Introduction to Housing Enclosures for Archival Records

A primary preservation goal is to house all records appropriately based on their size, format, and composition. Housing enclosures provide physical support and protection as well as a buffer against adverse or fluctuating environmental conditions. Housings also provide a mechanism for organizing and maintaining records in intellectual units that can be easily and safely handled. Factors that are considered when designing housings include the optimum method of accessing, storing, and using the records; stability of all component housing materials; method of fabrication or assembly; and cost.

Given the importance of housings in an archives preservation program, the National Archives has devoted a great deal of attention to developing specifications. The attached specifications for boxes, folders, and spacer boards describe the physical and chemical properties of the component materials, design features, and workmanship criteria against which the finished products are evaluated. The specifications have been developed through the joint efforts of conservators and chemists in consultation with archivists. The specifications are used during the procurement process to assure that boxes and folders of the required quality are acquired for the long-term housing of archival records. Potential vendors or suppliers receive a copy of the specification and submit bid samples that are then evaluated against the requirements cited for both quality of materials and workmanship. Standard test methods of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry and the American Society for Testing and Materials are employed as part of quality assurance testing. Archival repositories that do not have conservation or chemistry labs to perform testing should still find the specifications helpful in describing requirements for housings and evaluating purchased goods. Independent paper testing laboratories can also be used to perform basic paper testing.

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272