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A Genealogist In The Archives: Using Archival Boxes for Records Storage

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Using Archival Boxes for Records Storage

A box is just a box, or is it?

Organizing and preserving family documents, photographs and artifacts is something that all genealogists have to contend with. In the Houston County, Tennessee Archives we work on processing and preserving county records and local historical records everyday.

Tools of the trade, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Part of the preservation process is having the right tools for the job. I am asked all the time by genealogists about the boxes, file folders and other materials that we use here in the archives to preserve records. Many times I am asked the question, "A box is just a box, right?" and my answer is always NO!

Storing documents, photographs and artifacts in archival storage boxes is the only way to properly preserve these items so that future generations can enjoy them.

Flip Top Style Hollinger Box

The most popular boxes used in an archive setting and perfect for any genealogist to use with their own records is a Flip-Top Archival Storage Box, also called a Hollinger Box. These boxes are used the most in archives. They are durable, sturdy and will repel moisture. They come in different sizes to accommodate documents of all sizes.

Record Storage Carton with shallow lids, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Another type of archival storage box that can be used is a Record Storage Carton with a Shallow Lid. These types of boxes are great for a large amount of records as well as to store 3-dimensional objects or artifacts.

Irish Celebration Records Collection 1963-Present Day, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Whichever box you choose to use for your genealogical records and artifacts, make sure it has "Passed the P.A.T." test. This is the Photographic Activity Test and is a worldwide standard for archival quality.

So, the next time you start thinking "A box is just a box, right?". Thank again and make sure you get archival safe and archival quality boxes to store your precious family records and artifacts.

Online Archival Material Stores:

Gaylord Archival

Hollinger Metal Edge

Light Impressions

University Products




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Early Bird Registration Ends Monday, January 15th

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Topics Are:

"That’s in the Archives! Digging Deeper In the Archived Records"

"The Home Archivist: Preserving Family Records and Heirlooms Like A Pro!"

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  1. I'm in the process of scanning my mother's collection of photos. There are many sizes. I've ordered thick archival sleeves for the more important 8X10 photos. What would be a good box to store a variety of size photos?

    1. A good box would be a flip top lid box, here is an example from Amazon or you could purchase them from any of the online archival stores: Hope this helps, Thanks for reading my blog!

  2. Archival boxes are my favorite. So convenient. Easy to stack, easy to label the outside (all sides, actually). I'm inventorying the contents of each box and putting a copy of the inventory in the box AND in the surname or family folder as a cross-reference so I can put my hands on what I need quickly, most of the time.

    1. Marian, your methods sounds spot on! Great Job! Thanks for reading my blog!

  3. I'm looking for an archival box that could be used to hold multiple sizes of photos. Should it be an upright with archival folders or maybe just a flat box where photos can be stacked. I really don't want to purchase several different size boxes for photos, since Mom doesn't have enough photos to divide up by different size boxes. Does that make sense? I also can't afford to get archival sleeves in various sizes for all the photos. But should they be separated from each other somehow?

    1. Dianne, you could us a flip top lid box or what we call a Hollinger box. It will hold file folders of different sizes of photographs. I would be sure to put each photo graph in an archival sleeve so they don't touch each other but once they are in the sleeves they can be put in the same file folder. As for sleeves, you could purchase one size sleeve and cut it down to fit smaller photographs or just house the photographs in the larger sleeves. That way you are not purchasing all different sizes. Here is a link on Amazon for the box or you can purchase the box from any online archival supply store:, Thanks for reading my blog!

  4. I have the same question as Dianne. When you mention sleeves, what does that mean? I understand what a sleeve is but what type of sleeve is used that you can cut down? I would like to start with my oldest photos (1870s and later) first and they are all different sizes. It feels overwhelming.

    1. I know it can be overwhelming but just take it a little at a time. Don't try to do it all at once. The sleeves I am talking about are these that you can get at Amazon or any online archival store. While these sleeves come in different sizes, sometimes in the archives the photos just don't fit right so we cut them down to size. Here is the link to the sleeves on Amazon:

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  6. Melissa, what is the difference between edge seal and intermittent seal? I'm getting ready to order sleeves. I promise I'll quit pestering you ... well maybe not. :) Thanks for all your help and advice.

    1. Dianne, you are not pestering me, I love to be of help. The difference between edge seal and intermittent seal is just how it is physically sealed. Either one will be just fine. I would not choose one over the other. Hope this helps.