Plastic storage containers can keep dust and moisture away from the old documents, textiles and artifacts in your museum storage area. However, plastic containers are not all made the same, and when shopping for storage bins for your museum, you need to choose them carefully. Keep these tips in mind:
1. Opt for chemically stable plastics.
There are a number of different plastics that can be used to make storage bins, and if you are storing old textiles or papers, you need to select a plastic that is chemically stable. Unstable plastics deteriorate over time, and they will leach byproducts into your items.
Instead, opt for heavy-duty storage bins made of polypropylene or polyethylene. Bins made of other weaker plastics may be cheaper, but in the long run, they can end up costing more if your collection gets damaged.
2. Avoid plasticizers in the bins.
When looking at the makeup of different storage bins, also make sure that there are no plasticizers in them. Plasticizers are used in multiple applications, ranging from bubble wrap to plastic binders to storage bins, and their role is to make the plastic more flexible. Essentially, plasticizers act as a fluid, and on a chemical level, this allows the polymers in the plastic to move. The flexibility you feel on the side of many plastic storage bins is often from plasticizers.
Unfortunately, however, because the plasticizers are not stable, they tend to leach out of the plastic over time. Eventually, they can dissolve ink, corrode metal and cause other damage. For that reason, you need to avoid plasticizers in your bins, even if it means forgoing a bit of flexibility.
3. Choose UV-resistant plastics.
In addition to choosing stable plastics without plasticizers in them, look for a heavy-duty plastic that promises to withstand UV rays. This is especially important if there is a lot of natural light in your storage area from windows or skylights, and it also ensures that you can transport your items without worrying about damage from sunlight.
4. Consider opaque bins to protect artifacts from light.
If your storage area has no sunlight, you don't have to worry about UV-resistant plastics, but you still have to consider the effects of light damage. Overtime, even indoor light can damage the ink on textiles or paper and cause it to fade. If you are storing light-sensitive items, storage them in opaque or colored heavy-duty storage containers.
Note that if you are storing arrowheads made of rocks, metal tools or other items that are not as sensitive to light damage, you can store them in clear plastic containers, and that will allow you to see these items while they are in storage.
5. Look for stackable storage bins.
In addition to choosing the best quality bins, you also need to consider logistical elements such as stackability. When choosing heavy duty storage bins for your museum, consider looking for stackable bins. This makes moving multiple boxes easier, safer and more stable. It can also help you save money on shelving as you can simply stack the bins together rather than placing them individually on shelves.
6. Insist on waterproof lids.
Finally, make sure that the lids you select are waterproof. Ideally, they should have a seal and a latch to lock the lid in place on the box. This protects your artifacts from floods and other serious damage, but it also helps with small issues like keeping out moisture from condensation.
For more tips on which type of heavy duty plastic storage containers are best for your museum's archival and storage needs, contact a storage expert.