Chapter 3, Re-housing and Storage

Chapter Contents:

When considering re-housing audiovisual media, it’s important to realize that re-housing does not equal preservation, although it can be an aspect of a preservation strategy. Audiovisual content on analog media must be copied to a more stable medium and the copy must be managed in a preservation environment for AV media to be considered preserved. Housing still has a role to play in stewardship of audiovisual material, but at the Archives we do not re-house audiovisual material as a default. Re-housing of AV tapes, reels, and discs is necessary when:

  • Original housing is missing
  • Original housing is dirty and can’t be cleaned, or has mold
  • Original housing is made of acidic paper or other deteriorating material
  • Original housing is broken or otherwise unsupportive to the media

Beginning in 2018, necessary re-housing of newly accessioned audiovisual materials in collections is done upon accession. For collections acquired prior to 2018, all motion picture film has been re-housed and stored in off-site cold storage, but other types of media are likely to be found by processing archivists in the housing they had at the time of the accession.

For AV materials that meet the above conditions for re-housing, archivists need to consider re-housing AV material during processing as a stabilizing measure. Archivists doing minimal processing are not expected to re-house AV media unless housing is missing, although archivists may always use their judgment as to whether they can afford the time required to re-house media if existing housing is missing, dirty, deteriorating, or unsupportive. Archivists doing full or intermediate level processing should plan to re-house audiovisual material that meets the above criteria as part of their processing work.

This chapter outlines the basic measures for providing adequate housing for AV media. Supplies mentioned in this document are all available in the AV processing room (2264) or the large processing room. Please help yourselves or ask for help.

  • Remove any acidic or damaged housing as you would for any other record.
  • Original housing is sufficient if it is clean, does not have acid stains, mold, or discoloration and provides structural support to the media.  
  • When replacing housing, unless the original housing is completely blank, photocopy old housing on acid-free paper and keep the copy of the original container in its entirety with the media object.  Be sure to photocopy printed information on the original media housing that relates to the media such as brand, footage length, tape thickness, etc. This information is important to retain for preservation and reformatting purposes.
  • Photocopies of original housing can be placed in collection folders along with rehoused media. You can also affix a pocket envelope to the new media housing with double-sided tape and put the photocopy in the pocket.
  • Four-flaps made from acid-free folder paper are not adequate housing for most media because it is not supportive. Media on reels or in cassettes can still be crushed. Four-flaps will only work for flat media – i.e. grooved discs.
  • Put audio reels, cassettes, and VHS videocassettes in new plastic containers if the original housing is missing, acidic, broken, or unsupportive.  If original housing is clean, unbroken, and doesn’t show signs of being acidic, leave the tape in its original housing. Recycled plastic containers are available for U-matic videocassettes.
  • for open reel tapes, add hold-down tape to loose ends; use white paper tape or silver tape
  • Plastic video containers that are dirty can be cleaned and retained. Replacement containers are not available for ½” video reels (Usually square, hinged plastic cases), various Beta-type video, Hi8/Video8, MiniDVs, HDCam, and other video cassettes, so original containers should be used. Clean using diluted alcohol and lint-free cloths if necessary.

Beginning in 2018, motion picture film will be inspected, leadered, wound on cores, and housed in vented plastic film cans upon accession by the AV archivist, and stored remotely in cold storage. During inspection, film will be AD tested and will be frozen if acid deterioration is found to be advanced. Film acquired before 2018 has been re-housed in stored of-site in cold storage, so processing archivists are unlikely to find film in collections. If film is found in a collection that was missed by the film re-housing project, please bring it to the attention of the AV archivist.

Technically, all films in archival storage should be on cores (plastic hubs in the center of the reel with no reel sides/flanges), with leader at the head and tail, in plastic vented cans, and stored flat. If film is on a reel and is becoming at all damaged by the flanges of the reel where they touch the edge of the film, it should be wound onto a core and stored flat regardless of size.

Although these tasks should no longer need to be accomplished during processing at the Archives as of this writing, for the record, the following actions are considered basic stabilization tasks that can be done by any archivist with film in their collections:

  • Film found in airtight (difficult to open) or rusted metal cans or cardboard boxes should be re-housed in plastic, vented cans. Clean metal cans with loosely fitting lids are acceptable to retain.
  • If replacing film cans, be careful not to let films wound on cores with loose winds unravel. Place the new can over the film in its original can, and flip it over to transfer the film to the new can with its wind intact.
  • Photocopy original housing if it has any labeling on it and keep photocopy with film reel.
  • If end of film is loose, tape it down with white paper tape. Do not pull the end to tighten the wind – this can scratch the emulsion and damage the images on the film.
  • Film with odor (usually vinegar) can be stored with molecular seives to absorb some of the acids and help prevent the off-gassing from damaging other materials in the container.
  • Many old discs have glass bases underneath the lacquer surface of the record and are very fragile. Glass-based discs should be encapsulated in a four-flap and stored between two pieces of acid-free cardboard, tied with cloth tape, and should be stored vertically, or if flat, should not have anything stored on top of them.
  • Contemporary vinyl records are more durable and don’t require encapsulation.  You can tell if a record is vinyl if it is somewhat flexible. Glass or aluminum-based discs are inflexible, and glass discs are generally much heavier than aluminum.
  • Sleeves are available for 10” and 12” diameter discs. Sleeves of other sizes can be made out of folder-weight paper, using the 4-flap method. See the AV Archivist for help identifying and re-housing grooved disc materials.
  • Tyvek or polypropylene sleeves are adequate housing for CDs and DVDs. If already housed in a jewel-case, this is also adequate.

If there is cool or cold storage available for magnetic media (tape) or film, separating media to improve its climate and extend its life is desirable. At the Archives, we have moved our film to cold storage for this reason, but we do not have cool storage available for magnetic media. Without a compelling reason to separate magnetic media to improve its climate, there is little reason to remove these materials from regular collection boxes, unless they do not fit in standard boxes.

Typically, most AV media can be physically arranged in boxes and folders like any other type of documentation. Special collection containers can be considered for large-sized media objects, or for large volumes of smaller-sized media objects. Typical storage alternatives in these cases include:

  • Sols (oversized flat boxes) for one, or a few, large grooved discs (records); such items should be described the same way oversized materials are described.
  • Shoeboxes can be used when there are a large number of small media such as sound cassettes, micro-cassettes, or small videocassettes; in these cases, the shoeboxes can either be considered the top containers, and labeled and barcoded as such, or they can be stored in the larger collection container, with the shoebox treated as a “folder” within the main collection container.
  • Some studio formats of audio and video exist in wide-gauge reels such as ½”, 1”, or 2” audio and video with container sizes exceeding the height or width of linear foot boxes. These formats are not common in the Archives’s collections, but when found, they need to be stored vertically and can be treated as an individual container in the collection. See AV-Specific Container Types for codes to use in your description.
  • All sound reels, sound cassettes, videocassettes, and video reels should be stored vertically, not flat.  It does not matter which edge they rest on.
  • If working with small media in folders, use pocket folders with sides to keep media from falling out when removing folders from the box.
  • All motion picture film at the Archives is stored flat in collection boxes in off-site cold storage following inspection and re-housing. For description purposes, each film can should be treated as an individual container and its container number should use a prefix of “FC,” for film can, in its instance.
  • Small numbers of discs 12” in diameter or larger should be stored flat in sols, without anything on top of them.
  • Discs can be filed vertically in folders when they fit.
  • Large numbers of large discs should be stored vertically in special containers. Let the AV archivist know if you need such containers.
  • In small number, best stored vertically in folders and not stacked.
  • Large numbers can be stored in specially-sized shoeboxes or sleeves

Cases, cans, and boxes:

  • Polypropylene audio cassette cases
  • Vented polypropylene 5”and 7” audio reel cases
  • Vented polypropylene VHS videocassette cases
  • Vented polypropylene 16mm film cans for reels sized by footage: 200’, 400’, 800’, etc.
  • Polystyrene reels and cases for 8mm and super 8 mm film
  • Sleeves for phonograph records, 7”, 10”, and 12” diameter
  • Tyvek CD/DVD sleeves
  • Polypropylene CD/DVD sleeves
  • Acid-free 10.5” diameter audio reel boxes with hub
  • Acid-free solander boxes (flat boxes)
  • Acid-free “hat” boxes, 11” x 11” x 7”
  • Acid-free “pizza” boxes for single 1600 or 2000’ 16mm film reels

Tape, paper, and tissue:

  • White paper tape
  • Silver tape
  • Cotton cloth tape
  • Buffered tissue paper approved for use with film-based photographs
  • Acid-free cardboard
  • Folder-weight acid-free paper

Supplies for cleaning:

  • Diluted alcohol
  • Lint-free paper cloths
  • Micro-fiber cloths

Supplies for more detailed re-housing:

  • 16mm film cores
  • 16mm, 8mm, and super8mm plastic leader
  • ¼” audio reel leader
  • Splicing tape for audio reels and cassettes
  • Tape splicer for 16mm, 8mm, super 8mm film
  • Double-sided tape
  • Acid-free pocket envelopes

Next Chapter: Chapter 4, Arrangement Guidelines