How should I pack collections for storage or shipping?

How objects are packed and arranged in storage boxes and shipping crates helps minimize risk of physical damage and there are specific tips for different kinds of objects. Especially for long-term storage, choose appropriate storage materials to prevent chemical damage from poor quality packing materials. See Handling, Packing, and Shipping [PDF: 4.73 MB / 32 p] (National Park Service, Museum Handbook I), Packing and Shipping Paper Artifacts (Northeast Document Conservation Center), and Packing and Shipping Audio Media (Northeast Document Conservation Center). Follow recommendations for good storage environment during storage and shipping.

If using a professional shipper for valuable collections, select one who has handled collections before and has the special knowledge to do so. Fine arts shippers who offer special handling for valuable objects can be found through a web search or a recommendation from another institution. 

For books:

  • Choose boxes that are not too large or the packed box will be too heavy to handle safely.
  • Choose acid- and lignin-free storage boxes if books will be stored for a prolonged period of time.
  • Pack books flat in the box with heavier and larger volumes at the bottom or pack books vertically, spine down.
  • Center the weight in the box for handling safety; pad out empty space; avoid overpacking the box.

Grooved discs and cylinders require additional considerations to prevent distortion from heat exposure and from their own weight:

  • Choose boxes that can bear the weight of the discs.
  • Adequately secure/tape the bottom of the box.
  • Line all six interior sides of the box with shock-absorbing packing material.
  • Pack discs in the box vertically with a full-size rigid upright support (e.g., double-corrugated cardboard cut to the same size as the album cover) every few inches to keep the discs upright.
  • Center the weight in the box; leave dead space (padded out) on the perimeter if the box is getting too heavy.
  • Clearly mark the upright orientation on the box exterior.

For photographs, see Care of Photographs (Northeast Document Conservation Center) for guidelines on proper storage. Then pack stored photographs vertically whenever possible.

Last Updated: Mar 02, 2021
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