Boxing Up

When considering the other aspects of my internship that I have not fully described, I realized that I have not given much time to the rehousing process! While processes that use terms such as “boxing” or “rehousing” seem boring, it’s important not to take them for granted because they are actually a crucial step in the processing of special collections.

The role of libraries is not just to store information for the use of others, but it is also to preserve the current condition of items while repairing any existing damage. As I handle each Disney score that comes from offsite, I am reminded that I may be one of the few people to hold it in my hands for another decade or so, until word of the Library of Congress’ Disney music collection spreads and until someone requests to see it. With this in mind, I keep an eye out for any tears, folds, smudges, etc that may need to be addressed before an item gets rehoused.

Items with tears are relatively easy to preserve. They go into a special synthetic slip that holds the tear together while still allowing for the item to be viewed. Items that have been folded for years and can’t be re-opened without breaking the paper get professional help. Other employees of the library have strategies for softening the paper and flattening it. Items with smudges are tricky – one must decided whether to lightly pencil in the missing information or to simply make a note of it.

Once an item has had some mild preservation work and is cataloged, then it gets rehoused and boxed. Of the 75 or so scores I boxed, the majority were film scores, and therefore were large and thick. Each score needed to have it’s metal binding removed and placed into an archival folder to hold it together. Then, each folder was laid on top of each other in a short, medium-sized box. In total, about five scores could fit in each box.

This strategy of rehousing allows for the items to exist with minimal strains and potential dangers, while still allowing for ease of discovery and access. Learning how the librarians came up with this unique rehousing process for the Disney music collection gave me insight into the different considerations necessary for collections with unique needs, such as fragility, and the relative urgency of availability to the public.