There’s an Archival Box for That!

By Melissa Barker
Houston County, TN Archivist

Melissa Barker is an archivist and genealogist that writes about preserving records photographs and artifacts.

Let’s face it, many of the items we as family historians have in our family history collections are unique and sometimes odd shaped. These are usually called family artifacts or family heirlooms. These items help to tell our ancestor’s story and also help to remind us of our family members that are no longer with us. Just holding these items takes us back to our childhood or helps us to imagine what our ancestors were like when they owned a particular artifact. One of my favorite family artifacts is a butter mold that belonged to my husband’s great-grandmother.

Trying to archive or preserve these items can be a challenge but with the right box it can be done!

These items are those 3-dimensional items that we might display on a shelf or bring out at family gatherings to show to our family members. They are a point of contact with our ancestors and they have true family history meaning to us and are items we cherish. Just like our paper documents, our family artifacts should be preserved and stored correctly so that they survive for future generations to enjoy.

We are fortunate that the online archival stores (see list below) know our need for archival boxes of all shapes and sizes and have provided quite a selection. Protecting our precious family artifacts should be a top priority and one that I take very seriously as a genealogist and archivist.

Do you have your Grandfather’s bowler hat? There’s an archival box for that! Check out this hat box from Gaylord Archival.

Do you have an American flag that was draped over your ancestor’s casket during a military funeral service? There is a wonderful archival box just for American flags or for any flag that you may have in your collection. They come in different sizes to meet your needs.

Do you have artifacts that you have found around the family home place? There are great suspension boxes that can be used to house these artifacts and also display them for others to see.

These suspension boxes are also great for pressed flowers and butterfly collections.

One of the best ways to find these wonderful and unique archival boxes is to search the archival store catalogs. You can search the online catalogs of these stores but I always encourage genealogists to order a FREE paper catalog. When I get my archival catalogs in the mail, it’s like getting the Sears Christmas Wish Book! I love sitting down with a cup of coffee and looking at all the wonderful archival boxes that are available in the catalog. Also, don’t forget to get plenty of archival tissue paper to wrap around you artifacts and to put into the boxes to keep them cushioned and stable in the box.

Lastly and most importantly, storing our artifacts in a cool, dark and dry place will insure that our precious family heirlooms will survive the ravages of time and the environment. High temperatures, sunlight and humidity can destroy documents, photographs and artifacts very quickly. Never store these items in an attic, basement or garage. Where we store our genealogical records and artifacts is very important.

So, whether you have your Dad’s bowling trophy or Great-Grandma’s handmade quilt, I guarantee, there is a box for that!

Here is a listing of several archival stores that will send out FREE paper catalogs:

Gaylord Archival:

Hollinger Metal Edge:

University Products:

Light Impressions:


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