Give Your Records Some Space

Rowan County Tax Records rehoused to prevent damage from overcrowding.

Rowan County Tax Records rehoused to prevent damage from overcrowding.

I just finished rehousing the Rowan County Tax Records, 1758-1910 C.R.085.701.5-11. These have been heavily requested lately, and patrons and reference archivists were concerned about the state of some of the records. When one or several records in a group have preservation issues, it is always smart to revue the state of the entire record group to see if there is an underlying cause aside from just general age and use. In the case of the Rowan County Tax Records, that cause was immediately apparent – general overcrowding of the records in folders and of the folders in boxes. This caused records to be confined too tightly and placed stress on the records, especially those that were folded or rolled. Overcrowding also causes records to rub against each other when someone tries to remove a folder from the box, sometimes even making it necessary to pull too harshly to remove a folder and risk jarring or spilling the records. Placing fewer records in a folder and fewer folders in a box is a simple and quick way to prevent further preservation concerns. Using more folders also enables records to be separated into a larger number of groupings which means that researchers can locate their particular record without having to handle as many other peripheral records, again reducing the usage and wear of records. When housing records, it is always best to give them enough space, but take care not to give them so much that they fall over or move around too much in the box. A good rule of thumb is to fill a box until it has just enough room for your hand to slide comfortably behind the folders, but when your hand is removed the folders stand upright and fill the space. If the folders flop over or slide down consider adding a cardboard spacer or even rolled cardboard to fill the empty space and hold the records upright. The Rowan County Tax Records expanded from 5 to 7 boxes, which will keep them healthy longer and make them easier to use. If you have any other preservation issues or concerns about proper housing of records, a good source is our History For All the People Blog, which just ran a series on preservation for Preservation Week, April 27 – May 3. The also have a preservation page with lots of great resources.

Advertisements