Preserving T-Shirts for MSU Special Collections

Written by: Bexx Caswell-Olson

Primary Source: Wallace Conservation Lab, July 5, 2016

In addition to lots of cool books, MSU’s Special Collections is home to lots of cool STUFF.  For instance, we have quite a few t-shirts within the Comic Art, Radicalism, and Popular Culture collections.

The curator of these collections felt strongly that the t-shirts should be shelved with the rest of the collections, and not in flat storage.  Many items were in plastic bags, envelopes, or much too large boxes (as shown in the first photo).  This led to a heap of sad, wrinkled shirts that were hard to shelve.

To combat this problem, I designed an enclosure that is fast and easy to make while providing support for the t-shirts and protects against slumping and wrinkling.

A piece of archival corrugated board is wrapped in Pellon, an inert polyester fabric.  The board will provide rigid support, while the Pellon helps to make creases softer and less damaging. The t-shirt is folded around this board  (as shown above by intern Linsey), and then placed into a pre-made “custom” four flap wrapper from Archival Products, which is secured with a piece of Velcro.

This box can be placed on the shelf alongside other items in the collections and looks much tidier!

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Bexx Caswell-Olson
Before migrating to Michigan and beginning work at the MSU Libraries Wallace Conservation Lab, Bexx Caswell-Olson was employed as a bookbinder and book conservator in private practice in Iowa City, IA. Prior to running her own business, Bexx spent nearly a decade living in the Boston area where she worked in a variety of libraries and conservation labs, including those at Harvard and MIT. She is Vice President of the Guild of Book Workers, a national organization for those working in bookbinding, book conservation, and the book arts. Bexx holds a Certificate in Bookbinding from the North Bennet Street School and a Master’s of Library Science from Simmons College. In addition to her passion for bookbinding, Bexx also has an affinity for typography, bibliomysteries, seed bead weaving, and vegan baking.