I always dread shopping for archival supplies, because the process can be very overwhelming.
At any museum, the budget is a primary consideration. To find the best deals, I have to comparison shop in all the major catalogs, because there just isn't one source where you can get the best deal.
AND the products are not all exactly the same. Box sizes are different, and product names often change from supplier to supplier. It isn't exactly comparing apples to oranges -- more like oranges to tangerines.
There are three major companies that sell archival products:
Every single one is a great company and provides high quality archival materials. At some point in my career, I have purchased something from all of them.
Deciding what you need is often the toughest part.
When in doubt, go a little bigger. You want to give your artifact a little breathing room, rather than cram it into a box that’s too small for it.
Buying “kits” is often the best route for the home customer who wants to preserve a single wedding dress or photo album. If you have a collection of any size – like Grandma’s china service for 16 or Aunt Esther’s hat collection – you are better off buying larger quantities of the items that come in the kit.
Archival supplies are expensive. There’s no getting around that. But you can save some money by searching each source for the product you want. It is time consuming, and may not be worth it to save a few dollars. Or it might be. That’s up to you.
When I place an order, I usually purchase acid-free boxes in a variety of sizes (including textile boxes), acid-free tissue paper (textile boxes usually come with 15-20 sheets for free, but I also buy large rolls for other projects), B-72 acryloid lacquer (for numbering artifacts), and white cotton gloves.
At my museum, we raise money for archival supplies by sending each donor an "Adopt-an-Artifact" form with the Deed of Gift (the legal document that transfers ownership from the donor to the museum).
I understand that donors are giving us their valuable artifacts free of charge, rather than selling them to an antique dealer or at auction. But I also believe that our donors are the most likely group to care about properly storing their priceless treasures. And since the museum's collection is constantly growing, it takes more and more resources to maintain it.
Donations can be made in any amount, and every penny goes toward purchasing all kinds of archival supplies. Donor's can choose a specific type of artifact, or they can let us choose. The donation can also be made in the memory of a loved one.
If you are in the market for archival supplies, the best thing to do is order a free catalog from all the companies I mentioned. I find it easier to compare prices with the paper catalogs in front of me instead of 5 windows open on my computer.
If you have any questions or need advice about a particular storage need, feel free to contact me! I will do my best to guide you in the right direction.