Cold Storage Packaging

Supplies You Need

There are 5 short videos showing the various supplies needed to successfully pack film based materials for cold storage. The videos are: 
Tools:  This video shows, scissors, archival ink pen, tape measure, labels, gloves, bone folder, soft sandbag style weights.
Supplies, Filler Material:  This video shows the materials used:  ethafoam, corrugated board, and tissue.  The video also shows how these are used to fill boxes.
Supplies Bags and Tape:  this video shows the different type of bagging options.  It highlights the recommended bags.  The first bag is a barrier film bag which is a silvery thin static shielding bag, the second bag is a large thick zip lock film bag.  There are also 2 rolls of tape show for use in packing. 
Supplies Humidity cards:  this video shows the used of humidly cards, the humidity card is a thin card with blue dots indicating the relative humidity of the environment.
Supplies Boxes:  This video shows a wide variety of boxes all in different shapes and sizes.  These boxes are grey cardboard with metal corner brackets , and are being recommended to house film collections.

Presentation Transcript:

Supplies: Tools

There are several tools and supplies you will need to use when preparing your packages for cold storage. Some of these items may already be included in your archival supplies: (11SEC)

Non-stick, or Teflon-coated, scissors are especially nice to have when you are cutting a lot of tape.(8SEC)

An archival ink pen to write on the labels for your packages. The black ink is easier to view than a pencil through the packaging. (8SEC)

A standard measuring tape. (2 SEC)

Labels to identify the boxes. We recommend archival, foil-backed labels or self-adhesive polypropylene label holders with paper inserts. (11 SEC)

Gloves, to use when you handle the film directly. (4 SEC)

A bone folder which is useful for securing the tape to the bags. (4 SEC)

Weights to help secure the bags and push out air while wrapping and taping the boxes.

Supplies: Filler Material

Here are some archival supplies you can use for filler material inside your boxes. It is important to fill as much empty airspace as possible before wrapping the boxes for cold storage. Some common materials we recommend using are Ethafoam, corrugated boards and tissue. (20 SEC)

The Ethafoam sheets are easy to work with and can be cut to fit spaces inside your boxes. Corrugated blue board can also be cut to size, and it adds rigid support for films inside boxes. Archival tissue can be used to fill spaces by crumpling or shaping it into appropriate sized pieces. (21 SEC)

Supplies: Bags and Tape

The goal of packaging is to create a stable microclimate that will help preserve film-based collections. We do this by using a series of bags to create a vapor-proof environment . The first bag you will use is a barrier film bag, which will be placed directly over your box or film can. This type of bag provides a good moisture barrier between the film-based materials and the cold environment. The second bag is a polyethylene bag which helps reinforce the vapor barrier and also provides additional durability to the overall packaging. (36 SEC)

There are several barrier film products you can use to make custom bags. These are some common ones:

  • This is a bag made from MarvelSeal 360
  • This is a Dry Shield bag
  • This bag is made from a material sold by Mitsubishi, and it is a multi-layer film with polyethylene, aluminum and polyester.

All three of these products are very similar and provide good moisture barriers.

However, all of these bags are opaque , so you can’t see through them. This means you will not be able to view the humidity indicator cards and labels on your boxes or film cans, making it difficult to identify and monitor the contents. (42 SEC)

We recommend using a static shielding bag. This type of bag provides an acceptable moisture barrier, and it is semi-transparent, so you can read labels and humidity indicator cards through the bag.

The outer bag we recommend is a thick polyethylene zip-lock bag. This archival-grade bag provides additional protection for the boxes and cans as you move them in and out of the freezer, and it also completes the vapor-proof packaging design. (33 SEC)

In addition to bags, you need two different kinds of tape, an archival double-sided tape to attach humidity indicator cards and a clear polypropylene sealing tape with acrylic adhesive to seal the seams and secure the bags. (17 SEC)

Supplies: Humidity Cards

These are examples of humidity indicator cards. We use two of the same type of card to monitor the relative humidity inside each package. We place one card directly on the box before wrapping it with the barrier film bag, and we place a second card on the box between the barrier film bag and the polyethylene bag. The placement of these cards enables us to monitor the relative humidity inside each bag. It is important to identify any changes that may be due to leaks in one or both of the bags, as they will compromise the microclimate. (36 SEC)

Supplies: Boxes

Some additional supplies you may need are an assortment of archival boxes. Shown here are examples of several types of boxes that usually fit well inside an upright freezer compartment. We recommend using metal-edged boxes made with 60-point board because they are strong, durable, stack well, and are unlikely to slump when stored on top of each other. (23 SEC)

You will want to utilize as much interior storage space as possible, so it is important to consider the use of a variety of boxes.

For a list of suggested boxes refer to the resources tab at the bottom of this page. (16 SEC)

Your collection materials will be housed in different sized boxes, as Jenny went over earlier. Because of this, you will need to order bags that appropriately fit each size box. You want to make sure that the bags fit the box as well as possible without being too tight. but excess material, either on the width or the length of the bags, will only add bulk inside the freezer compartment.



  • Scissors (non-stick or Teflon-coated are easier to use for cutting tape)
  • Archival Ink Pens
  • Measuring Tape (archival foil-backed or archival plastic label holders with paper inserts)
  • Gloves (various types, but polyester gloves are epecially useful when handling film)
  • Bone Folder (used to press and secure tape)
  • Weights

Additional Tools

  • Graphite Pencils
  • Ruler
  • Box Cutter or similar cutting blade

Filler Materials

  • Ethafoam sheets
  • Archival corrugated board
  • Coroplast sheets
  • Archival tissue paper
  • Cotton twill tape
  • Mat board
  • Archival paper stock

Bags & Tape

  • Static shielding bags, open end (various sizes, as needed)
  • Polyethylene bags, various sizes (clear, 6-mil thickness, press-to-close, FDA compliant)
  • 3M 313 clear packaging tape (3” width)
  • 3M 415 double-sided tape (1/4” width)

Humidity Cards

The use of humidity indicator cards will enable you to monitor the RH inside the packages. As demonstrated in the packaging process, you must place a humidity indicator card inside each bag. This will enable you to identify a change in RH in both bags.

6-Spot Cobalt Humidity Indicator Card (10-60% RH)
6-Spot Cobalt Humidity Indicator Card (10-100% RH)

Boxes, Cans, Envelopes, Cards, Labels

  • Archival boxes (various sizes for different film types and formats NOTE: 60pt board, metal edged boxes are preferred (durability, strength)
  • Archival plastic pages (for flat storage of slides and/or negatives)
  • Archival plastic film cans (for motion picture films)
  • Archival envelopes (buffered is recommended for storage of deteriorating films)
  • Humidity indicator cards (6-spot, preferred)
  • Archival Labels (foil-backed, various sizes, depending on your needs)


How To Calculate The Right Sized Bag for Each Box

To wrap the boxes/cans using the recommended vapor-proof packaging design, you must have the right sized bags. Below is a simple formula you can use to help determine an appropriate bag size for the box/can you need to wrap. Keep in mind that not all size combinations are available in the static shielding and polyethylene bags, so you will need to select the bag sizes that are closest to what you need. For example, if you need a 13x16 polyethylene bag, you may need to purchase a 13x18 bag because 13x16 is not available. You should select the closest (larger) size available to ensure you can enclose your box/can and have enough excess to fold and tape/seal the bags properly.

FORMULA: (L + H + 1) x (W + H + 1) = Recommended Bag Dimensions (LxW)

For example, if the dimensions of your box are 4Hx5Wx12L(D), then your bag Length =12+4+1=15 and your bag Width =5+4+1=10. You will need a bag at least 15Lx10W.

Continue to Cold Storage Packaging: Wrapping The Collections