Category Archives: Boxing Day

Finishing A Three-Year Long Project: Priceless!

papyri afterLong time readers will remember that almost three years ago we embarked on a project to rehouse our papyri collection. It began with an idea and a prototype in 2010. When the renovation project was announced, we had to begin in earnest. That was in February 2012. This week we labeled the boxes and I’m calling the project done!* You can see more images from this project on Flickr.

This project was particularly interesting for the lab, it was the first real collaborative, large-scale boxing project that we attempted. Everyone in the lab helped with different stages of boxing.

  • Grace imaged the papyri for the labels
  • Tedd made the labels
  • Jennifer managed the supplies
  • Jennifer cut down pieces of board and Volara foam before boxing day (or we had our students to do it)
  • Everyone in the lab assembled the packets on boxing day
  • Jennifer and Beth met with Rubenstein Technical Services and Research Services staff to discuss how we would label the boxes
  • Jennifer made labels for the new boxes, and she and I put on the new labels this week.

It really was a team effort, and I am so proud of the Conservation staff for getting it done on time and on budget. They look great, and by all accounts Rubenstein staff have used them with great success.

I gave a tip at this year’s AIC Book and Paper Group Tip Session on this project. The presentation, housing instructions and picture label instructions are all available online.

*We have some data clean up to do, but that will be done shortly. “Close enough for conservation,” as my chemistry teacher used to say.

1091 Project: The Plain Brown Wrapper Edition

1091 graphicThis month on the 1091 Project we highlight those materials that come to the lab that some would say are explicit or offensive and shouldn’t be in a library, but in the context of our collections they are important materials that deserve the same attention as any other. These materials cross multiple academic themes including political science, art and art history, religion, social science, etc. I am a firm believer in collecting these things because they are an important window into our culture and society. Yet if a VIP tour is coming through the lab, I don’t necessarily want to have them out on the bench.

Some materials in the Human Rights Archives fit this description because those fighting against human rights often use hate speech and violence to express their viewpoint. We recently worked on a collection of materials from a deceased member of a certain fraternal hate organization. This collection included his membership card and several group photographs from conventions of the membership. These pictures are not dissimilar from what a group picture taken at a library convention looks like, except of course for the clothing they are wearing, which is rather distinctive. These materials are unsettling to me not in content per se but in the their ordinariness.

Last month Grace worked on preparing the Musee de Horreurs for digitization and exhibit. This collection of political caricatures was published in 1889-1900 in response to the Dreyfus Affair. While many of these materials are disturbing to see, they contain information that, in the context of the collection, sheds light on many aspects of French society at the turn of the 20th century. As objects they are beautifully rendered and printed, as social commentary they are incredibly effective albeit quite offensive.

Musee de Horreurs
Treatment image of one print from the Musee de Horreurs.

For the past few months we have been making enclosures for the Sallie Bingham Center’s Drewey Wayne Gunn and Jacques Murat Collection of Gay American Pulps. These materials date primarily from the 1970’s and were printed on low quality paper with very cheaply produced paperback bindings. The content, though sexually graphic, makes sense in the context of the Bingham Center’s collection and is very valuable to researchers. We are not boxing these materials because of what they are but because, like any other brittle paperback, they need enclosures to keep them protected on the shelf and during transportation.

gunn collection
Volumes in the Gunn collection before boxing (above) and after (below).

HOM provides us with a lot of extraordinarily graphic material that is also historic and very educational on many levels. I think my favorite items that have been in the lab recently are the medical flap books. Erin worked on these to get them ready for exhibit, and her treatments generated what we like to call, “the best before treatment image ever.”

Witkowski, “Human Anatomy and Physiology” pt. 7; before treatment (verso).

Context is everything but we can still have a sense of humor about the collections we encounter! Let’s see what materials Parks Library Preservation is working on that are similar to these.

1091 Project: From Art To Eyeballs

1091 graphicThis month on the 1091 Project we are highlighting the non-book, non-paper items that come to the conservation lab for evaluation and rehousing. In our collections we have the usual amounts of prints, drawings, paintings and various other kinds of artwork. But we also have hanks of famous-people’s hair, pink felt dragons, christening gowns, weather vanes, plaster death masks, roll-playing figurines, shaving mugs, poison arrows…you name it, we likely have it. We have several items in the lab right now that fall into this category.

In The Lab For Enclosures

Our History of Medicine Collection provides endless challenges including these hand-blown glass eyeballs. They are so lovely and delicate, and a little creepy (the eyes seem to follow you like the Picture of Dorian Grey).

glass eyes
Glass eyes from the History of Medicine Collection.

Also from HOM is this 18th Century screw-barrel microscope in a shagreen (skate skin) case. We just started making these nifty picture-labels for objects that we put in boxes. It is a quick way to identify what should be in the box, and if the item isn’t in the box, you know what to look for.

Screw barrel microscope in shagreen case from the History of Medicine Collection.

Also in the lab is this Memento Mori, a lovely and delicate ivory carving of a contemplative skeleton who we have nicknamed “Jack.”

memento mori
Ivory memento mori.

HOM isn’t the only collection with fascinating non-book items. Check out this wonderful U.S. patent model of a continuous cigarette rolling machine dating from 1876. It is about two feet long and one foot high, and all the moving parts work.

cigarette rolling machine
Continuous cigarette rolling machine patent model.

If you are interested in seeing previous boxing projects, you can check out our Flickr page. Be sure to head over to Parks Library Preservation to see what amazing things they have in their lab.

Small Gifts Can Make A Difference

Bound newspapers (before boxing)
Chicago Tribune (1906) newspapers before boxing.

‘Tis the season to give thanks for all that we have. In that spirit, we would like to express our appreciation for one of our donors, Mike Plaisance, for his generosity over the past several years. Mr. Plaisance has given to the Library every month since May, 2008.

His gifts have helped us purchase enclosures for the bound newspapers in the American Newspaper Repository. These enclosures protect the contents from environmental changes, and keep the bound volumes safe during transport between the Rubenstein Library reading room and the Library Service Center where this collection is housed.

While Mr. Plaisance’s gift is not the multi-million dollar contribution that we usually publicize, smaller gifts like these add up and can really make a difference. Mr. Plaisance’s monthly contribution has been a meaningful and useful gift, and has helped us protect and preserve this high-use collection. Thank you Mr. Plaisance!!

bound newspaper after boxing
If a newspaper is slightly smaller than the box, we custom fit a spacer to keep it from “swimming” inside during transportation.
Bound newspapers after boxing
Chicago Tribune (1906) after boxing.


Quick Pic: The Halloween Edition

Happy Halloween everyone! To celebrate we would like to introduce you to “Fred” as we have named him. This German anatomical model dates to the 1930’s or 1940’s and is from the History of Medicine Collection.

Fred comes complete with removable lungs, liver and intestines, just the thing for today’s festivities. Jennifer is figuring out how to build a box for him to keep all his guts in place.

Have a safe Halloween! Watch out for zombies lurching and little children crossing the streets, and brush your teeth after you steal share your kid’s candy.

Doris Duke Memorabilia: How Do I Box That?

Written by Jennifer Blomberg, Senior Conservation Technician

Sometimes you just never know what will come through the lab for boxing. These items from the Doris Duke Archives were recently sent to us for custom enclosures. Boxing a Louisville Slugger baseball bat, a football, and weathervane can present obvious challenges due to their unusual shapes and dimensions.  To read more about the provenance of these materials, please see the Rubenstein Library’s blog post.

Goals for Housing

The main goals for creating these housings were to protect the fragile materials while providing easy access for researchers. They had to fit the unusual shape and dimensions of the materials, keep them from shifting inside the box, and allow them to be shelved easily with other archival materials. Designing and fabricating these boxes offered a real challenge.

Creating the Enclosures

I made “telescoping” boxes for the baseball bat and weathervane. This type of box consists of a bottom tray that fits the object, and a separate lid that fits over the bottom tray. The football got a standard drop-spine or “clamshell” box. Each tray was lined with Volara foam to provide cushioning for the object.

Overall, I am content with the final enclosures and believe that they achieve the goals that we sought out to accomplish. These will provide supportive and protective enclosures, while also making them available and accessible to researchers.

Louisville Slugger baseball bat.
Football inscribed to Doris Duke.
Duke weathervane.



Quick Pic: Before There Was Power Point

audio visual materialsNow ubiquitous, presentations that combined audio, images and text were once revolutionary and cutting edge.

Before we could do it all on a computer, multi-media presentations were put together with a mixture of photographic slides, a script, and audio tapes that contained not only the taped narration but cues to advance the slide tray. The best systems did this automatically with the inclusion of magnetic blips that “talked” to the slide projector to make it advance by itself…it was magic!

We recently got this kit into the lab for boxing. As someone who once created presentations like this, I can tell you Power Point is so much easier to use (some would say too easy…blinking cartoons flying in from stage left, anyone?).

Enabling Project: Swirl Books

We are finding many challenges in preparing our materials for the upcoming move. Erin Hammeke, Special Collections Conservator, shares the following find from her work as the project coordinator for the ledger project.

Stock ledger on the shelf.

As part of the enabling project we are working in our ledger collection to prepare these materials for the move. The Mooresville Mill manufactured cotton, wool, and synthetic fabrics in Mooresville, North Carolina, from the late 19th century to the mid-20th. When the company’s stocks were sold back, they were cancelled and glued onto the stubs bound into a ledger book. The stock certificates were also glued in, leaving the book with a fore edge 2-3 times the thickness of the spine. We started calling these ‘swirl books’ because of their exceptional shape. These items really seem more akin to sculpture than book bindings.

We consulted with the head of collection development in the Rubenstein Library and we agreed that treatment would be too time-consuming of an option before the move. We decided to house the swirl books as they were. Needless to say, these items posed unique shelving and housing challenges to us.

Our technician, Tedd Anderson, bravely met the challenge. For each ledger, Tedd created a wedge to accommodate the shape of the original so that they would fit  inside a custom phase box. They can now be shelved safely and are protected from further damage. These will go in our conservation treatment request database for future treatment.

phase box insert
A wedge compensates for the shape of the ledger.
finished boxes
Finished boxes on the shelf.

Pumpkinhead Bears, Dragons and Dracula – Oh My!

Murray Ghost Waiter
Are you being served?

The Edwin and Terry Murray Collection of miniatures, aka The Most Fun Project In The Lab Ever, came in recently for enclosures. These lead figurines come from various role-playing games including Dungeons and Dragons. Over on Devil’s Tale you can read more about the processing of this collection.

The miniatures arrived in a variety of boxes as if the boys and girls had just finished playing with them. Opening the boxes felt like Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait to see what was inside. I think everyone in the lab got tired of me saying “Look at this one!” every five minutes but I couldn’t help it.

Murray original boxes
Murray miniatures as they came to the lab.

The figurines range in size from less than an inch to ten or more inches. You would think that these would be fairly robust being metal, but lead is soft and a lot of them are very fragile. Many have been painted and we know for sure some were painted by the Murray brothers themselves.

The figurines needed protection from rubbing against each other and plenty of cushioning to keep them from jostling around. They are also very heavy as a collection, so they needed to be boxed in a way that they could be lifted without throwing out your back.

Murray figurine
Wrapping each figurine.

My strategy was to wrap each in tissue and place them in modular artifact boxes. Each tray has twelve compartments, and each compartment holds on average four to six figurines depending on their size. The very large figurines were put into custom-built trays. I did my best to keep like-themed characters together so people interested in animals or dragons or warriors should be able to find what they are looking for. Admittedly, users may find this system cumbersome but if these start receiving very high use, I can revisit my boxing decision in consultation with Research Services.

There are many, many pictures on our Flickr site that shows more of the boxing process and some of my favorite characters including the above mentioned Pumpkinhead Bear and many, many dragons (my favorite creatures of all). Be sure to check out the skeletal dragon, she has amazing detail and is so very fragile. She also has a broken wing but it is there with her in her box.

After boxing (left) and before (right).

I’m a little sad to see these leave the lab because it was so much fun to work on. But I know that they are now well protected and will be there for anyone to use in the future, maybe even me.




1091 Project: Making Enclosures

This month the 1091 project is all about enclosures. Boxes. Wrappers. Tuxedos. Clams. You name it, we make it. In fact, last fiscal year we fitted or made over 8,500 enclosures. We love boxes so much we created Boxing Day, which has grown to two days a month.

I’ve written before about why we create enclosures for our materials. In short it is to protect books from abrasion, dust and light exposure. We also make boxes for artifacts from the collections so that they can safely be put onto a shelf. Most recently these have included a gravestone, death mask, and a teeny tiny Thai Village.

We choose the style of enclosure based on the condition, size, and weight of the object as well as how and how often it is used. Below are the common enclosures we make, listed from the minimum to maximum amount of protection they provide.


CoLibri Book Jacket CoLibri Book Jacket

We primarily use these polyethylene book jackets for our New & Noteworthy, Duke Authors and Lilly Current Literature books.  CoLibri covers make it possible to save publisher’s dust jackets, which often contain unique information such as author biographies and cover art . These take about 3-5 minutes to make.



EnvelopesEnvelope (buffered paper or Tyvek)

Envelopes provide a minimum of protection for fragile items such as pamphlets. They are inexpensive, easy and quick. For very thin items we will add a stiffener made of a piece of blue-corrugated board or blue-white board.

If the item is very brittle, we will add a folded piece of card stock (folded at the bottom edge) to act as a sling to help get the item out safely. An envelope only takes a couple of minutes to fit and label.


Four Flap BoxesFour flap (aka Tuxedo or Tux box)

These are made of 10 or 20 point buffered card stock and are best for small, lightweight items that are between 1/4″ and 1″ thick. They provide protection from light and abrasion and are good for brittle materials or for books with loose boards.

These take on average 10 minutes to make and these (as are the following boxes) are custom cut and folded to fit the book’s exact dimensions.


Mylar Spine BoxesMylar Spine Four Flap (aka “peekaboo box”)

Not knowing if an item is inside is a common complaint about boxing books. A good solution is this one, a variation on the traditional four flap but with a polyester spine. While they do tend to have a bit of a gap at the head and tail, they do allow you to see the contents. These boxes obviously do not provide protection from light  so they are best for locations that are kept dark except when in use. These take about 10-15 minutes to make.


Phase Box

Phase boxes, also called “button and string boxes” are perfect for items that need to be restrained to keep them flat. We put vellum-bound materials in these sorts of boxes to keep them from warping. These average 15 minutes to make.


Drop Spine BoxesDrop Spine Box (aka Clam Shell)

We make these from buffered corrugated board (also called blue clams or “pizza boxes”; bottom of photo) or we make them from binders board and cover them in book cloth (also called “cloth clam”; top of photo).

These provide the most protection for the books inside. They are good for larger, heavier items and for special bindings (e.g. metal clasps, embroidered bindings, etc.). The corrugated boxes take about 15 minutes to make. Depending on their size or complexity the cloth clams can take 90 minutes or more.

Notice the “Return to Conservation after use” sticker on the blue clam. We started putting these on items that we get from Technical Services prior to shelving. This has been a very successful workflow and allows us to provide a box for newly acquired, fragile items while deferring their treatment until they are used. So far we have gotten several back. It’s nice to see patrons using new books in the collection.


American Newspaper Repository bound volumesPre-made Boxes

We also use a lot of pre-made boxes especially for standard sized manuscript collections or brittle, bound newspapers. Sometimes we need to customize a standard box because the item inside may be a little too small to fit exactly and we don’t want it “swimming” around in the box. In this image, a standard box is given a custom-cut blue-corrugated board insert to keep the brittle newspaper from moving around in the box as it is transported. The papyri rehousing project is a good example of a hybrid project that combines commercially available boxes with custom inserts.


Creating enclosures is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Very often you find yourself having to bring all your skills and experience to a project in order to create something to fit the project’s unique needs.

You can see more interesting boxing projects on our Flickr page. Let’s go over to Parks Library Preservation to see what kind of enclosures they create for their collections.