[vcf-midatlantic] Warehouse Process
48bitsorbust at gmail.com
Sun Dec 22 16:41:50 EST 2019
Although I'm not expecting to be able to visit in person any time soon, I've been avidly following the evolution of your bricks-&-mortar museum. (There are always things only learnable by someone actually doing them, and in that respect your collective efforts may be even more important to our field than any of you expected.)
Achieving closed storage for every individual system (artefact?) is a great objective for all of us, museum curators or otherwise. (Besides the usual tendency many of us share to acquire long-neglected, dusty and/or wildlife-befouled hardware, I work in fire & flood restoration. I can say with 100% certainty that if anything gets _on_ an object, particularly an older one, it's normally a serious challenge to get that thing entirely _off_ again in a fully non-destructive manner.)
With that in mind, I'm very interested in the details of your planned program of storage in plastic cases. Identifying and sourcing appropriate containers is in no way a trivial project!
Making plastic involves chemical softening agents called plasticizers. As some of us have learned the hard way, in the long term plasticizers will migrate out of the finished material -- escaping as gasses or, in especially problematic cases, forming greasy beads on the surface.
The most well-known and graphic example of the havoc which can be wrought upon historical artefacts by decomposed plastic was discovered by antique-doll collectors, when very old self-blinking specimens appeared to gradually start crying blood. It was eventually found to be a reaction of the escaping plasticizers with the metal pivots in the eyes, which invariably terminates with the horrifying spectacle of the doll's head rotting in on itself entirely.
I personally have found that well-sealed containers of computer stuff -- such as, most memorably, a big jar of surplus ADB Macintosh mice and random smaller items that I'd stashed away -- tend to develop a distinctive plasticky odour after only a few years. In the case of that jar of mice, the stored items had also undergone a slight but noticeable change of _texture_. It was difficult to characterize, but all of the synthetic materials felt less smooth-surfaced -- less "finished," somehow -- and the flexible parts such as cables seemed a bit stiffer, and made extremely faint crunchy noises when manipulated.
Because of how problematically plastics can behave over the longer term, I'm very interested in what specific material(s) you plan to use. It's a complex balance between the cost of a given variety of plastic, its long-term stability in general, and the probability that any outgassed plasticizers will react chemically with whatever items are actually stored in the container.
I am also curious as to whether and how the artefacts will be padded within the containers. Under normal circumstances, a storage box remains motionless until accessed -- but over a span measured in years, some sort of disruption is more likely than not. Anything from a minor rearrangement of furniture, to relocating the entire storage area, to an actual landslide can cause the box to be dropped, and finding out after the fact that the contents had merely been _placed_ within rather than securely _packed_ is not a pleasant experience.
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