In the Lab: Boxing the Blue Devil

I love the sort of projects that start with a co-worker saying, “We have something special we want you to box,” because I always know it’ll be anything but a regular book. When I saw this little Blue Devil Doll, I knew a fun project lay ahead.

This doll was donated to the Duke University Archives this spring. It was purchased on campus in 1938 and is made of straw with a wax (I think) head and dressed in a smart blue felt outfit. The devil’s tail has floral wire wrapped around it to provide stiffness. The doll itself is in fair condition but, as you can see below, it has sustained some damage to the felt, most likely from insect activity.

Because of its condition, I wanted to make a sturdy box that had a cushioned interior to protect the fragile doll. The end result would be a drop-spine box, also called a cloth-covered clamshell. Before constructing the outer box, I would have to make an inner box with a cushioned interior.

The inner box is constructed of buffered corrugated board, lined with polyester quilt batting with a cotton fabric liner. The fun part was making the side bolsters to keep the doll from rolling around. These are made from rolled up polyester batting and then encased in a polyethylene pocket using our CoLibri book cover machine to make tubes. These provide enough structure to hold their shape but are still soft should the doll shift. Who knew that all my sewing experience would come in handy this way?

Blue Devil Doll in His Box

Once done with the inner tray, I constructed a clamshell box around it. The final enclosure is sturdy and keeps the doll firmly in place. The creative use of the CoLibri pockets worked really well. I’ll remember that should another devil cross my path.

For more photos of the Blue Devil Doll in his new home, visit the Conservation Lab’s “Boxing the Devil” set on Flickr!

Post contributed by Beth Doyle, Collections Conservator, as part of our ongoing “In the Conservation Lab” series.

5 thoughts on “In the Lab: Boxing the Blue Devil”

  1. Oh, I wish I could take credit for that box! It's actually the work of Beth Doyle, our breathtakingly talented collections conservator. The box really is a marvel of ingenuity. I'll be sure to pass along your compliments to her!

  2. Oh, yes, I see now that the post was written by Beth Doyle. Well, congrats, Beth! The little devil is laid down like a saint in his pure white coffin.

Comments are closed.