5 Steps for Easy Archival Storage & Organization


5 Steps for Easy Archival Storage & Organization





Here’s a question (see images below):

If you’ve taken the correct steps to archivally store your artwork / photographs / family history artifacts / & collections…

…can you actually FIND a specific item when you need to?



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Your art & photography portfolios are archivally safe & sound!

Your collections & family history archives are stored in acid-free boxes!
But …  just WHERE IS that item you need to find right away in all your different boxes & portfolios???
(Please click on either image for more information.)



Here are 5 STEPS to help you organize (& locate!) all your materials QUICKLY & EASILY!





Archival Storage: Step 1 – Document Your Materials in Quick Photographs



A few of the two dozen antique prints we’re going to store in a single acid-free Drop Front Box.



While this blog will use a couple of dozen antique prints to serve as an example of what should be done for easy archival storage & organization (see image above), the suggestions that follow can be applied to EVERYTHING you might have in YOUR OWN art or photography portfolios / collections / & family history archive!



Versatile Drop Front Boxes are economical  /  they come in different colors, sizes, & depths (1.5″ & 3″ deep)  /
they have tremendous “stacking strength”  /  they’re 100% acid free  /  & they’re made right here in the USA.
(Please click on the image for more information.)



Similarly, while we’re going to use a Drop Front Box to store these prints (see image above), the same procedures apply to the materials you’re storing in Onyx Portfolio Boxes, Museum Drop Front Boxes, Record Storage Boxes, Document Storage Kits, even Archival Binders!



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Here is a “visual inventory” of some of the two dozen prints we’re going to store in a single archival box, laid out & photographed on a dining room table. Pretty easy so far, and nothing too fancy – you can even shoot such photographs with your smartphone!



The first step involves making a few quick photographs of the prints that are going to be stored in an acid-free Drop Front Box.

When it comes time for YOU to do this, use the image above as a general guide and simply arrange your materials on the floor or the dining room table (place a bedsheet / blanket / or towel down first to keep things clean). These photographs can be of individual items or, as in the case above, shot as a group of materials that are all going to be placed in the SAME box.

You can use a digital camera or even your smart phone, as while care should be taken when arranging your materials to be photographed, the picture doesn’t have to be perfect.

At this point also jot down some quick titles of whatever you’re photographing.

So, why are we doing this?

The answer couldn’t be more simple: we now have a “visual inventory” of EVERYTHING that is going to be placed in our Drop Front Box!

We’ll come back to these photographs & quick titles in a moment.





Archival Storage: Step 2 – Place Your Materials in Archival Enclosures



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This 19th century color print of an Renaissance fresco was placed (not adhered!) onto a sheet of 2-ply Museum Board for added support, and then inserted into a resealable Crystal Clear Bag. (Please click on the image for more information.)



In the case of our two dozen antique prints, we’re placing each one in its own individual Crystal Clear Bag (see image above). Archivally-safe Polyethylene Bags can also be used for this step. In either case, using a clear bag will allow us to see what is in each enclosure while still protecting the prints from fingerprints and outside contaminants.

We’ve backed each print with a sheet of 2-ply 100% Cotton Museum Board placed behind each fragile print for added rigidity & structural support—and while not absolutely necessary, it’s a good idea!



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Shown here are 3″-deep 8×10″ and 11×14″ Drop Front Boxes. Chose the “right” sized box to match the size of the prints you need to store. (Please click on the image for more information.)



Next, we’ve placed the prints—in their individual archival enclosures—into an appropriately sized acid-free Drop Front Box.



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Done! (Well, almost…as a week later we might not remember which artworks or artifacts we placed in this particular box. ESPECIALLY if we have MULTIPLE boxes!)



Here our box is all buttoned up and ready for both everyday access to our prints, and for long-term archival storage—or both!

Only one little problem: just WHAT is actually IN this box???



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. . . and WHAT is in these boxes? (Please click on the image for more information.)



This question will, unfortunately, be multiplied by the number of boxes you might have (see image above).

Which brings us to the next step.





Archival Storage: Step 3 – Label Your Boxes / Portfolios / Binders



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Adding an Adhesive Backed Label Holder to your box(es) can make your archival storage & organization MUCH easier. (Please click on the image for more information.)



The simplest way to “identify” your archival boxes / portfolios / & binders is to add an Adhesive Backed Label Holder, which are available in 4 different sizes (see images above & below).



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(Please click on the image for more information.)



These handy accessories come with pre-cut labels that can be used to write any identification or organizational information you’d like, or you can print this information out and trim it to size.



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Here’s an example of a label that lists the titles of 14 of the 24 prints we’re storing in our 11×14″ drop front box.

The glaring problems here are: 1.) the type font is unreadably small; and 2.) we CAN’T POSSIBLY fit the titles of ALL 24 prints on this label.

An alternative recommendation? Just assign each box a number:



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Compared to the label on the smaller box, you can see THIS label from across the room!

The color printout in the 8.5×11″ archival Print Page that’s on top of the larger box is a simple “visual inventory,” as explained in the next step.



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You can use whatever other identification information you’d like such as “Grandma Barbara Clark’s Wedding Dress” or “Newspaper Collection,” etc. Yet however you label your boxes / portfolios / & binders, consider creating a “visual inventory” to accompany your materials to aid in your organization and retrieval efforts. (Please click on the image to see our Newspaper & Magazine Storage Kit.)





Archival Storage: Step 4 – Make TWO* “Visual Inventory” Sheets for Each Box

(* – we’ll explain the need for TWO in Step 5)



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This sheet of regular 8.5×11″ letter-sized paper shows the prints we photographed at the beginning of this blog, with each print’s title added at the bottom. A copy of this and the other “visual inventory” sheets we made – covering all 24 prints being stored in our box – will be placed in the top of the box before we close it. While this example is in color, a black & white version can also be used.



Here we’ve gone back to one of the photographs we made of the antique prints we’re storing. We downloaded this photograph from our digital camera (or smart phone) onto our computer, and then dragged it onto a word document so that we could add the titles we jotted down earlier (see image above).

Notice that we’ve named the box that holds these prints “Box 3,” but you can use whatever personalized descriptive information you’d like.



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To sum up, this archival Drop Front Box holds all two dozen of our antique prints in their individual Crystal Clear Bags, with 2-ply Museum Board added to each bag for structural support. An Adhesive Backed Label Holder (from the package in the lower center) has been added to the box, and the “visual inventory” sheets we’ve made (on the left) have been placed in archival Print Pages (with NO STAPLES). These sheets will be placed on top of the prints before we close the box. By opening the box and using these “visual inventory” sheets as a reference, we can see EXACTLY what the box contains WITHOUT having to sort through every print. (Please click on the image for more information.)





Archival Storage: Step 5 – Create a Binder of “Visual Inventory” Sheets



As mentioned in the title of Step 4, we’ve made TWO copies of the “visual inventory” sheets we’ve created. One copy went into the box, so that just by opening it we could quickly see a visual inventory of everything the box contains WITHOUT having to shuffle through all the prints.




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All of our collections will have their respective “visual inventory” sheets placed in Print Pages in a single binder. Looking through this binder to find the exact box holding a particular print or object is SIGNIFICANTLY easier than looking through every box itself. (Please click on the image for more information.)



The SECOND set of sheets is going into a binder that contains the “visual inventory” pages for ALL our boxes / portfolios / & binders.

This will allow us to quickly look through these pages to determine the SPECIFIC numbered or labeled box that holds the SPECIFIC print, photograph or artifact we’re looking for on any given day.

All this makes the archival storage & organization of our materials super easy. Just as important, it’s super EFFECIENT!

And it will work for everything in YOUR collection too, both 2D prints & portfolios and 3D objects & artifacts! (See images below.)



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(Please click on any image to see our blog on storing large or awkward-shaped heirlooms.)



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(Please click on the left image to see our blog on Preserving Toys: Old & New,
and please click on the right image to see our short video on Drop Front Boxes.)



By following these simple steps for archival storage & organization, when you need to find a particular image or object in your collection all you need to do is open your binder full of “visual inventory” pages, find what you’re looking for there, and then track down the corresponding box number (or box name, depending on your own personalized system of organizing) to reduce your search to just that ONE box or portfolio.

You’re already “doing the right thing” by archivally storing your materials. Now make FINDING your materials EASY!





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Contact Us

If you have any additional questions, or would you like more information on any of our museum-quality acid-free storage & presentation materials, please contact us here at Archival Methods. We’re always there to help with any archiving, storage, or presentation questions you may have.

We would also like to encourage you to follow us on TwitterFacebookPinterestand our large selection of informative and crisply-illustrated (and often humorous!) blogs. Likewise, our exclusive short videos illustrate many of the archival products and procedures that you may wish to “see in action,” so please take a look!