What type of aids and props can I use to ensure safe handling?

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Category: Handling
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Posted by Conservation Answers(Questions:33:Answers28)
Answered On 25 February, 2014 12:37 am

Padded blocks

Padded blocks are essential for protecting framed paintings and other items in many storage and handling situations, as they:

  • prevent abrasion damage to bottom edges of works
  • prevent works from sliding when leaning against a wall
  • allow works to rest on the strongest part of the frame and keep ornate sections clear of the table or floor
  • image of a painting on top of two block Blocks placed to avoid weight on ornate elements
Blocks placed to avoid weight on ornate elements

Blocks placed to avoid weight on ornate elements

The blocks should be high enough to elevate the object, and any protruding decorative elements, off the floor. They should have padded upper and side surfaces and be non-slip on the bottom. A useful block size to accommodate most objects is about 6cm x 10cm x 30cm. If you have large heavy items or very ornate frames in your collection you may need larger blocks up to 15cm x 10cm x 30cm in size. It is possible to make your own padded blocks by using pieces of timber and stapling carpet to the sides and top. Remember to staple non-slip material such as carpet underlay to the bottom to avoid movement. Alternatively, order solid foam blocks cut to specified sizes from a foam supplier. Choose dense, strong foam, which will not crumble easily.

Examples of padded blocks

Examples of padded blocks

Bean pillows

Calico pillows filled with polystyrene beans are useful to support objects during handling, movement and examination. If you have some basic sewing skills amongst your committee or team of volunteers they are easy to make yourself. Sew bags of various dimensions using undyed, pre-washed calico and fill them 3/4 full with polystyrene bean-bag beans. They are particularly useful to cradle and support odd shaped objects.

Map weights

Leather map weights filled with lead shot are useful for holding paper items securely during examination or handling, particularly if the item has been rolled. You can purchase leather map weights from a preservation or archival material supply company, but they are expensive. If you have a particularly significant map or large plan collection that is heavily accessed they may be worth the investment. A cheaper alternative is to make your own by filling small cloth bags with lead shot. The bags will need to be strong because of the weight of the lead.

Homemade calico map-weight, a leather map-weight, and lead shot

Homemade calico map-weight, a leather map-weight, and lead shot

Bubble wrap rolls and pads

Bubble wrap or Cellair™ can make cheap and flexible props for temporarily supporting cultural items. Rolls and pads are easy to make at short notice. Cut lengths of bubble wrap or Cellair™ and roll them into rolls or fold into cushions. Tie them with cotton tape to secure them. Always use bubble wrap with the bubble side in to avoid the possibility of the bubbles marking the surface of the item. Bubble wrap and Cellair™ props are best used only as a short-term solution.

Homemade supports made from Cellair™ and bubble wrap

Homemade supports made from Cellair™ and bubble wrap

Similar rolls can be made from Dacron™, although the surface can catch. If covered with stretch knit fabric, these can make excellent long-term storage supports.

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