How do archival boxes perform when soaked with water?

Anyone charged with the care of a collection will have had nightmares about disasters and the destruction they can cause. So how much protection do boxes, especially cardboard boxes provide in extreme circumstances?

This test was first performed by Jenny Mathiasson of Kuriosa Conservation. The first point to make is that all the boxes involved are of a clamshell type and therefore more prone to water ingress due to the one-piece construction. Clamshell boxes are very popular due to being an excellent design to reduce handling risks, as they are widely used in archives they are a good subject for this test.

Some quick takeaways from this illustrative but not particularly scientific experiment

  • Regardless of the box material, the object was better protected than an item that is not enclosed at all.
  • Standard acidic corrugated cardboard soaks up moisture and becomes an unwieldy and unstable vessel that is likely to crush or fall apart if stacked or moved, the last thing you need in recovery.
  • Tissue paper packing in this demonstration prevented objects from touching potentially wet outer walls buying more time for recovery.
  • Even in this quite extreme experiment objects in archival boxes were safe for over 30 minutes and more.
  • Clamshell boxes have openings all the way to the base of the box but still offer good protection in-spite of the design. The assumption is that two-piece boxes with a base and full-depth lid would fare even better in this scenario.

Go to Archival Boxes here

Go to Disaster Preparedness here

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