Matchbooks in Collections – Heads or no heads?

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    • #132487
      Renee Henry

      Do any of you have information on commonly accepted practices for storing matchbooks that contain matches?  Are they truly a hazard? Is there a way to protect them and the collection?


      Renee Henry, Curator

      Douglas County Museum, IL

    • #132491
      Patricia Miller

      Hi Renee. This topic has come up many times.  This is the most useful response I have seen, but I have more if you want to look at them. Contact me offline. This response is from Henry Crawford at Texas Tech.

      Pat Miller
      Henry’s response:

      Don’t remove the matches, they’re an integral part of the object.  If
      they’re paper matches from the late 1950s or so, I don’t see a need for
      immediate alarm.  We have similar materials in our advertising collection.
      They are likely safety matches, which were invented to prevent your biggest fear, (I assume) accidental combustion.  Your only concern is that your storage temperature should not be so high that combustion could occur, and for most museums that’s not a problem.  As for the sulfur, again, safety matches don’t have enough concentrated amounts to cause any harm.  If you’re concerned about sulfur gas buildup, vented storage could help prevent that if you’ve got lots (and I mean LOTS) of matches, but that’s pretty much all you’d need to do.  Adherence to proper storage,
      temperature, and humidity standards appropriate for paper should keep the matches safe.

      Oh, and keep out of reach of children 😉



    • #132490
      Renee Henry

      Thanks, Pat. I tried searching the site and didn’t find any threads. I guess I will have to learn more about how to use this so I’m not redundant.


    • #132489


      I don’t think I’ve seen a discussion on this site that answers your question. I think Pat is referring to museum/archive collection sites in general. (Pat, please correct me if I’m wrong.)

      Nora Lockshin, of the Smithsonian Institution Archives, wrote a pretty interesting blog post on this topic as well.

      What I really like about her post is that she has many, many photos of how she has mounted the matchbooks within archival folders to prevent further damage.


    • #132488
      Renee Henry

      Thank you for the blog link.  Pat was able to send lots of articles (many with conflicting ideas). I have decided to store them in sleeves in a metal box in a metal drawer and leave them whole.  I think doing the least to preserve seems best for us.

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