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.

“Similar to poison ivy, contact with lacquer can induce a painful rash in some people, while others are immune.”

Suzi Shaw is a is a conservator of furniture and Asian lacquer. In ‘Layers of identity’ from Materiality: PRECIOUS she documents her obsession with Japanese lacquer, or urushi.

Urushi is a time-honoured, painstaking art. Those that master it may also suffer — the sap from the lacquer tree can cause horrible rashes, even from vapours. (There’s a clue in the tree’s Latin name: Toxicodendron vernicifluum). Such is lacquer’s importance to Japanese culture and heritage, the Japanese government has for many years bestowed on those who work with lacquer the title of Ningen Kokuhō (National Living Treasures).

“Once processed, the lacquer is applied to a prepared surface such as metal, wood or hardened leather in extremely thin layers. Each layer must harden for at least 24 hours before the next can be applied. If applied too thickly, the lacquer won’t harden. It needs both high humidity and oxygen to harden, a quirk of chemistry that is still not fully understood and continues to be studied by scientists. A basic miso soup bowl would have lacquer rubbed in to seal the wooden core, a lacquer-soaked strip of fabric applied to the rim and foot to make it more robust, a few coats of foundation (clay powder mixed with lacquer and sometimes rice paste), followed by three to six layers of pigmented lacquer polished between each application. If decoration is applied, such as gold powders sprinkled into the wet lacquer surface, then several more layers would be applied. At the other end of the scale, there are pieces built up by painstakingly applying hundreds of coats of lacquer that can then be carved, making them both heavy and valuable. High-end pieces can several years or more for a craftsman to complete.”

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

Pigmented lacquer being filtered through paper to remove dust prior to use. Image by Suzi Shaw.

Pigmented lacquer being filtered through paper to remove dust prior to use. Image by Suzi Shaw.

“The violin world is still very Eurocentric in its methods, designs and materials.” Luthier Graham Caldersmith in Materiality: PRECIOUS

“Traditionally, luthiers have crafted the whole body of a guitar to vibrate optimally, like a violin. This means that some of the plucked string energy is lost from the vibrating soundboard to the back and sides. The ‘new’ Australian guitar method builds strong and stiff back and sides and a very thin top/soundboard. In this way, the string energy is translated into sound, which carries into the audience rather than much of it being depleted into the player’s body. Many ‘new generation’ makers use carbon fibre to reinforce the soundboard for minimal weight and maximum efficiency.”

Luthier Graham Caldersmith has been making violins, cellos and guitars for over 35 years, using materials as diverse as Australian tonewoods and carbon fibre. In an interview for Materiality: PRECIOUS, he discusses how he learned his craft, what materials he likes to work with and why, and what separates a good instrument from a lesser one. Read more in the hard copy ($15) or the digital download ($4.99).

Detail of Caldersmith guitar rosette made of lace sheoak.

Detail of Caldersmith guitar rosette made of lace sheoak.

“Photography isn’t dead, it just isn’t itself anymore.” Picture librarian Susan Long on the changing nature of the photograph.

The family photograph album is often one of the most treasured objects in a household. People have returned to burning buildings to retrieve photographs and negatives. Why are they so important to us?

“Photographs move through space and time and have a life of their own after their initial point of creation. They are artifacts that circulate; they are collected, traded, sold. Often embedded in human relationships, the photograph is a special kind of artifact—it is a place, an object, where precious memories are stored, revisited and reconstituted.” But in today’s world, “that which was once chemicals, film and paper is now pixels, algorithms and bytes.” Does this fundamental change in the nature of the photograph affect their role in our lives? Is it true that “if you don’t have the pictures, you don’t have the memories”?

Picture librarian Susan Long examines the nature of print and digital photographs in ‘Memory objects’, an essay in Materiality: PRECIOUS. To read more, buy the hard copy ($15) or download the digital version ($4.99).

[Unidentified woman and little girl in street] [picture]. State Library of Victoria, H2010.137/12.

[Unidentified woman and little girl in street] [picture]. State Library of Victoria, H2010.137/12.