[vcf-midatlantic] Warehouse Process

Adam Michlin amichlin at swerlin.com
Sun Dec 22 19:11:33 EST 2019

Hi Gordon,

You ask some very good questions.

We are experimenting with two different types of containers. One is a 
double sealed container made by Sterilite which is reserved for our 
featured artifacts and as many of our more valuable or rare artifacts as 
possible. While only time will tell about your concerns, rest assured we 
will be watching (and smelling) these items very carefully.

This is an example container (and almost perfectly fits an Apple II, 
II+, IIe):


This brand was recommended by a member who has been using them for years 
(admittedly not decades) without problems.

How to stablize the artifacts in these containers is an ongoing 
conversation. Having worked in the warehouse for a couple years, I've 
seen all sorts of once really good packing material turn to goo. Side 
note: complete in box isn't always a good thing to preserve 40 years 
later! So no foam, no styrofoam peanuts. I've yet to see bubble wrap 
disintegrate (anyone with contrary experience please let me know), so 
that is what we are experimenting with now. We also place a desiccant in 
each container for moisture and expect to replace these on a regular basis.

The other containers are bought in bulk and of lesser quality and are 
primarly used for grouping smaller items. One example, we have 
separately sorted all 9 pin and ADB mice in the Apple section. We will 
watch these, as well, but these are stored primarily for quick retreival 
at events (workships, VCFEast, and such).

All containers were chosen to be clear to assist in more accurately 
keeping track of what we have and do not have and where it is as part of 
a longer range inventory process.

With that, I should make a clarification. We are not planning on plastic 
boxing everything at this point. Primarily because of lack of funds and 
space issues (things in plastic boxes generally take up more space). A 
few important artifacts per section, donations, all featured artifacts, 
newly cleaned/repaired artifacts, and as much of the little stuff as we can.

All your concerns are valid, however the lack of climate control, grime 
in the warehouse, and the proximity to the ocean salt water air are the 
known evils. Rest assured we are watching the unknown evils. And, in a 
perfect world, this will only be a stop gap measure until we can raise 
the funds to properly temperature control the warehouse. While I have no 
information on when that will happen, certainly we all hope the time 
will be measured in years rather than decades.

With that said, anyone who knows better is most encouraged to correct me 
on anything. I most welcome advice from anyone with more experience, 
never wish to reinvent the wheel, and thank you for your important 

Best wishes,


On 12/22/2019 4:41 PM, gsteemso via vcf-midatlantic wrote:
> Hi all,
> 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.
> Sincerely,
> Gordon S.

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