Arranging and storing a map collection?

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    • #132994
      Martha Grenzeback

      Our library has a fairly large collection of uncatalogued maps that for years have just been sitting in barrels (large rolled up maps), lying folded in envelopes (smaller maps), or simply lying in rolls along cabinet tops. We are starting to take them in hand–I would like to inventory them, create at least a list, and where possible store them in rather more archivally friendly environments. They are all Nebraska or Omaha maps (I think), but vary from city planning maps to plat maps to road maps to maps showing the location of downtown buildings years ago….Who knows, in fact. I’m wondering what is the best way to assign them numbers or some kind of identifying code. We have no record of their provenance. I would like to have the number we assign each one include their year of publication (which we can see in most cases), but beyond that? My colleague thought of including things like the name of the county and type of map in the item number, but I though that might become complicated…We also have more than one copy of many of these maps. What system does anyone else use? Whatever we set up now will pretty much be our future (we have a few hundred maps), so I’d like to do it right. :)
      My other question–we do not have the room or the facilities to store all these maps flat–is it a bad thing to store them rolled? Most of them have been rolled up for quite a few years.

    • #133007

      We just made a list of maps and assigned a number to each one. The list is in an Excel spreadsheet so it can be sorted by date or by other columns. I would suggest you do something like that rather than trying to come up with an item number that would reflect all the information you’re trying to capture.

      Most of our maps were also entered into our online catalogue so they can be discovered that way, but we tend to use the list more often.

    • #133006

      My institution is working on a big map project right now. We use museum accession numbers to identify them, which do not include the date of the object but do include the date of accession. For maps that we have no provenance for, we used a new accession number and just numbered them sequentially. All of the maps have labels that have the accession number and date, if known. I agree with Elizabeth Rose that it’s probably easier to just assign them numbers and use Excel or something else to capture all of the details.

      As far as storage goes, we have a number of maps that were humidified and flattened, which is something that is actually pretty easy to do without a ton of equipment, although some caution does need to be taken if the paper is fragile or the inks will bleed. Otherwise, we have many rolled maps that have been rolled up for years and will likely stay that way unless we get money to have them conserved.

    • #133005
      Wendi Murray

      I have a situation very similar to Martha’s – we have cabinets of flat files (mostly archaeological site maps) that are not indexed or numbered. I am digitizing them, and would like to assign numbers to each one and compile them into a searchable database. Our archives staff (they do not manage our archaeological files) suggested that I incorporate the site number into the flat file number for each map, but that doesn’t work because a) we do not always know which site the map refers to, b) they are not ALL site maps – some are county maps, railroad maps, etc.) and c) some of the maps document the locations of several arch sites at once. We also have multiple copies of the same maps. Is it better to assign a collections number (i.e., a number for all the flat files pertaining to site 32ME2) and each flat file within that collection number has a distinct object number (i.e., 32ME2.1, 32ME2.2, etc.)? This means we would have to come up with some arbitrary number to catch all the maps that do not pertain specifically to sites. Or should we just assign a sequential number to each document/map? That is a very simple system, but can anyone think of an alternative? Help!

    • #133004

      What is the opposition to giving the maps each a regular accession number like 1999.0001.0001 Our collections were originally given numbers based on the collection (archives, manuscripts, objects, etc.)It led to many similar and duplicate numbers and basically a difficult to search mess. As we computerize our collection, we are giving everything a standard accession number. We use Past Perfect but Excel can definitely work too. We often have researchers who want information not just on individuals but also where they lived, what they did, etc. Being able to search all of the catalogues at one time certainly makes our job easier.
      I am interested in storing maps. Our small maps are in flat drawers but the larger ones (4′ x 4′ and larger)are a problem. Most of them are rolled and we are considering rolling them around the outside of large archival tubes. I am particularly concerned about the maps with wooden slats on the top and bottom.
      Harriet Beckert

    • #133003

      I am having a similar problem, however I have recently received a very brittle map that has been stored flat for many years. We don’t have anywhere to put this map if it continues to be stored flat. Any suggestions about whether or not it is okay to roll it?

      As far as giving the items numbers, my institution begins every map with “M” and them numbers it in the order received. We then document these in our “brain book” which is like a spread sheet.

      Good luck! Sounds like a large project!

    • #133002
      Wendi Murray

      Hi Brittany – that is the numbering system I am considering, but can you tell me how your institution handles duplicate maps/files?

    • #133001

      We are only really starting the dreaded duplicate process haha! We are actually setting up a committee to deaccession artifacts that don’t match our mission and duplicates (beyond 2 or 3 copies). We always like to keep at least one backup (maybe two, depending on value)if it is available, but are now taking excess copies out of the collection. We do this either by auctioning/selling (profits that go straight back into the collection), returning to donor, or throwing the object out depending on its quality and value.

    • #133000
      Wendi Murray

      OK, thanks so much to you and everyone else for sharing!

    • #132999

      I’m working on conservation treatment for a collection of very large oversized rolled plans at the moment. These ones are all drawn on paper or architects linen and cloth backed. After humidification, flattening and repairs we have to provide storage solution. For storage we are doing one of two things. Plans that can fit flat into the client’s map cabinet drawers are going to be rehoused in polyester film (fomerly known as Mylar) L or C sleeves. They could be fully encapsulated but in this instance that is not a necessity and securing only 2 or 3 sides with the double sided tape saves money for the client. For plans too long to fit flat in the cabinets we are re-rolling them around an acid free core (like the mailing tube Harriet suggests and then placing them into 4 or five inch square acid free boxes that can stack on the shelving units. The tube core helps support the plan (many of which are from 1800’s and still fragile even after treatment) and the box makes it easy to stack them on the shelf plus gives physical protection from dust and light.

    • #132998

      We are about to start processing our map collection Found In Collection and we use Past Perfect. It’s rather large with everything from ink on silk to canvas backed to paper, rolled mainly, some flat, everything. Includes rolled blueprints. Where do I go for conservation and preservation methods for these please? I read all the replies, numbers aren’t my problem, but want to make sure they are stored correctly. Too many to unroll, and we do have map cabinets. Not sure where to start?

    • #132997
      Carolyn Frisa

      Hi Dorris,

      As a paper conservator, I also would recommend rolling the maps that cannot be safely unrolled and stored flat around some sort of support tube. Another money-saving trick is to purchase cardboard tubes (the wider the diameter you can accommodate, the better it is for the maps and a good source for sturdy tubes are Sonotubes or similar which can usually be found at your local building supply store or a Home Depot type store ) and then wrap an isolating layer of Melinex or Mylar around the outside of the tube to prevent the acid from migrating into the maps. The maps that can be stored flat, or even folded if necessary, should be stored in acid and lignin free folders in your map cabinets. When dealing with collections comprised of different types of maps and architectural reproductions, it is also important to identify what type of materials you are dealing with as some types of blueprints and reproductions should not be stored with other types. An excellent resource that deals specifically with the preservation and storage of blueprints and other types of architectural reproductions is the book, Architectural Photoreproductions: A manual for Identification and Care – Hope this helps a little…

    • #132996
      Jane Dalley

      I would also like to suggest a storage method that was used at a provincial archives. The maps were left rolled and stored in ABS pipe, a stable polymer and comes in different diameters from 1/2″ to 6″. We cut the pipe to the same length, lined it with a/f 10pt. card,and stacked it laying down inside existing shelving units. It worked well, protected the rolled maps, and used existing shelving units.

    • #132995
      Martha Grenzeback

      Thanks for all the helpful responses! This has given us some good ideas.

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