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Boxing and Inventory Guide

Manuscripts Division
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540

Boxing materials

  • Maintain the current order of the materials
    Records should be placed into boxes in the upright position in the order in which they were kept in filing cabinets or other storage units. Keep the records in their original file folders, and maintain the original filing arrangement of the records (i.e. alphabetical, numerical, chronological, by subject, by project) when boxing materials.
  • Fill boxes entirely, but don’t overstuff
    Try not to overfill or underfill the boxes. Packed boxes should be full, that is, with less than ½ inch of space remaining. A correctly packed box will have enough space to remove and replace a file folder easily, but not so much space that the folders fall or bend. The lid to each box should close entirely without bending or crushing any materials inside. Do not leave empty space in a box because you are beginning a new file group -- simply insert a clearly marked divider sheet inside the box to indicate where one group of materials stops and another begins. If you must send a partial box, please insert cardboard boxes or other fill material to support files.
  • Place folders in boxes in the appropriate orientation
    Letter-size folders should be packed facing the 12" side of the box and legal-size folders packed facing the 15" side. If you have a mixture of the two folder sizes, pack them facing the 15" side.
    Preferred Orientation← Preferred orientation, if any or all of the contents of a box are legal-size records. If in doubt, file this way.
  • Acceptable Orientation← Acceptable orientation if you have enough letter-size records to fill a whole box. If all of the contents of a box are letter-size records, pack the box with the records facing the short side of the box with the handhold (12 inch side). DO NOT store hanging file folders in this orientation, even if they are all letter-size.
  • Remove hanging file folders, binders, and unwieldy fasteners (if possible)
    No Hanging FoldersBe sure to transfer over any identifying information from hanging file folders or binders you discard.
  • Box oversize materials separately
    Any oversize materials that do not fit upright inside cartons should be boxed separately lying flat. If larger materials must be pulled from their original location to be boxed safely, leave a marker sheet in the original location, noting which box the oversize material was removed to. Oversize materials may be stacked flat inside of record center cartons. For materials that are too large to fit lying flat inside cartons, email to request oversize boxes (provide dimensions).
  • Label boxes
    Each box should be clearly marked or labeled with a sequential box number (Box 1, Box 2, Box 3, Box 4, etc.).


Assembling boxes

The library may provide archival record center cartons for packing materials. Boxes will come flat (each consists of two pieces, the main box and a lid) and require assembly. Consult the how-to video for assembly instructions. (For brown Paige miracle boxes, refer to this video instead) To assemble the lid, fold the edges of the box lid at scored lines and insert tabs into slots.

Filling out inventory spreadsheet

Download the inventory template.

To ensure timely cataloging of materials, it is helpful, if possible to have an electronic inventory. The completed inventory spreadsheet can be sent as an email attachment to While electronic submission is highly preferred, the inventory can also be printed and included in a box.

Depending on the level of granularity possible, each row can be used to describe a box or a single folder within a box. Not all materials need to be inventoried at the same level -- in other words, it is acceptable to provide a folder-level inventory for some materials and a box-level inventory for others.

For inventorying at the box level, the title can be a brief, general description of box contents (ex. “Correspondence” or “Projects: A-F”). Example of box-level inventory:

Box-Level Inventory

For inventorying at the folder level, folder titles can be transcribed directly. In the absence of original folder titles, supply a brief description of the folder’s contents. Example of folder-level inventory:

Folder-Level Inventory

For inventorying materials at any level, a date or date range should be supplied based on information from original labels or a quick scan of the contents. A year or range of years is sufficient (exact days and months are not required). If unsure, please provide an estimate range by using “circa” (ex. circa 1970-1980).

Use the optional Notes field to indicate any other important information the library should know, such as whether materials are restricted or are likely to include legally protected information. Also use the Notes field to alert the library to any materials that may require conservation treatment due to mold or pests. Restrictions and conservation issues should also be discussed with the curator.

If digital materials are present in the collection, note that there is a second sheet of the inventory template where digital materials should be described and additional contextual information should be provided, where possible. Alert the curator to the presence of digital materials. A Special Collections staff member can also assist you with filling out this form, if requested.