with funding from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, launched STASH (Storage Techniques for Art, Science and History collections), a web-based resource to share well-designed storage solutions. The site contains the original entries from the printed text, Storage of Natural History Collections: Ideas and Practical Solutions, originally published by the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), and has begun receiving new submissions, including storage projects that were presented last year at the first STASH Flash session as part of AIC’s 42nd Annual Meeting. The website project is interdisciplinary and the site’s editorial board is composed of representatives from a range of allied organizations
The 2015 STASH Flash session to be held at the Miami meeting on May 13, 4:30 – has an exciting lightening round of tips lined up.  Tips presented at the session will be formatted and appear on the website after the meeting.  We hope that you will join us to kick of the meeting with a practical take on storage and rehousing.  Read on to see what is in store….
Contributor(s): Angela Andres & Laura McCann
Institution: New York University Libraries, Barbara Goldsmith Preservation and Conservation Department
Collection Type: Rolled Archival Materials
This hanging housing system is designed for oversize low-use rolled items. Objects too large for flat files or unlikely to be accessed often can be rolled around an archival tube and suspended with S-hooks from cage in stack areas (or eye-hooks may be secured into wall if cage is not available). Pressure-mounted Ethafoam bumpers support the tubes and protect the rolled objects from pressure against wall or cage. S-hooks and bumpers can be easily shifted or removed as necessary.
Contributor(s):Andrew Hare
Institution: Smithsonian Institution, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Collection type: East Asian Paintings/Scrolls
Of great concern for the preservation of East Asian paintings is the damage caused by rolling scrolls around small diameter roller rods, a problem that typically results in severe creasing and pigment loss. This inherent vice in the design of Chinese and Japanese hanging and handscrolls can be greatly alleviated with the addition of a roller clamp, known in Japanese as a futomaki soejiku or simply futomaki. This roller clamp is closed around the roller rod of the scroll to at least double the diameter of the scroll when rolled. This simple and functional solution has the disadvantages of being made from an acidic, off-gassing l wood, can be quite heavy and is usually difficult and expensive to obtain in the West. Two alternative options are preservation rollers, developed within the Freer and Sackler Galleries’ East Asian Painting Conservation Studio. They are made from folded Mylar (polyester sheeting) or Ethafoam tubing covered with Stockinet. The Mylar preservation roller is best for handscrolls and smaller hanging scrolls. The Ethafoam preservation roller works best for larger scrolls. Both preservation rollers are made from inert, lightweight materials that are readily available in the West. With the instructions provided, conservators, volunteers, interns and fellows can easily produce these preservation rollers at a relatively low cost and greatly improve storage conditions for East Asian scrolls.
Contributor(s): William Bennett
Institution: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Conservation Specialist
Collection type: rolled oversize graphic recordings placed in a custom housing
Items of an unusual shape or size perpetually pose problems of storage and access for archives. One recent example from the Smithsonian Institution Archives is a collection of six rolls of oversize drawings—a set of graphic recordings of planning sessions, which ultimately resulted in the formation of the current strategic vision of the Smithsonian. Neither flat nor offsite storage was possible due to the unusual dimensions, necessitating a custom housing that would remain in the Archives’ onsite storage. The drawings were wrapped around archival cores fitted with corrugated board feet to increase stability and protect the bottom edges; these rolls were placed into a custom two-piece box, made from more corrugated board. Both the lower portion and the lid are composed of two pieces attached with mitered flaps, with each piece pre-scored to ensure clean folds. Time will tell whether this housing solution functions as well as hoped. While this solution was not ideal, it is effective and was an excellent opportunity to experiment with custom enclosures.

Contributor(s):Jennifer Lewis & Nancy Lev-Alexander
Institution: Library of Congress/ Conservation Division / Head, Collections Stabilization Section
Collection type: Pre-Columbian inorganic ethnographic items
The Library of Congress holds relatively small but highly significant collections of 3-dimensional artifacts from the J.I. Kislak Collection that present challenges for storage and research use. Unlike museums which often have customized furnishings and specialized staff required for safe storage and handling, the Library must accommodate these objects among its standard shelving and provide housings that protect the object when handled by curators or researchers with a wide range of object-handling experience and skill. Staff from the Collection Stabilization Section have designed a storage solution based on customized inner fittings applied within paperboard boxes that were made either by hand or on automated equipment depending on size. The inner fittings created of safe materials such as alkaline board, polyester batting, Ethafoam planking, polypropylene fabric, and Tyvek, provide support and cushioning around the object while creating malleable cavities or drop or removable walls that allow easy viewing and access to the object. This presentation will demonstrate how this housing solution has been customized to provide protection for a wide range of Library objects. Additional information will demonstrate strategies for protecting larger pre-Columbian ceramic objects without full boxing within gasketed cabinets. The same housing solution has also been applied to artifacts from the Alan Lomax collection including sound recording equipment and other tools of his ethnographic sound recording work.
Contributor(s): Stephanie Gowler & Susan Russick
Institution: Northwestern University Library
Collection Type: Housing objects on library shelving
As a purpose-built library, Northwestern’s shelves are integrated into the structure of the building.  This means we can never adjust the position of the shelving units. Irregularly sized or shaped materials still need to fit in sequence in the collection. Examples include letters written on petri dishes which must fit into a document box with other correspondence, a scroll that needs to be stored vertically on the bookshelf, and puppets from a 1960s television show.  Our protocol begins with compiling a reference sheet of shelf sizes and the maximum sizes of boxes that can fit on those shelves. Labeling preferences for each curator are also recorded.   The exterior of boxes are standardized while the interior is customized. Curatorial and use patterns also influence housing decisions.  This presentation will show housings used for books, papers and objects at Northwestern.
Contributor(s):Angela Yvarra McGrew
Institution: Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Contract Conservator
Collection type: Archaeological and ethnographic art, from Africa and the Americas
The goal of the project is to re-house all of the African and Ancient American Collection to create layers of visibility with researchers in mind so that direct handling is only necessary in special cases. Open shelving requires that each box will have a lid. A window is provided to prevent packing being taken apart to confirm the contents. The boxes take into account the potential for earthquakes in this region but are not meant for travel/shipping.
Contributor(s): Rebecca Newberry
Institution: Science Museum of Minnesota
Collection type: Drop-front boxes for Natural History objects and specimens
Custom made drop front boxes are ideal for housing fragile objects stored on open shelves. The front of the box is designed to fold open from the bottom, allowing free access to the object stored within. The drop front has flaps which are fastened to the side of the box with envelope-style string and button closures. This system is more reliable than adhesive hook and loop (Velcro) fasteners commonly used. The boxes can be made from either corrugated cardboard or corrugated plastic.
Contributor(s): Rebecca Newberry
Institution: Science Museum of Minnesota/Conservator
Collection type: boxes for natural history
Double scored folds in corrugated plastic boxes with attached lids: Corrugated plastic boxes with attached lids are useful for frequently accessed objects. Since the lid cannot be separated from the box, it cannot be misplaced. It is important to allow the attached lid to fold back completely for best access. The lid fold is scored along the interior and the exterior flutes. This double scored fold allows the lid to fold back, leaving the top of the box clear for object access.
Contributor(s):Gretchen E. Anderson & Deborah G. Harding
Institution: Carnegie Museum of Natural
Collection type: Microclimate storage for archaeological metals
The CMNH Anthropology Department is in the beginning phase of a major NEH funded reorganization of collections storage. One of the first projects is to improve storage conditions for small archaeological metals. Thirty years ago these had been placed in plastic bags and Rubbermaid™ containers with silica gel (which had not been reconditioned since the original storage was developed). Plastic bags and polyethylene foam padding were all that protected these fragile objects. Some were stored in Masonite™ and wood drawers, with only a thin layer of foam between them and the wood. The new storage project was the perfect opportunity to apply new methods. The new system had to provide better physical support and organization for the collection, as well as buffering fluctuating relative humidity and protecting the sensitive collection from contamination. The new storage solution is compact, simple and cost effective.
Contributor(s): Alison Reppert Gerber
Institution: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture
Collection type: 16” lacquer transcription audio discs
In the fall of 2014, the National Museum of African American History and Culture prepared 24 audio discs of varying formats for travel in order to digitize their rare audio content. Five of these discs exhibited varying degrees of delamination and required innovative packing and long-term storage solutions. First, we created a simple clamshell-style box from archival blue board. Using Volara® polyethylene foam cut into circles (6” in diameter) and wooden dowels wrapped in Teflon® tape, we were able to secure the disc in the box while suspending the grooved portion of the disc, which was the primary area suffering from delamination of the nitrocellulose lacquer coating. By adding Velcro® closures to the exterior of the box, it could safely be transported vertically to reduce surface tension on the disc. All five discs were given their own enclosure and then placed into one large box for stability and transport.
Contributor(s): Angela Andres & Laura McCann
Institution: New York University Libraries, Barbara Goldsmith Preservation and Conservation Department
Collection Type: Panorama photographs and/or maps
A simple-to-construct modular system for dividing flat file drawers to house panorama photographs (or other long/narrow items such as maps or broadsides). Dividers of E-flute board or 20-point board are held in place by panels of the same type of board and can be fitted to either x or y orientation. Easy to remove, add, and alter divider sections, this is an easy and low-cost solution to the difficulty of housing these odd-shaped items.
Contributor(s): Angela Andres & Laura McCann
Institution: New York University Libraries, Barbara Goldsmith Preservation and Conservation Department
Collection Type: ephemera
Housing for a collection of political buttons using stacked placards of Volara-lined B-flute board. B-flute board is lined on both sides with thin Volara (tacked at corners with linen thread, eliminating the need for) and buttons are affixed to the placards with their own fasteners or, when fasteners are missing or damaged, placed in small poly zipper bags and tacked to placards with linen thread. Placards are stacked inside standard archival document boxes that integrate well in existing shelf space.
Contributor(s): Allison Rabent & Jane Klinger
Institution: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Collection Type: Drawer Grid, textiles
As in many other museums, much of the textile collection at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is stored in flat-file drawers. In preparation for moving the collection to a new facility in 2017, current storage methods are being re-evaluated.  A new housing system was needed to organize and provide stability and protection for armbands and badges of various shapes and sizes. Part of the challenge was to ensure the artifacts could also be housed and organized by accession number. In order to address these issues, an adjustable grid system was created. Dividers made of corrugated blue board were cut to size and modified to create a stable grid that could be placed within the drawer, allowing the textiles to rest safely within individual squares. By adjusting the size and number of dividers, this system can be easily modified to accommodate for storage of a variety of flat media.
Contributor(s): Stephanie Gowler & Susan Russick
Institution: Northwestern University Library
Collection Type: Library and Archival Materials
This presentation will describe the use of the smartphone/tablet app Notability to facilitate documentation and labeling during a large-scale paintings collection survey. Each painting was photographed with the smartphone/tablet camera, imported into Notability, and annotated with a color-coded key to indicate major types and levels of damage. These annotated images were then incorporated into an existing documentation database. Print-outs of the annotated images were attached to wrapped paintings as caution labels, alerting anyone handling the paintings to the most vulnerable areas. This proved to be an efficient way to create on-the-fly condition notes and produce a quick visual reference for future conservators. This method could easily be adapted for triage in disaster response situations, large-scale surveys across multiple storage locations, or anytime there is a need for labels cautioning handlers about an object’s condition.