Smart Archival Boxes, Trays and Portfolios

Smithsonian Institution Archives has just published a Vine showing the use of special enclosure for a historic photograph. That’s the first video posted on their channel and I hope we’ll get many more interesting illustrations for the smart ideas used in that institution. To find the full story (and diagrams) of the photo and specially tailored portfolio, you can visit their official blog.

It is great to find some new approach and design for the problems you have to deal with. Even for masters of the bookbinding craft there always is a chance to learn something new even from the students and apprentices who bind their first books. That’s also a special moment when you can get some ideas from other specialists like people who work at the Smithsonian.

Making boxes, portfolios and trays is one of the things a bookbinder should be able to do. There are lots of ways to study making them, lots of tutorials on the internet. It also may happen that you get some hints not only from your colleagues or teachers, but also from your clients, even if they themselves do not truly know what they are talking about. Sometimes you cannot find the best solution at all and that’s my story today =)

Just a few weeks ago I was asked to make a small consultation for the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts conservators. They have a project of making some 40 boxes for miniatures at their restoration department. It was great to discuss these things with them and show them my own work. But they also made me to look for some new solutions I couldn’t give them right away.

They liked the boxes made from corrugated board and sold by Talas, but unfortunately, ordering from the US, Europe or Japan is not always an easy thing when you live and work in Russia. So the challenge was to make dozens of archival-quality small boxes that would take not so much time to be made. My colleagues wanted to make the boxes by themselves and the only time they had had to be stolen from the restoration works.

I’ve drawn a couple of designs of telescope boxes for them and showed some clamshell boxes I’ve made earlier. But the problem remained:

  • For the telescope boxes the archival grade material was missing. There are problems with delivering not only readymade boxes, tools, etc., but there also is shortage of good materials. Including paper, cardboard and cloth. It is even harder to get archival grade materials here.
  • They had some nice archival cardboard that could be used for the clamshell boxes, but it takes much more time for a clamshell box to be made. More than an hour per box, I’d say, even if you make several of them simultaneously and use your time wisely. And they didn’t have a board share, bummer!

I have to confess, that I still do not have any good and fast solution for them and that irritates me a bit. That said, if you can give me (and them) any advice, I would be glad to receive it =)

I suppose has to draw more attention to the subject of boxes. Either made for books or for any other objects. I have a long standing promise to make a tutorial about making round boxes and one of the next publications should be a collection of different box tutorials already published on the internet. Stay tuned!


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