This month’s storage project—watch out for combinations of metal and wood

Do you have your rings and necklaces stored in a beautiful wooden box? Or wrapped in silk, or lying on woollen felt? You might also own other metal objects, like watches, medals and coins.

Metal and wood are unfortunately often not a good mix. Woods give off organic acids (e.g. acetic, formic), which can react with metals to form tarnish and corrosion. Some combinations are particularly bad—a university lecturer liked to tell us the story of a lead coin collection stored in beautiful old oak cabinets, which, when opened one day, had been found to have turned to the coins to dust. (Or, more accurately, small piles of lead corrosion product—see this image from the Peabody Museum). Probably (hopefully) you do not wear any jewelry made from lead, but other metals can also be affected—e.g. iron, steel, copper, brass and silver. Gold is the most resilient—it doesn’t really tarnish, so if you find tarnish forming on something you believe to be gold it might not really be gold.

Oak, sweet chestnut, Western red cedar and Douglas fir are all particularly volatile woods, though volatility does decrease somewhat with age. Plywood and MDF can also be bad, possibly more from the adhesives used to bind the wood product than the wood bits themselves. Silver tarnishes from contact with sulphur, which may be airborne or emitted from protein-based fabrics like wool and silk.

Good storage materials for metal include other metals (inert metals, that is—powder-coated steel is better than uncoated iron!), inert plastics (polypropylene, polyethylene) and acid-free cardboard and paper. You can probably find some suitable small plastic containers that can fit into your nice wooden box—ones designed for holding beads or tablets might be suitable. Even wrapping your pieces in a cotton hanky or acid-free tissue paper before placing them in your wooden box can help prevent corrosion—direct contact with wood will cause the worst damage. (Avoid coloured fabrics where possible, as some dyes can also be acidic). Silver cloths are a good choice for storing silver objects, as they actively adsorb sulphur from the atmosphere and prevent scratches and bumps. It’s also good to prevent jewelry items from touching each other, in case galvanic corrosion occurs. (This is where one metal corrodes in preference to another, which can occur if they’re in contact and there is moisture around). For that reason, you might also consider storing like with like—steel with steel, silver with silver etc.

Find more information about storing metal objects at the Canadian Conservation Institute, the Australian War Memorial and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

NB This post was originally written for one of our pinknantucket press newsletters. If you’d like to receive more of the same direct to your inbox (but only monthly, don’t worry), you might like to sign up (via MailChimp).

Purchase back issues of our material-themed magazine Materiality (BOOK, TIME, PRECIOUS and SURFACE) from the pinknantucket press shop.

This month’s storage project—how to store family archives?

Letters, photographs, postcards, Christmas cards, concert tickets, maps and pamphlets collected on holidays, various other bits and pieces—what’s the best way way to store them?

Polypropylene storage albums are a great way of keeping paper-based ephemera together—they keep items flat and secure, protect the surface of photographs from dust, light and fingerprints, but allow you to flip through and see and read everything clearly. Polypropylene is an inert plastic with good ageing properties. Storage sleeves are available in a variety of configurations, to fit letters and standard photo print & negative sizes—so you won’t need to stick anything down (avoid adhesives where you can). You can often buy acid-free card inserts to put inside full-page sleeves, for extra support.

These albums are made by a variety of companies, including Albox Australia, Zetta Florence and Archival Survival (all Australian companies, there are equivalents overseas if that is where you are).

Photos, chocolate wrappers, brochures and maps can all be stored together in albums. No adhesive necessary!

Photos, chocolate wrappers, brochures and maps can all be stored together in albums. No adhesive necessary!

NB This post was originally written for one of our pinknantucket press newsletters. If you’d like to receive more of the same direct to your inbox (but only monthly, don’t worry), you might like to sign up (via MailChimp).

Purchase back issues of our material-themed magazine Materiality (BOOK, TIME, PRECIOUS and SURFACE) from the pinknantucket press shop.

10 amazing neat things you should know before you die about the history of adhesives in a cool timeline

This post will never go viral because I couldn’t figure out how to embed the link to my cool timeline properly. Darnit! I think it’s because I have a wordpress dot com site instead of a wordpress dot org site (again). Still, the link below seems to work—so click on it! Yeah! The world would fall apart without glue (except for the bits held together with staples and rivets) so it’s important to know stuff about it. Here are ten thrilling bits from the history of adhesives. Read on, and revel in your newfound ability to impress people at parties.

http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline/latest/embed/index.html?source=0AryGBJbD_pYYdEdlS2EzMlBuYVl0MTliV3UxNWN5ZHc&font=Bevan-PotanoSans&maptype=toner&lang=en&height=650

Further reading for the super-keen below. But look at my timeline first, you bastards, I spent ages on it.

A vaguely sexist advertisement from the amazing neat history of adhesives

A vaguely sexist advertisement from the amazing neat history of adhesives

This month’s storage project—store thin pamphlets safely!

Thin booklets or pamphlets can get squashed and crushed if you try and store them on your bookshelves with your regular books. There are a number of different options for storing such material, but if you like to keep things all together then try placing them inside a large Ziploc bag with a stiff archival support board behind them. The support board can be made of acid-free cardboard or an inert plastic like polypropylene (Corflute and Corex are two corrugated varieties available). You can use other types of plastic sleeve too (stick to polypropylene or polyethylene), but the Ziploc bit helps keep dust out. This gives them enough rigidity to hold their own against the big books.

Mr Phantom safely supported and protected with a backing board and a Ziploc bag.

Mr Phantom safely supported and protected with a backing board and a Ziploc bag.

It works for old photographs too!

It works for old photographs too!

NB This post was originally written for one of our pinknantucket press newsletters. If you’d like to receive more of the same direct to your inbox (but only monthly, don’t worry), you might like to sign up (via MailChimp).

Purchase back issues of our material-themed magazine Materiality (BOOK, TIME, PRECIOUS and SURFACE) from the pinknantucket press shop.

This month’s storage project—check on your colour slides

Do you have photographic slide collections, tucked away in boxes or folders or filing cabinets? You do?! Well then, this month, look through them carefully. Colour slides are not an especially stable medium. (Neither are colour prints, for that matter—so if you don’t have any slides, look at your prints instead). Fading and colour shifts may be occurring—some film types are especially prone. (For more information see this chapter (PDF) of Henry Wilhelm’s book The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs). Check to see if any of them are stored in old polyvinylchloride (PVC) storage sleeves. (PVC is heavy, “slick” and smooth, when compared to the newer polypropylene sleeves). As PVC ages plasticisers migrate out, leaving a sticky residue on the surface of the plastic (and your slides)—it might look a bit like the plastic is “sweating” (see picture below). PVC can also generate hydrochloric acid that hastens deterioration. If you find any old PVC sleeves, transfer all affected slides to archival polypropylene sleeves (or a good quality storage box) as soon as you can. They’ll still have plasticizer residue on them (the only really good way to remove this is to send them to a photography lab that can remove them from their mounts and wash them), but it’s best just to get them out of the PVC as soon as possible.

It might also be a good idea to think about digitizing your slides—they most certainly will not last for ever. You can do this yourself or have it done commercially. Either way, it is a good idea to take overall “reference” photographs of entire sleeves, over a light box, so you can see both the image and any notes you’ve written on the slide mount. Digitising opens a big can of worms in itself—Museums & Galleries NSW has a guide to get you started, at least—but keeping track of ‘metadata’ (what the slide is a picture OF) and making sure your finished image files are in a relatively archival format (e.g. TIFs rather than JPGs) are two things to start with. Then you just have to remember to back them up and continually migrate them to new storage mediums…but it might be fun to go back and look at them all, right? Right??

Sticky residue forming on old PVC slide pockets.

Sticky residue forming on old PVC slide pockets.

NB This post was originally written for one of our pinknantucket press newsletters. If you’d like to receive more of the same direct to your inbox (but only monthly, don’t worry), you might like to sign up (via MailChimp).

Purchase back issues of our material-themed magazine Materiality (BOOK, TIME, PRECIOUS and SURFACE) from the pinknantucket press shop.

“My box of little treasures” — @saidhanrahan on beads

My mother tells a story of when I was five. One day I asked her, ‘Mum—will you die one day?’ ‘Yes,’ she said, preparing herself for a talk about mortality, ‘yes, one day I will.’ ‘When you do die,’ I replied, ‘can I have your jewellery?’

So began @saidhanrahan‘s fascination with beads. For centuries, beads have been traded across the world, for gold, ivory, land and slaves. Venetian glass workers were under the pain of death if they revealed their bead-making secrets — those star-patterned chevrons, colourful glass cane millefiori beads, miniature rocailles and bugles were little treasures, indeed.  These days beads are easier to obtain for someone of a materialistic bent, enabling one to amass a treasure hoard in miniature.

Read more in the hard copy of Materiality: PRECIOUS ($15) or download the digital version ($4.99).

Little treasures. Image by Zoe Vogels, 2013.

Little treasures. Image by Zoe Vogels, 2013.

“Once upon a time, someone gave me a book.” @kmjgardiner’s “preciousss”…

Kelly Gardiner writes books, so perhaps it is no surprise that one of her most precious possessions is also a book.

Bushfire threatens. What can she take with her?

I can choose one book. One book to represent all the books, all the stories, all the memories, all the joy.

There’s no need to decide. I know which one. I understand now that it’s the only book I can’t lose. And after all, it’s small enough to fit in my pocket.

Which book was it? You’ll have to read the full article to find out — hahaha! You can buy the hard copy of Materiality: PRECIOUS for $15 or download the digital version for just $4.99.

Gilded edges. Image by Alice Cannon.

Gilded edges. Image by Alice Cannon.