These pale blue card boxes are probably around 150 years old – a similar age to the specimens housed inside. They are great for storage, because you can see what’s inside through the glass lid, and the specimen is protected and not squashed. Boxed specimens like these have been used in exhibitions in the past, and some are currently on our Museum Handling Tables.
However, there is a problem. The box lids are coming apart. The glue that holds the card rim around the glass to form the lid is just not sticking any more. So the glass is loose, and sometimes the card rim is torn, or even worse, completely missing!
And so, I have embarked on a programme of Box Mending, with the help of the other Curatorial Assistants in the Manchester Museum. We have several materials to help us: scissors, gummed paper tape (archival quality, of course), and most effective of all, water.
We cut the tape to the right size, moisten it, and stick it on in strips. This works well at the corners where the card is torn.
Even better, though, is moistening the 150 year old glue to reactivate it. Once held in place and allowed to dry, the ancient glue works just like new! A quick polish of the glass and the boxes are restored and functional once more.