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Boxes have been misused in museums for years. They are often overcrowded. Items are stacked with inadequate padding, or the object is far too small or too large for the box housing it. Ideally, store one item per box, fitting the box to the dimensions of the piece, if you can afford the room and the materials. Barring that, there are some alternatives.

Acid-free cardboard boxes are available in a variety of sizes made out of buffered or pH-neutral cardboard from preservation suppliers. More expensive boxes are made of acid-free cardboard lined with a better quality paper (pH-neutral, lignin-free) on the interior.

Museums dissatisfied with commercially available box sizes or materials have trained volunteers to make boxes that match the item to be stored. In-house boxes work well for gowns or fragile objects. Some volunteers become experts at box designs that solve complicated storage problems. Boxes can incorporate fold down sides and sliding bottom trays to improve artifact removal. Sewing, clips or ties are used instead of adhesivesBecause cardboard melts if it gets wet, some museums have started constructing boxes out of corrugated plastic (commercially known as Coroplast). Learning to make boxes is an important collections care skill. The Northern States Conservation Center provides box-making courses to museums for staff and volunteer training. A list of our courses is availablehere.

Instead of stacking items directly on top of each other within a box, convert box interiors into multiple layer storage units. Some companies sell acid-free cardboard trays and dividers for their box interiors. For many boxes, however, you will have to make your own interior supports. Cut rigid shelves from acid-free cardboard or acid-free polystyrene covered board (Foamcor) to the inner dimensions of the box. Rest the shelves on small ethafoam supports placed inside the box. By stacking Foam-cor shelves on ethafoam supports, a box can be created that has three or four separate shelves. Attach cotton twill-tape handles to make the shelf easy to lift out of the box without disturbing other items.- Shelf supports and shelves can be made from any inert, rigid material.

Solander boxes are found most often in art museum storage areas. They have a wood frame, cloth covered exterior, and paper lined interior. Solander boxes usually have a clasp and hinges. Easy to move, they are conveniently sized for photographs and artwork on paper. When using these boxes, be aware that Solander boxes with pyroxylin-im-pregnated fabric exteriors deteriorate to form nitric acid. Therefore, conservators recommend Solander boxes with starch im-pregnated fabric exteriors. Because they have wood frames, some Solander boxes do not have a pH-neutral interior environment. Always test the interiors with Acid-Detection Strips before use.

Courses we recommend:


MS201: Storage for Infinity: An Overview of Museum Storage Principles (Only once in 2013)
              Course Description & Info     Instructor: Lori Benson
              Student Login    Price: $475
              Mar 4 – Mar 29, 2013      [Learn More]   


MS204: Materials for Storage and Display
              Course Description & Info     Instructor: Gretchen Anderson
              Student Login    Price: $495
              Nov 4 – Nov 29, 2013     [Learn More]   
              Sep 1 – Sep 26, 2014     [Learn More]   


Links to related information on other sites:


Portfoliobox, Inc.

MicroClimates – Acid Free Boxes

Conservation and Preservation Services and Supplies

University Products

Archival Products

Light Impressions

Climates and Microclimates: A New Attitude to the Storage of Archival Materials