A while ago we were trying to come up with a new housing strategy for our papyri collection. We finally moved the project from the conceptual stage to the production stage last week!
The collection is currently housed in oversized boxes with only a slip of blotter or paper between the glass packets. The papyri “swim” around in the boxes and rub against each other and knock against the sides of the boxes. The arrangement makes finding a particular papyrus difficult, and can lead to damage as you have to shift the contents to find the one you want.
We needed a solution that would protect each individual papyrus, would be easy to find in the box, would be easy to transport through the stacks to the reading room, and that conveyed a message that these materials needed to be handled with care.
Our strategy is to make an individual folder for each item using two sheets of mat board that are hinged together with Tyvek tape. Inside the folder is a custom-fit Volara foam insert that fits snugly around the glass packet.
Each folder is labeled with a picture-label so that a quick visual match can be done at the desk to ensure the correct papyri is in the folder. In this image you can clearly see the shape of the papyrus in the photo above.
Each folder is cut to the size of the new boxes so that they don’t “swim” around in the box. Seven papyri fit inside a box, which makes these considerably less heavy than the old boxes. If an item was removed to an oversize box, we put a piece of blue-corrugated in its place with a note that it was moved.
The new boxes are temporarily labeled with a green sticky-note to identify the contents. We anticipate that some items will need to be moved to oversize boxes, and some shifting will have to occur as we go through the collection. We decided to make the labels at the end of the project when the physical arrangement was finalized. I expect that part to be pretty time consuming, but we will cross that bridge later.
We got through about 175 items on our first Boxing Day. The spreadsheet lists about 1800 papyri, but some have writing on both recto and verso and therefor were entered twice in our database. The other benefit to this project is we will have a complete inventory once we are done.