Preservation constructs numerous boxes and enclosures for Special Collections materials. In fact, in 2014 we made over 400 boxes for special collections materials. Occasionally we will receive an item that needs a little bit more than a normal box can provide. Usually these items are extra fragile or oddly shaped, and need a customized box to help support and protect the item.
Special Collections recently acquired a small collection of books from artist Diane Stemper. The collection of unique artist books revolve around the theme of Charles Darwin, and use very non-traditional binding materials and structures, such as altered books and glass petri dishes.
These materials posed a unique shelving and storage challenge. Not only do the books contain fragile glass materials, but none of the items are the basic rectangular or square shape of a traditional book. Preservation was tasked with constructing enclosures that would ensure the safe storage and handling of these materials.
The first book, Cell:Compendium #42, presented the challenge of containing both glass and fragile three-dimensional aspects. Usually, the four-flap boxes we construct for our materials rely on the bulk of the book to support the overall structure, which clearly could not be done in this case. For this item we constructed a five sided box with a separate lid. With this type of box, the sides hold up the weight of the lid, so that the top of the book can remain untouched by the box. We also included a drop front on the box to assist when removing the book from the enclosure.
Darwin’s Darlings is actually a set of three books, each contained in a glass petri dish. Darwin’s Darlings presented the challenges of being made of glass and having a round, rather than angular shape. In addition, Special Collections wanted the three items to be shelved and boxed together in a single enclosure.
Our solution to these challenges was to create a “tray” that would sit inside a four-flap box. The bottom of the tray is lined with ethafoam for additional padding. There is also a piece of foam cut to shape (visible in the photo above) that fits on top of the items when they are housed in the box.
Darwin at Sea was the most difficult of the three books to house. The item consists of an altered book with four glass petri dishes adhered into the cover of the book. Not only is the challenge of round, glass objects present like in the previous books, but the objects are permanently attached to the altered book, with the front having a different configuration than the back.
As with Darwin’s Darlings, we utilized the technique of making trays to fit both sides of the book. The trays were constructed out of corrugated board and then wrapped in gray book cloth. Once wrapped, the trays were then attached to the inside of a four-flap box. The top tray was attached to an outside flap, so when the box is closed, the flap remains in the correct position.
With these custom enclosures, the newest additions to the Special Collections artist book collection can be safely stored, handled, and enjoyed for years to come.