From the Stacks: Protecting Walden

While sorting through old files recently I came across a folder with notes on some of my preservation projects from my early years in Special Collections. Inside was a worksheet that I had used to make my first clamshell box.  This had been a special project for me, and seemed a fitting topic for my first blog of the year.

Each of our clamshell boxes was constructed for a specific book. The books were measured so that the box would hold the book snugly.  A clamshell box is comprised of two three-walled containers that are hinged to close one over the other. The boxes are sturdy and are designed to give solid protection for their fragile contents. The construction of clamshell boxes is very time consuming, which, therefore, makes them expensive.

I learned to make clamshell boxes so that I could then train student workers on how to construct them. I needed to make several boxes so that I could understand the process and be able to answer questions and provide quality control. I made several clamshell boxes for certain fragile items, but for this first box I was told that I could pick the book that I wanted to make the box for. I selected our first edition of Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

Walden was an easy choice for me. This account of Thoreau’s simple life in a cabin in the woods, devoted to personal introspection, had captured my imagination since I first encountered it in college. I was thrilled that we had a first edition of this book.

Preservation work is very rewarding. Creating an enclosure that would protect Walden for many years to come  made this work a labor of love, and I feel a sense of pride every time I have reason to handle this book.

Jim Bricker
Senior Library Technician