Make Your Own Enclosures for Your Precious Books

By Melanie Tran

We all have books in our homes; some are treasured and hold sentimental value, while others are purely informational or decorative. But most sit on bookshelves day after day, forgotten until a need arises. As books are meant to be read, they inevitably begin to show wear over time. Examples of structural damage include torn spines, detached covers and loose pages. While chemical damage can also occur in the form of yellowing pages, brittleness and staining. The good news is some of these damage types can be mitigated with proper handling and storage.

I recently taught a workshop on making custom enclosures for books, as part of the Homestead’s White Glove workshop series. The two types of boxes created in class were an exercise in thinking about preserving books using materials that won’t create further damage. Making a box to house books provides stability, keeps loose parts together and in effect creates a barrier to detrimental environmental factors such as dust, light, relative humidity and temperature.

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During the workshop, I demonstrated the process of making a two-piece phase box and a corrugated board clamshell box using archival materials. Each box or enclosure has its advantages and disadvantages. The phase box has a slim profile, and is generally used for smaller volumes or loose sheets and is made of a less rigid board than the clamshell. While still providing protection, the phase box is not completely sealed from exterior elements of dust, light and relative humidity. The box is minimal and can be made quickly. The clamshell provides more structural support than the phase box, so it can be used to house volumes thicker than an inch as well as large format books. The clamshell is a thicker, bulkier box that fully protects the book and helps maintain its shape, preventing slumping, snagged corners or torn covers. Because it is made of a thicker material, it does add more bulk to the book, minimizing shelf space.

The phase box and clamshell are simple structures that can be made to custom fit most books on your shelf. With practice, these structures can be adapted to house other types of objects. For example, the phase box can be used to hold greeting cards, loose photographs and note cards. The clamshell can be used to house silverware, cups and saucers, medals and more. The possibilities are endless.

If workshops focused on caring for your precious keepsakes peaks your interest, sign up to receive information about future opportunities on our website.

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