Preservation Preparation 2: Workspace

In my quest to preserve all my family items in one shot, I decided to take inventory of all 20 boxes in my possession. If you missed Part 1: Home Survey, I recommend reading that first. This week I will share the next step in the process: finding a place to conduct my item-by-item inventory.

Step 2: Create a Workspace

Before you can inventory all the boxes you just listed in your survey, you’ll need a place to work. Think about a place in your house that:

  • Will stay relatively clean
  • Won’t be disturbed by children or pets
  • Can be left intact without disturbing traffic flow
  • Has a flat surface large enough to lay out a box and its contents

I used a card table placed in my dining-room-turned-office, although a bigger table would have been even better. Perhaps you have a little-used dining table or neglected desk that would work. When choosing a space, keep in mind that if you work in short bursts this process could take weeks so don’t use a surface in high demand.

2017-08-24 14.18.58

Clean the table thoroughly before you begin working with a gentle unscented cleaner that won’t leave a residue and follow with water. Let it dry completely. Each day that you return to working on the box inventory you should wipe down the table with a damp cloth, and between boxes if you notice a buildup of dirt and dust. Make sure the surface is completely dry before you place items on it.

Next, you will need to gather supplies:

  • Framing square to measure items – I recommend one side be at least 14-17 inches. I started my inventory with two rulers lined up, but keeping them square became a hassle and I sought out a large framing square that worked great.
  • Clipboard and no. 2 pencil – You do not want to keep ink near your precious items. Again, typing on a laptop requires two hands, with a pencil you can hold an object in one hand and write with the other. The time saved was worth the low-tech solution, but use a computer if you prefer.
  • Nitrile gloves – These are only for handling fragile items that may be damaged by oils on hands, such as photographs. I’d also recommend using them with cast plaster, if you have any. Most other items can be safely handed with clean, dry hands.
  • Archival supply catalogs – All the major archival supply companies should send you catalogs upon request. Due to their vast lists of stocked products, I find it difficult to browse their websites. If you flip through the catalogs and familiarize yourself with their offerings before beginning the box inventory, you will be able to make choices about special supplies required for items in your collection. Request catalogs early in the process, since they will take time to mail to you.

With a workspace ready to go and supplies on hand, we can finally open some boxes next week!

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