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Processing and Description: Housing

Guide for UB Special Collections covering accessions, processing, description, and care of collection material.
Last Updated: Jun 5, 2023 11:19 AM


Collection Level

  • The needs of individual items, as well as the collection as a whole need to be considered to provide the most efficient use of stacks space.  Most collections will be stored in manuscript boxes (letter and legal) or cartons.

Folder Level

  • Items are "grouped," most often in folders.
  • Use the same size folder for each box or carton (i.e., use all legal or all letter size per box).
  • What is referred to as "folder level" can also be expandable folders, envelopes, 4-fold wrapper, small box, or a custom enclosure.
  • Folders or other enclosures should fit snugly in the box, without curling, shifting, flopping over, etc.  Use a box bolster if necessary.
  • Oversize folder? Alternate folder placement in box (i.e. alternate the open end) to evenly distribute the weight.

Container Labels

  • All boxes should have a label (see images below), including map folders.
  • Print on foil-backed labels.
  • Note restrictions in red on label.

How to fill in this form

Folder Titles

  • Use pencil and print clearly.
  • Label folders with:
    • Title
      • Folder titles should be clear and concise.
      • DO NOT title folders with a year or year range (<unittitle> and <unitdate> are 2 distinct elements).
      • Titles on a folder can be condensed versions of what is entered in the finding aid.
    • Date or date range of enclosed materials
    • Collection number
    • Box and Folder number (use the stamp)
  • A "folder" can be another unit of enclosure (4 fold, expandable folder, envelope, etc.).


  • Describe by group wherever possible.
  • Item level description is rare and reserved for the most valuable items and collections.
  • Use approximate dates (circa), using clues from image (cars, dress, etc.).
  • Lack of identification?  Add note to finding aid.  An example is below:
    • Note: Most of these photographs lack identification such as people, place, or event.  If you were a member of the Black Student Union from 2000-2010, a UB student during that time, or believe you can provide identification for photos in this collection, please contact University Archives. 

Storage and Handling

  • Use cotton gloves
  • Discrete
    • Photos with other objects, such as letters, should remain in place to maintain context.
    • "Bundle" photo with relating object within a folded piece of permalife paper (unless of high value and use).
  • Collections, Series, or Subseries
    • Good condition, lower value and use
      • Group in envelopes within folder
    • Good condition, high value and use
      • Store in mylar enclosures (sized to photo) within folder
    • Fragile or torn photos (in pieces) of high value and use
      • Store in 4 fold enclosure
      • Backing board may be necessary
      • Flat storage may be necessary


  • Prints and photographs should be de-framed with acidic mats removed
  • De-framing of artwork should be decided on an as needed basis, in consultation with an archivist. 
  • Prints should be stored flat in the smallest container applicable to a collection, or in a shared collection map drawer or oversize box. 
  • Fragile or broken prints may need to be "sandwiched" between 2 pieces of archival mat board, and/or a 4 fold enclosure may be used.
  • Assemblage or other 3 dimensional artwork may need to be stored in a sink mount (example:

Describe prints using this glossary with consultation of (consult How to Identify Prints, by Bamber Gascoigne).

Glossary/Identifying Artworks for Description

  • Acrylic
    • Can resemble a watercolor or an oil painting, or have its own unique characteristics not attainable with the other media; can look “plastic-y”
    • Acrylic is very useful in mixed media, allowing use of pastel [oil & chalk], charcoal, pen, etc. on top of the dried acrylic painted surface. Mixing other bodies into the acrylic is possible - sand, rice, even pasta may be incorporated in the artwork.
  • Aquatint
    • Magnified à looks like black lace; white spaces surrounded by squiggles
    • Imitates the effect of a watercolor wash
    • Gradations of tone
  • Blueprints [architectural drawings or prints]
    • white images on blue backgrounds
  • Blueprints prints [architectural drawings or prints]
    • blue images on white backgrounds
  • Carpet
    • Rug of some size
    • Use geographical region to describe oriental rugs/carpets
  • Cartoon see also Comic Strip
    • Pictorial images using wit to comment on such things as contemporary events, social habits, or political trends, usually executed in a broad or abbreviated manner.
  • Casein
    • Dries to an even consistency with matte finish
    • Can resemble oil paint
  • Chalk use Pastel
  • Charcoal
    • Blacker than pencil; if not fixed, can “dust off”
    • Can produce precise line or resemble brushstrokes
  • Ciborium
    • Covered chalice
  • Comic Strip
    • Often serialized; 1 or more frames
  • Conté
    • Graphite or charcoal mixed with wax or clay
    • Conte crayons are commonly black, gray, brown
  • Copper-line Engraving
    • Pre-1820 intaglio prints are almost always on copper
    • Greater intensity of tone than a steel-engraving; heavier lines
  • Drawing
    • Generally, has details greater than a sketch, such as shading.
  • Drypoint
    • “Slashed” quality à with ink held on either side of line, a “warm blur”
    • Lines tend to be straight, short, or in very simple curves
    • A thin white line can appear with the black line
  • Elevation [architectural drawing or print]
    • exterior view that closely resembles the natural appearance of the object
  • Enamel
    • Transparent, opaque or opalescent [translucent] in color, glossy, and very smooth
  • Engraving
    • Broad and narrow incisions; lines have pointed ends
    • More formal, artificial lines
  • Etching
    • Lines are same width along their lengths with blunt ends
    • More fluid/languid lines, akin to drawing
  • Film [movie] Use Motion Picture
  • Floor plan [architectural drawing or print]
    • horizontal section of a building as it would appear if cut through by an intersecting plane
  • Giclee
    • No screen or other mechanical devices are used and therefore there is no visible dot screen pattern.
    • Image has all the tonalities and hues of the original painting
  • Gouache
    • Water-based, opaque
    • Less “wet-appearing” than watercolor
    • Often used in 20th century cell animations/graphic design
  • Gravure
  • Illustration
    • Drawing/sketches, etc. designed to accompany text
  • Intaglio print
    • Image is cut into material [like metal plates]
    • Steady, crisp lines with pointed ends
    • Variations in ink tone
    • Curved, parallel lines of various thickness creating a 3-d effect; crosshatching with dots for tonal areas
  • Line engraving
    • Image made by linear means only [as opposed to stippling, aquatint, and other methods of producing tone]
  • Linocuts
    • “Woodcut” using linoleum
    • Main consideration is to identify work as a relief print [see Relief print]
    • Large size and absence of wood grain, generally = a modern relief print using a composition material like linoleum
  • Linoleum block print use Linocuts
  • Lithograph
    • Flatness of image and lie of the ink
    • Evenness of printed tone (as opposed to intaglio print)
    • Unchanging density of ink between thin and thick lines
    • “dots” look like waxy crayon under magnification
      • Doesn’t make a complete/solid line
    • Tinted lithograph
      • Often a neat, rectangular shape of the tinting gives away that it is not hand-painted
    • Color lithograph
      • Crayon-shading and/or stipple effects of each printed color
  • Lithographic crayon [or chalk]
    • Chalk-like effect on print
    • Magnified, an evenness of printed tone
  • Maquette
    • Small model of a sculpture.
  • Mixed media
    • Work with multiple materials and techniques
  • Monoprint
    • Image is painted onto a surface, and then transferred to a print by rubbing or pressing.
    • Each print is unique.
  • Mural
    • In any medium dominating a wall/ceiling; if a painting, use mural painting.
  • Oil paint
    • Subtle blending of colors; vivid color with natural sheen and distinct contrast.
    • Surface translucency similar to human skin à ideal medium for portraits.
  • Oil pastel
    • Characteristics similar to pastels and wax crayons.
  • Pastel
    • Chalky consistency; needs to be fixed or it can easily mar.
    • Pastel covering the entire ground = Pastel Painting
    • Pastel Sketch or Pastel Drawing shows much of the ground
  • Photo etching use Photogravure
  • Photogravure
    • Printed photographic images.
    • Slightly broken edges; wide-tonal range; excellent reproduction of detail
    • Aquatint grain or fine irregular grain pattern that real photos lack; soft-edged dots
    • Variation in deposited ink- less in light areas; more in dark areas
  • Plan [architectural drawing or print]
    • usually drawn to scale, with view looking down on an object, building, or scene from above
  • Relief print
    • Key characteristic is how the ink lies: pressure of print produces a rim around each printed areas, especially at print edge and areas with ink surrounded by large area of white.
  • Rug vs. Carpet
    • Carpet= rug of some size; mainly a floor covering
    • Rug is generally smaller; can have uses other that a floor covering
  • Scratchboard
    • drawings are created using sharp knives and tools for etching into a thin layer of white China clay that is coated with black India ink visible scratches/gouges in paper
    • can also be made with several layers of multi-colored clay, so the pressure exerted on the instrument used determines the color that is revealed.
    • yields a highly detailed, precise and sometimes textured artwork.
  • Screen print
    • Blended “rainbow” effect à subtle gradations of changing color
    • Overlapping layers of ink are visible
  • Section [architectural drawing or print]
    • orthographic projection of an object as it would appear if cut through by an intersecting plane. 
    • Usually the slice is vertical and view is horizontal.
  • Serigraph Use Screen print
  • Silkscreen Use Screen print
  • Site plans [architectural drawing or print]
    • describes location and orientation of building(s) on a plot of land and in relation to its context
  • Sketch
    • Drawing without detail, such as shading.
  • Tapestry
    • Heavy, woven textile, generally used to hang on walls, balconies, etc.
  • Tempera
    • Smooth matte finish.
    • Because it cannot be applied in thick layers as oil paints can, tempera paintings rarely have the deep color saturation that oil paintings have.
  • Wash drawing
    • artwork in which a fine layer of color—usually diluted ink, bistre, or watercolor—is spread with a brush over a broad surface evenly enough so that no brush marks are visible in the finished product.
    • Usually used in conjunction with lines made by a pen or pencil that define and outline, while the wash provides color, depth, and volume.
  • Watercolor
    • Transparent quality; layering/wash of colors
  • Wood engraving
    • Finely engraved line in white=wood engraving
    • Clear-edged shapes
    • Cut across the wood grain, creating a relief block [cutting away non-print areas- image is created by cutting out material; ex- a raised stamp]
    • Historical print?  Mainly used 1750-1900
  • Woodblock print Use Woodcut
  • Woodcut
    • Cut with the grain, on the plank side of wood.
    • Contrasting black and white; solid outlines
    • Modern woodcuts sometimes have visible wood grain in black areas
    • Historical print?  Mainly used pre-1750

Textile Housing

  • Photograph all textiles before housing
  • Always use unbuffered, undyed, acid-free enclosures
  • Never fold needlework, beading, or leather
  • Avoid folding textiles along painted areas


  • Canvas should be cleaned with a dirt sponge
  • Do not use water
  • Canvas flags and banners should be rolled and stored in a flat box
  • Multiple flags may fit in one box


  • Never roll or hang knit textiles (this includes knit wools).
  • Store these in flat boxes and pad all creases with unbuffered tissue paper
  • Folded textiles should be refolded along alternate creases once a year


  • Muslin textiles should be stuffed with unbuffered tissue paper along folds and placed in flat boxes
  • Avoid folding painted textiles along paint, if this is unavoidable, stuff with unbuffered tissue paper
  • Folded textiles should be refolded along alternate creases once a year


  • Silk should be folded minimally, stuffed with unbuffered tissue paper along folds, and stored in a flat box
  • Folded textiles should be refolded along alternate creases once a year

Synthetic and Polymer (rayon, nylon, polyester, etc.)

  • Synthetic textiles should be rolled on a tube wrapped in Mylar, then covered with unbuffered tissue, unbleached muslin, or wrapped in folder stock


  • May be folded minimally, stuffed with unbuffered tissue paper along folds, and stored in a flat box
  • Folded textiles should be refolded along alternate creases once a year


  • Vinyl may be cleaned with soap that is heavily diluted in water and a dirt sponge
  • Vinyl must be allowed to dry completely
  • Vinyl textiles should be rolled on a tube wrapped in Mylar, then covered with unbuffered tissue, unbleached muslin, or wrapped in folder stock
  • Rolled textiles can then be stored in a rolled storage tube


  • Wool textiles should be folded minimally (if not rolled), stuffed with unbuffered tissue paper along folds, and stored in a flat box
  • Avoid rolling knit wool as it stretches the fibers
  • Folded textiles should be refolded along alternate creases once a year
  • Wool textiles are heavy and should be stored no more than one item per box

Creating custom enclosures should be avoided.  However, if preservation needs of an item are significant, a custom enclosure can be created.  The most common is a 4-fold enclosure or tuxedo box.  Other enclosures can be modeled on existing archival containers, sized to fit a specific need.

Templates for custom book cradles, folder stock enclosures, and sink mats are under Forms and Templates: