By Jamie Schmeits
The Library of Congress Geography and Map Division holds one of the largest collections of globes in the world. The construction of a new temperature- and humidity-controlled storage facility in Fort Meade, Maryland, provided the opportunity to house many of these globes in ideal conditions. Conservator Jim Thurn and a team of conservation technicians took on the task of creating a uniform housing method for over three hundred diverse globes. The housing method would need to protect the globes in transit between the Fort Meade facility and the Geography and Maps reading room, in addition to allowing easy access and identification for researchers and staff members.
Conservation staff created custom boxes for the smaller globes on the Library of Congress’s automated box maker. For larger globes, staff special-ordered boxes constructed of 60-point board in three sizes from an outside vendor. All the boxes are drop-front with a removable inner tray, to allow the globes to be removed with minimal risk of damage. Conservation staff also added double flaps behind the drop front and binder board to reinforce the inner tray for heavier globes.
Conservation staff wanted to solve some specific problems with this project. Most notably, staff wanted to determine how they might hold the globes securely in place within the boxes, especially during transit, without adding unnecessary weight or potentially causing damage. While testing out various solutions, staff discovered that non-cross-linked, closed-cell polyethylene foam planks, trimmed to size and adhered with hot-melt glue on the sides of the box and in the tray, provided enough support for most globes. A thin layer of cross-linked, closed-cell polyethylene foam on the front of the supports provided a softer, less abrasive surface to minimize risk of damage to the globes. For larger and heavier globes, staff reinforced the foam planks with flute board for additional rigidity.
With the foam supports in place, staff affixed labels inside the box to help ensure the globe was returned to its box correctly. Staff found the labels necessary, as incorrect placement of a globe in a box might cause damage. These labels indicated the front of the tray and the direction in which the meridian or axis should point, so that the globe was correctly positioned in respect to the foam supports. Conservation staff also encapsulated a color digital image and bibliographic information and attached it to the front of the box.
The globe housing project provides a model for practical problem solving in a low technology environment using simple and inexpensive tools to ensure the safe transit and long-term standardized storage of valuable and unique globe collections.