Caring for Yale Library’s Objects

Conservation Technician Jake Shonborn reaffixing areas of this item’s peeling  paper covering

Research libraries and archives often hold more than books, paper documents and photographs. The Yale Library’s collections are no exception. Many objects are part of the University Archives or related to Yale’s history and traditions. Other objects are part of subject-based collections or artists and writers’ archives. Three-dimensional objects and artworks pose unique shelving, handling, and housing challenges in terms of their scale, size, and construction. Each year, conservators and technician create hundreds of custom boxes and enclosures for artifacts and objects. Staff research materials like glass, metal, fibers, and plastics and take advantage of professional workshops and their campus museum colleagues to manage the preservation needs of the Library’s object collections. 

Custom Housings

In 2016, the Center began using an automated box scoring and cutting machine to construct protective housings for objects from the collections. Staff create the cutting templates for their designs using the software that accompanies the machine. Designs can be saved and resued, or modified for future projects.

The Kasemake automated boxmaking machine

Commonly used box-housing styles include the clamshell, rivet, four-flap portfolio, and clear-lid

The designs, or parametrics, that come standard with the machine can be adapted. In the case of a large collection of artist’s rubber stamps, staff created a hybrid design, below left, combining aspects of multiple parametrics in order to create an ideal custom housing, below right.

This design allowed for the holes to be customized to fit the various handle diameters, and because the rubber stamp pads are visible, they can be studied and observed with minimal handling.

Housings as Display

Custom housings, like this one, were created by the housing conservator and technicians for over 75 rare globes.

Director of Preservation and Conservation Services Christine McCarthy demonstrates the unique thangka housing supports.

Custom housings often double as display, as in the case of a collection of globes and Tibetan thangkas from the Beinecke Library. The globe boxes include a pull-out tray that serves as the display base. The thangkas boxes utilize a muslin covered deck to support the textile parts that frame the center painting on paper.

Rolled Storage

Ansley Joe (left) and Werner Haun fit an oversized artwork rolled on a large diameter core into a custom-sized storage box.

Some objects, like textiles and rugs, must be rolled and housed in custom boxes. Textiles and oversized paper objects are rolled onto a rigid tube that keeps the object from being creased or crunched. A paper or polyester film wrapper protects the outside of the roll, and a custom box makes it easier to shelve and stack rolled objects.

This style of custom rolled storage box, with foam endcaps and supports, was used to store a collection of oversized maps.

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