Tag Archives: Papyrus

Papyrus Project Final Update: It Is Finished For Real This Time

The papyri collection is finally in its new home in the renovated Rubenstein Library stacks. We successfully completed its move yesterday to the new vaults. Part 1 of this project started in 2010 as a proposal for a new housing strategy for the papyri. In 2012 the project began in earnest as we prepared the collections for the move out of the old stacks to make way for renovation. We finished the project in 2013 and moved the papyri to the temporary Rubenstein stacks on the third floor of Perkins Library.

Papyri in their new(ish) boxes in the renovated stacks.
Papyri in their new(ish) boxes in the renovated stacks.

Yesterday we moved the collection into its new home in the renovated Rubenstein stacks. They are now in a cool, dry and stable environment, with fire sprinklers even! I nearly shed a tear of joy when we placed the last box on their new shelves.

If you haven’t been reading The Devil’s Tale posts about the move, you really should. There are some great posts there and on the Duke Libraries Tumblr, including this little gif I made when enveloping books. I cannot wait until all of the collection is moved home.

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.

Papyri Rehousing Project Begins

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.