Treasure Boxes

By Norman Boucher / November/December 2008
November 6th, 2008

One of the challenges libraries with special collections face is how to protect and store the individual items in such a way that staff can shelve them and researchers can handle them while causing minimal wear and tear. A common solution is to box valuable items, but these are often not containers you can pick up at your local UPS store.

In the basement of the John Hay Library, preservationist Erica Saladino spends much of her time making these boxes. The one at right houses a book that measures half an inch wide and about three quarters of an inch tall. Printed in 1980 at the Borrower's Press in Winterport, Maine, the book is a hand-colored, illustrated edition of Clement Clarke Moore's A Visit from St. Nicholas, more commonly known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. This one is number 178 of a numbered run of 300 and is part of the Harris Small Books Collection. The box, made of chipboard and paper-backed rayon cloth, measures three-and-a-half by five-and-three-quarters inches.

When she designs a container for an item in the Hay, Saladino says, "I think about it a lot. I make sketches and learn as much as I can about where it will be stored." She has designed covering for the Garibaldi Panorama, and a box for a monastic breviary from the fifteenth century.

"I feel as if I'm doing something worthwhile," she says. "I feel as if I'm preserving history."


Photo by Erik Gould. 

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November/December 2008