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How to preserve your family or community archive: Collection Care 17: Storage Furniture

Keen to have good storage for your archive collection? Want to know what furniture is best?

InCC#3 we talked about the 6 layers of protection around objects. One of those is the building and storage furniture they are kept in. It may be worth a few minutes just to check a few basics. If you downloaded the ‘Caring for Collections action checklist’ – a simple 5 step process – from our website, you will find some useful pointers to help you, and you can tick them off and feel very pleased when you find you have them covered (it’s very satisfying)!

It’s pretty obvious that a good building for housing collections would need to be well built and strong enough. If you have a large collection of books or papers, you may be unaware of how heavy it all is! So if your store room is not at ground level, it may be worth thinking about the strength of the floor.

Regular checks of roofs, gutters, windows, doors, pipes and wiring might be worth your while (seeCC#13 for more on planning in case things go wrong), particularly if the building is unoccupied.

Investing in an RCD (Residual Current Device) is probably a good precaution for keeping electrical equipment safe and reducing fire risk. You can buy individual plug in safety adapter sockets fairly cheaply.

Your collection may be valuable. It is at least valuable to you, so its a good idea to check that the building is secure, and that only people you want to have access get access! You might want to make sure that someone is there to keep an eye out when other people are around.

You might need to have special arrangements in place for anyone wanting to see items, and preferably stay with them. Things shouldn’t be moved or taken away without your knowledge or permission, and then its good to keep a record of who, what, when, where – if you get the person to write this information themselves, on a form or in a book, it will help them to get the message that you do want it back! It’s best to ensure keys/security codes are available only to a select few and are kept safe.
So what about the immediate area? See CC#12 for tips on keeping a good environment in your store. Space is always good, to allow for moving things around (including air). A clear, flat workspace is also very useful.
Keeping things off the floor will protect from insects or water leaks, and having heavy or awkward items on lower shelves within easy reach will protect you from injury. Storage units – strong shelves, cupboards, or cabinets, and drawers (like filing cabinets) with anti-tip mechanisms are also good. Ensuring shelves and drawers are big enough, and are not overfull, will reduce the risk of damage.
Clearly labelled boxes or folders kept in order are best for finding things easily. Books are happiest standing upright on shelves, or lying flat. Best not to stack in piles so that you have to move several before you reach the one you want.
Making small improvements where you can over time is a good way to approach things. It’s always a work in progress!

Page updated: 17/11/2020 Page updated by: Ally McConnell

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