The Archive Lady: Plastic Storage Boxes vs. Archival Storage Boxes

Lock of hair in plastic case from A.G. in Tennessee

Lock of hair in plastic case from A.G. in Tennessee

A.G. in Tennessee sent in an email after he read the last installment of The Archive Lady with a question concerning storage boxes. His family has a long history of clipping hair from deceased family members and saving it. He stores the locks of hair in plastic cases and asks “Is this okay?”

What a great question! I am asked all the time about the difference in using archival safe storage boxes and everyday plastic storage containers. The truth is, anything with the word “archival” in the name is going to be 2 to 3 times more expensive than the alternative. In the case of storage boxes, this is true as well. Everyday plastic containers are much less expensive than the archival storage box, but are your records and artifacts really safe?

It is highly recommended that archival safe boxes be used to house all documents, photographs and artifacts. These boxes come in all shapes and sizes to accommodate any genealogical item. They are sturdy and are made of materials that have no chemicals or any harmful additives that can cause damage to precious genealogical records or artifacts.

Sometimes these boxes are referred to as Hollinger boxes. The word “Hollinger” is a trademarked brand that originated from the Hollinger Corporation, makers of Hollinger Metal Edge Archival Products. In the archives world, the phrase “Hollinger box” refers to an archival box that looks like this:

Example of a Hollinger Box

Example of a Hollinger Box

You can order archival storage boxes from several online archival material suppliers; a few of them are listed below.

So, what if you cannot afford to purchase archival boxes? Can the plastic containers be used? If you can’t afford the archival boxes or if you have already purchased and stored all your genealogical records and artifacts in plastic containers, I would advise using plastic containers with this caveat: When purchasing plastic containers, be sure to look for the number “5” or the letters “PP” in the recycle code triangle that is located on the bottom of the container. These particular markings indicate the container is made with inert polypropylene resin and is much safer for genealogical records and artifacts than other plastic containers.

Example of Plastic Storage Container

Example of Plastic Storage Container

The polypropylene plastic containers offer more in the way of protection in the event of a flood and water gets into the area where records are stored. They are also good for repelling pests and rodents due to the strong seal. Remember to store boxes of records in a location away from exterior walls and in a cool, dark place. Also, never tape or seal down any archival storage box. There should be air movement in the box so that any humidity that enters the box does not adversely effect what is contained in it. Never leave boxes of genealogical records and artifacts on the floor. Elevate them off the floor to protect them from potential flooding.

Example of the Recycle Code Triangle

Example of the Recycle Code Triangle

Protecting genealogical records should be of the utmost importance to genealogists. If the records of our ancestors are not preserved and saved, then the family’s history are open to being lost. Genealogists are researchers, but they are also “home archivists.” Whether an archival box or a plastic box is used to archive the family’s records, the most important part to remember is that steps are being taken to protect and preserve the family history artifacts.

Archival Material Websites

Scrapbooks! Many of our archives have them in their collections. Get my latest Legacy Family Tree Webinar and learn about the different kinds of scrapbooks, how to find them and how to preserve the ones you own!

Scrapbooks: A Genealogist’s Gold Mine

Scrapbooks: A Genealogist’s Gold Mine
http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=1161

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If you have a question about researching in archives or records preservation for The Archive Lady, send an email with your question to: melissabarker20@hotmail.com

Melissa Barker - The Archive LadyMelissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation. 

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©Copyright 2016 Melissa Barker. All Rights Reserved


About the Author

Melissa Barker
Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation.