B is for Boxes

I wrote a little yesterday about archives and storage. For anyone who works in an archive, storage means boxes. Lots and lots of boxes. Something like this:

Packed Box

But multiplied into whole shelving systems:


Photo: Wikimedia

Working in an archive is often quite a physical job, because all those boxes don’t move themselves! Most archives are not large enough to have any sort of automated box moving equipment so it means shifting them around manually. Box size is limited by the weight it is reasonable to lift – the maximum we are supposed to lift at body height is 20kg (44lbs), though we try to avoid filling boxes above 15kg. The weight of closely packed paper soon adds up. Half-empty boxes are not good, though, because then the contents are likely to shift around and can get damaged.

One of the first jobs to be done when a collection arrives at an archive is to sort out physical storage. Although boxes will be used for storage wherever possible, it will depend on the size or shape of individual items. Maps and plans need to be rolled or stored flat in map tanks. Large volumes may need to be stacked separately, small items like photographs or postcards may be happier in drawers, and some things may need their own special, custom made boxes. Most items will need to be tied into bundles or put into folders before they are boxed. Archivists usually find doing battle with a tangled mess of files and papers and subduing them into neatly packed folders and boxes a surprisingly satisfying part of their job.


14 thoughts on “B is for Boxes”

      1. Just looking at that box makes me heart take a leap…what discoveries might be made?! I’m going to really enjoy learning more about what happens behind the scenes.


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