Guidelines for packing and transporting non-digital archival records

National Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Strategy

Version 2.0: November 2017

1. Introduction

This document is part of a suite of plans and procedures outlined in the National Archives of Australia's National Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Strategy for Archival Records (NDPRS) to ensure a nationally consistent approach to disaster management relating to archival records. In combination, these plans and procedures aim to ensure that damage to the Commonwealth’s archival resources in the Archives' custody is prevented or minimised and staff are aware of their roles and responsibilities.

2. Purpose

This document provides guidelines for packing and transporting non-digital archival records whether the transport is intrastate or interstate.

The purpose of the guidelines is to ensure consistent practices nationally and to mitigate the risk of damage to records during transportation. 

3. Scope

 The guidelines provide:

  • general advice about types of packaging and transit containers available
  • general advice about factors to consider when loading and unloading
  • general advice about the standards of transport suitable for records
  • specific advice for packing and transporting various record formats e.g.: paper files and documents; bound volumes; index cards; maps and plans; audiovisual and photographic materials.

These guidelines do not cover:

  • specific advice about handling records safely from an OHS perspective
  • specific advice about handling individual records to prevent damage
  • administrative, financial and control processes
  • specific advice about dealing with classified records.

4. Who is responsible

Managers of projects involving movement of records are responsible for managing the packing, loading and transporting processes.

N.B. This includes ensuring that the guidelines are followed by any contractors involved.

Depending on the project, responsible officers may include:

  • Directors, Assistant Directors and Project Officers in Collection Operations and Preservation
  • Project Officers and Directors in state offices.

Conservators can provide assistance with assessing particular records or discuss details or alternatives for suitable packing or transport methods.

5. Preliminary risk assessment

The first step in preparing records for transport is to assess the nature of the records to determine the most appropriate methods for packing, loading and transportation. Different levels of protection and transportation may be required for different records in different circumstances.

The majority of paper-based records held by the Archives can be considered to be robust and can be transported as they are in their current boxes, provided that the boxes are not split, damaged or significantly over-packed.

A smaller number of records are special cases and may require additional packing and higher standards for transport. These include:

  • fragile paper-based records such as those on brittle paper
  • large format records such as maps and plans
  • vulnerable formats such photographic and audiovisual materials
  • framed photographs, pictures and illuminated addresses
  • three-dimensional objects such as models, relics and furniture.

In the following:

  • Sections 6 to 9 outline options as well as general guidelines for packing, loading and transportation.
  • Sections 10 to 13 give specific guidelines for different formats or types of records.

6. Packaging

This refers to the layers directly in contact with the records, such as standard Archives boxes and folders. These packaging layers provide protection from:

  • physical damage caused by handling or by shocks and vibration during transport
  • dust and insects
  • changes in temperature and humidity that could lead to condensation or mould growth.

6.1 Archives boxes and folders

  • Use existing standard Archives boxes if they are in sound condition.
  • Re-box if a box is split or doesn't close properly.
  • Avoid overfilling boxes - not only can this cause damage through compression of the records, the boxes can split open during transport.

6.2 Additional packaging and cushioning for fragile or vulnerable records

Some records may require additional packaging or cushioning layers to provide protection from shocks and vibration. Vibration acts like repeated small impacts over an extended period and can cause considerable damage. Cushioning materials also add extra buffering against changes in temperature and relative humidity.

See Appendix 1 for a list of suitable materials. Please note that unless the materials chosen are 'archival quality', any cushioning material should be removed after transport and before records are placed in long term storage. In particular, bubble wrap should not be left in direct contact with records for long periods of time.

  • For fragile or vulnerable records, add cushioning layers of bubble wrap or foam to absorb shocks.
  • Pack out boxes or containers to fill any empty space so records do not slump and cannot move around within the box.
  • See sections 10 to 13 for specific recommendations for different formats, including vulnerable records such as glass plate negatives, loosely wound motion picture film and framed items.

7. Transit containers

The transit container provides a means to handle multiple boxes or bulk quantities of records. For small quantities a plastic tub may be sufficient. For larger quantities transit containers may include pallets, cage trolleys, crates or shipping containers. Depending on the type of transit container, it may also provide:

  • additional protection from external weather conditions
  • additional protection from shocks, vibration and rough handling
  • further buffering against changes in temperature and relative humidity.

7.1 Mobile cage trolleys

These are a convenient and efficient way to move boxes for shelf to shelf relocation. The cages can be filled in the repository, wheeled into a truck and wheeled straight to the unloading location at the receiving end.

Disadvantages of cage trolleys are that they:

  • are restricted in size so cannot accommodate larger formats
  • do not provide weather protection – during inclement weather the trolleys will need to be covered or loaded and unloaded in covered areas
  • do not provide additional protection from shocks, vibration and environmental conditions so may not be suitable for some vulnerable records such as audiovisual materials.

7.2 Pallets

Pallets should have entry points for forklifts or pallet jacks on all four sides.

When stacking a pallet, the objective is to build a stable load that is well secured to the pallet with pallet wrap or strapping.

Most paper files and documents are stored in standard Archives Type 1 boxes. When full of documents, these boxes form solid, stable blocks that are strong enough to support more full boxes on top (if the pallet is stacked well). If necessary, partially full boxes can be packed out with sheets of cardboard or can be placed on the top layers of the pallet.

  • Ensure the pallet is sound and strong with all horizontal slats intact and in place.
  • Ensure boxes are full enough – pack out to fill empty spaces if they are not.
  • Stack boxes within the footprint of the pallet – i.e. do not allow any boxes to overhang the edges of the pallet.
  • Stack pallets evenly using a cross pattern i.e. rotate the orientation of the boxes on each alternate layer so that the boxes are not stacked directly on top of each other in unstable columns.
  • Ensure that height to base ratio is safe and stable (depending on the size of the pallet, this is no more than 5 layers high).
  • Wrap the stacked pallet to provide stability and weather protection – depending on the facilities available, the loaded pallet may be stretch wrapped, or wrapped tightly with plastic sheeting and secured with strapping.
  • For temperature sensitive records such as photographic and audiovisual materials, additional insulation may be required, especially if the relocation is occurring in warm weather conditions. Insulated pallet envelopes are also available. These are available in standard or custom sizes and fit over the loaded pallet.

7.3 Crates

Crates may be the best option for some framed records, three-dimensional or heavy objects, or for records that need ample cushioning. The records will need to be packed so that so they do not slide around inside the crate.

Suitable crates can be custom made or hired. Features to consider include:

  • battens fitted to the bottom to enable handling by a pallet jack or forklift, especially if the crate is large
  • handles to allow them to be lifted and moved easily
  • water resistant external coating and seals if the crates are to be transported by air (because of the difficulty controlling exposure to weather conditions on the tarmac). Coatings may include paint or varnish and seals will involve foam or gaskets between the lid and base and tight screw or clamp fittings.

7.4 Insulated bins and boxes

These may be suitable for temperature-sensitive records such as photographic materials or audiovisual materials and particularly useful when relocating records that are in cold storage.

They range in size from insulated coolers to insulated bulk containers, bins and boxes. The larger bins usually have four-way pallet entry. Some are on castors. Many styles are modular and stack-able so they may be used inside shipping containers.

7.5 Shipping containers

Also known as inter-modal or freight containers, these may be suitable for large relocation. However, several issues need to be considered including ways to:

  • fully utilise the internal space and stack and secure the contents so that they don't shift around (e.g. by using stacking pallets; bins; boxes; tie downs, dunnage bags);
  • prevent build-up of heat inside the container (e.g. air-conditioned containers or transportable cool rooms are available).

7.6 Other types of transit containers

May include:

  • travelling frames for large framed paintings or photographs
  • plywood, cardboard or honeycomb board sandwiches
  • existing plan cabinets for cartographic records.

8. Loading and unloading

8.1 Manual handling considerations

Consider the facilities available and any restrictions:

  • Are there loading docks at both pick up and receiving ends?
  • Can oversize items (e.g. plan cabinets) fit through doorways?
  • Are there OHS requirements that need to be met (e.g. restrictions on load sizes)?

Select transit containers and manual handling methods that will be suitable for the facilities and the records:

  • mobile cage trolleys that can be wheeled into trucks
  • pallets and crates moved using forklifts, walkie-stackers or manual pallet jacks
  • whether custom-sized pallets need to be made (e.g. for plan cabinets).

Ensure that contractors are aware of the nature, fragility and value of the records and provide adequate supervision to ensure that the records are handled appropriately.

8.2 Intellectual control

Intellectual control of the records must be maintained during loading, transport and unloading. For example:

  • mark the first and last box in transfer job and number boxes sequentially.
  • convert all containers to real.
  • prepare detailed spreadsheets showing:
    • shelf to shelf locations of where boxes will be collected from (pick list)
    • where they will go at receiving end (new location order)
    • series/transfer job order to assist Lending whilst the TLL transfer processing work is being completed.

National Archives of Australia staff will be required to: 

  • supervise external contractors
  • provide spreadsheets to both supervising staff and contractors.

9. Transportation

Different standards of transport may be required for different records in different circumstances. In most cases, records will be transported by road in trucks, vans or official cars, although air transport may be used in some special cases.

9.1 Air

Air freight or hand carrying by courier is the most expensive option but is quick and may be the lowest risk option for highly significant or valuable records, especially if their formats are extremely vulnerable such as parchment, vellum or loosely wound motion picture film.

9.2 Road

The minimum standard for transport of records must include:

  • covered vehicles with hard tops to protect records from weather conditions
  • vehicles that are sealed to exclude dust and dirt
  • vehicles that are lockable to prevent theft and vandalism
  • door-to-door services and direct routes with no stops or minimal stops to reduce risk of theft and vandalism.

In addition, it is expected that:

  • the carrier uses a tracking system
  • the carrier has a disaster response plan in case of break down, break-in or fire.

For high value, extremely fragile or vulnerable records, a specialised service may be necessary. In addition to the minimum standard, this may include:

  • security seals on transit containers and/or vehicles
  • vehicles with air ride suspension to minimise shocks and vibration
  • vehicles with air-conditioning/climate control to prevent damage caused by heat and high humidity.

Decisions on transport requirements are made by Director, Records Services and Preservation on the basis of advice from the Agency Security Adviser and other sources of expert advice.

9.2.1 Note on use of private vehicles for transporting records

The use of private vehicles for work purposes is not appropriate. In the event of an accident, employees would be covered by workers compensation but would carry liability for injuries to other people, damage to their own or another vehicle, or to non-Archives property.

If it is necessary to transport small quantities of records in cars, use official vehicles rather than personal vehicles. If there is no option other than using a personal vehicle, then security and insurance risks must be controlled by ensuring that:

  • the records are in suitable containers, including appropriate packaging for classified records
  • the records are in the employee's custody at all times
  • the route taken is direct and the employee is on duty while the records are in their custody (e.g. records cannot be taken home en route to another location the next day)
  • a Director approves the use of the private vehicle and the removal of the records or material
  • the employee notifies their supervisor prior to the journey, providing details of the purpose and proposed timing of the journey.

10. Paper-based records – Specific guidelines

Format and description

Immediate housing

Additional packing

Transit containerTransport

10.1 Paper files and documents – robust
Most paper files in fair to good condition

Existing folders and standard Archives boxes
Re-box if boxes are split, over packed or don’t close properly

Not required

Pallets; mobile cage trolleys

Minimum

10.2 Paper files and documents – fragile
Paper files in poor condition e.g. brittle paper, fragmented

Existing folders and standard Archives boxes
Add folders if not present
Re-box if boxes are split, over packed or don’t close properly

Pack out if not full

Pallets; mobile cage trolleys

Minimum
May require air-ride suspension if records are valuable, extremely fragile and likely to travel long distances on rough roads

10.3 Bound volumes
Large format bound records such as ledgers, registers

If boxed – use existing boxes
If not boxed – order custom made boxes if sufficient time and funds, or wrap in single face corrugated cardboard and secure with cotton tape

If fragile or valuable, wrap in bubble wrap as well

Mobile cage trolleys; crates; tubs; pallets if boxed

Minimum

10.4 Index cards

Use existing folders and standard Archives boxes
Re-box if boxes are split, over packed or don’t close properly

Pack out to prevent cards from moving and getting out of order during transit.

Pallets; mobile cage trolleys

Minimum

10.5 Cartographic records – in plan cabinets
Maps and plans

Flat in standard sized plan cabinets – leave plans in cabinet

If possible place in folders, approximately 10 plans per folder, or cover top plan with sheet of paper or cardboard and ensure drawer flap is holding plans in place

Transport in cabinet – lock drawers if possible or secure with strapping to prevent drawers from opening.
Strap cabinet/s to pallet. May require custom-sized pallet

Minimum
May require air-ride suspension if records are valuable, extremely fragile and likely to travel long distances on rough roads

Flat in oversized plan cabinets – Option 1 – remove plans from cabinets as cabinets may be too heavy and unstable to transport when full

Place plans in oversize folders

Stack folders of plans on custom-made pallet and cover top and sides with corrugated board before wrapping pallet

Minimum
Transport cabinets and drawers separately

Flat in oversized plan cabinets – Option 2 – keep plans in drawers; remove drawers from cabinets as cabinets may be too heavy and unstable to transport when full

Place plans in oversize folders

Stack drawers on custom-made pallet with sheets of board in between. Alternate drawers front to back to keep load stable. Stack drawers from one or two cabinets on a pallet, secure with strapping and pallet wrap.

Minimum
May require air-ride suspension if records are valuable, extremely fragile and likely to travel long distances on rough roads
Transport empty cabinet carcasses separately

In Vertiplan cabinets – remove plans from cabinets

Place plans in folders

Stack folders on pallet and cover top and sides with corrugated board.

Minimum
Transport cabinets separately

10.6 Cartographic records – rolled
Maps and plans

If rolled – pack upright into packing cartons, not tightly but so there is no movement

If fragile and not already in tubes – wrap in paper or single-face corrugated cardboard

Cage trolleys; crates; tubs; pallets if records are in cartons

Minimum
May require air-ride suspension if records are valuable, extremely fragile and likely to travel long distances on rough roads

Very large format rolled – roll around a wide diameter tubular core to prevent crushing under item’s own weight

Wrap in paper and then in single-face corrugated cardboard or custom made box; lay flat

Pallets if boxed; may need custom made pallet or crate

10.7 Framed records – with glass

Keep in frames – Apply strips of masking tape to the glass. The tape will hold the glass in position if it breaks so there is less danger of damage to the item. The tape should cover the entire surface of the glass in parallel strips that are both vertical and horizontal.

Wrap well with bubble wrap to absorb shocks

Stack upright in crates or tubs

Minimum
May require air-ride suspension if records are valuable, extremely fragile and likely to travel long distances on rough roads

10.8 Framed records – without glass

Keep framed

If wrapping with bubble wrap, use board to prevent bubble wrap touching the picture as it may leave marks on the surface

Travelling frame

Minimum
May require air-ride suspension if records are valuable, extremely fragile and likely to travel long distances on rough roads

11. Photographic materials – Specific Guidelines

N.B. If the photographic materials are in cold storage, please contact Preservation for advice before packing and transporting.

Format and description

Immediate housing

Additional packing

Transit container

Transport

11.1 Microforms
Microfiche, microfilm (including cartridges, cassettes and reels), aperture cards

Use existing boxes
Re-box if boxes are split, over packed or don’t close properly

Not required

Pallets; mobile cage trolleys
Use insulated bin or box
Use pallet with additional insulation – wrap well with bubble – or use insulated pallet envelope

Minimum
May require air-conditioned transport if records are valuable, and likely to travel long distances in hot weather conditions

11.2 Photographic prints
Black and white or colour photographs

Use existing sleeves, envelopes and boxes
Re-box if boxes are split, over packed or don’t close properly

Pack out empty space in box with cardboard to prevent photographs from slumping and moving inside box

Pallets; mobile cage trolleys
Use insulated bin or box
Use pallet with additional insulation – wrap well with bubble wrap – or use insulated pallet envelope

Minimum
May require air-conditioned transport if records are valuable, and likely to travel long distances in hot weather conditions

11.3 Plastic negatives, slides, transparencies and X-rays
Photographic materials on flexible plastic bases such as polyester, cellulose acetate and cellulose nitrate
Hazardous materials regulations may apply

Use existing sleeves, envelopes and boxes
Re-box if boxes are split, over packed or don’t close properly
Must have passed Photographic Activity Test (PAT)

Pack out empty space in box with cardboard to prevent records from slumping and moving inside box

Pallets; mobile cage trolleys
For small quantities – use insulated bin or box
For larger quantities – use pallet with additional insulation – wrap well with bubble wrap – or use insulated pallet envelope

Minimum
May require air-conditioned transport if records are valuable or deteriorated and likely to travel long distances in hot weather conditions
If climate controlled trucks or air freight are not possible, then plan to transport in cooler, drier months rather than during summer

11.4 Prints and negatives in plastic sleeves and albums
Photographs or negatives that have been repackaged into polypropylene preservation albums (e.g. Albox albums)

Pack upright into packing cartons

Pack out empty space in carton with cardboard, foam or bubble wrap to prevent the albums from moving and falling over inside carton

Pallets; mobile cage trolleys
For small quantities – use insulated bin or box
For larger quantities – use pallet with additional insulation – wrap well with bubble wrap – or use insulated pallet envelope

Minimum
May require air-conditioned transport if records are valuable, and likely to travel long distances in hot weather conditions
If climate controlled trucks or air freight are not possible, then plan to transport in cooler, drier months rather than during summer

11.5 Photograph albums
Photographs in their original albums including historic albums

If boxed – use existing boxes
If not boxed – order custom made boxes if sufficient time and funds, or wrap in tissue then single face corrugated cardboard and secure with cotton tape

If fragile or valuable, wrap in bubble wrap as well
Interleaving may be considered

Mobile cage trolleys; crates; tubs; pallets if boxed
For small quantities – use insulated bin or box
For palletised boxed albums – use pallet with additional insulation – wrap well with bubble wrap – or use insulated pallet envelope

Minimum
May require air-conditioned transport if records are valuable, and likely to travel long distances in hot weather conditions

11.6 Aerial film
Negatives on a large continuous roll, usually around 70mm wide and housed in tall metal or cardboard canisters

Use existing canisters
Place canisters upright in a carton

Add a wad of tissue or cardboard on top of each film to prevent vertical movement of the film within the canister.

Mobile cage trolleys; crates; tubs; pallets if in cartons
For small quantities – use insulated bin or box
For palletised boxed albums – use pallet with additional insulation – wrap well with bubble wrap – or use insulated pallet envelope

Minimum
May require air-conditioned transport if records are valuable, and likely to travel long distances in hot weather conditions
If climate controlled trucks or air freight are not possible, then plan to transport in cooler, drier months rather than during summer

11.7 Glass plate negatives
Negatives on glass base

These are fragile and require specialised packaging.

12. Audiovisual records – Specific Guidelines

The following is provided as a general indication to assist planning.

Format and descriptionImmediate housingAdditional packingTransit containerTransport
12.1 Motion picture filmUse existing cans and pack flat in boxes or cartons.
Transit winding may be required. Contact Audiovisual Preservation further advice.

Add a layer to prevent vertical movement of the film within the can.
N.B. This advice is under review and to be confirmed.

For small quantities – insulated bin or box
For larger quantities – pallet with additional insulation – wrap well with bubble – or use insulated pallet envelope

Minimum
May require air-conditioned transport if records are valuable, and likely to travel long distances in hot weather conditions. May require air-ride suspension to prevent vertical movement of films within cans.
If climate controlled trucks or air freight is not possible, then plan to transport in cooler, drier months rather than during summer.

12.2 Magnetic film

Use existing cans and pack flat in boxes or cartons.

Add a layer to prevent vertical movement of the film within the can.
N.B. This advice is under review and to be confirmed.

For small quantities – insulated bin or box
For larger quantities – pallet with additional insulation – wrap well with bubble – or use insulated pallet envelope

Minimum
May require air-conditioned transport if records are valuable, and likely to travel long distances in hot weather conditions. May require air-ride suspension to prevent vertical movement of films within cans.
If climate controlled trucks or air freight is not possible, then plan to transport in cooler, drier months rather than during summer.
N.B. This advice is under review and to be confirmed.

12.3 Videotapes

Use existing cases and pack upright into boxes.
Do not lay videotapes horizontally on their sides.

Pack out the box to keep tapes upright.
Put box inside a carton or larger box with a layer packing chips on the bottom. Fill space between boxes with more packing chips.

12.4 Audiotapes

Use existing cases and pack upright into boxes.
Do not lay audiotapes horizontally on their sides.

12.5 CDs and DVDs

Use existing cases and pack upright in cartons or Archives boxes.
Do not stack discs horizontally on top of each other.

Pack out any empty space in the box to keep discs upright

For small quantities – insulated bin or box
For larger quantities – pallet with additional insulation – wrap well with bubble- or use insulated pallet envelope

Minimum

12.6 Gramophone records

These are fragile and require specialised packaging.

13. Other formats – computer tapes; Three-dimensional objects

Format and descriptionImmediate housingAdditional packingTransit containerTransport

13.1 Computer tapes

Use existing cases and pack upright in cartons or Archives boxes.

Pack out any empty space in the box to keep tapes upright

For small quantities – insulated bin or box
For larger quantities – pallet with additional insulation – wrap well with bubble- or use insulated pallet envelope

Minimum

13.2 Three-dimensional objects
Models, relics, furniture

These records vary considerably and generally require specialised packaging.
Contact the Conservator-on-duty for advice.

Appendix 1: Packing and cushioning materials

Check the internet for suppliers of packaging materials in your state.

For 'archival' or conservation quality products see further information and lists of suppliers in the Archives Advices:

MaterialUseComments

Bubble wrap

Additional cushioning, insulation, or space filler

Available on rolls or as cut sheets in a range of sizes.
Can stain or mark surfaces so should never be used in direct contact with records or for permanent storage.

Double wall corrugated cardboard

Heavy duty folders or boxes for large items; protecting or supporting layers under or between framed items; protecting layers around oversize or three-dimensional items

Available in low quality (usually brown in colour) for short term use
or 
as 'archival quality' board (usually pale blue in colour) for long term storage

Single wall corrugated cardboard

Folders or boxes; protecting or between framed items;

Available in low quality (usually brown in colour) for short term use
or 
as 'archival quality' board (usually pale blue in colour) for long term storage

Single face corrugated cardboard

Flexible and can be used to wrap around volumes, registers, albums or rolled records

Comes in rolls and is available in low quality; not  available as 'archival quality'

Polyethylene foam
(closed cell)

Additional cushioning or space filler

Available in sheets of various thicknesses or in blocks that can be cut to size required. Closed cell foams resist impact.

Tissue paper

Use as wrapping or interleaving

Available in low qualities for short term use
or 
as 'archival quality' for long term storage

Archive text

Use as wrapping, interleaving or barrier layer between items and non-archival materials

Available as 'archival quality' only

Kraft paper

Heavy weight, sturdy paper useful as protective wrapping

Available – brown in colour – not recommended for direct contact with records for long term

Appendix 2: Types of carriers

Check the internet for freight or transport companies in your state. 

While cost is a consideration when choosing a transport company, it is also important to consider the nature of the records being moved and to assess the risks to those records during transit. For example, specialist transport may be the lowest risk option for highly significant records that are fragile or in vulnerable formats. See the specific advice for different formats in sections 10, 11, 12 and 13.

Factors to consider are:

  • the classification or significance of the records and the level of security required
  • whether the records are sensitive to changes in temperature and relative humidity and require climate controlled vehicles to prevent damage (e.g. audiovisual or photographic records that have been stored in cold storage)
  • the susceptibility of the records to damage caused by shocks and vibration and whether vehicles with air-ride suspension are required.

The cost comparisons below are intended to provide an indication of the magnitude of difference in cost. They are based on estimates from a limited number of companies only. The figures are based on the cost of relocating 1 x cubic metre of boxes on a wrapped pallet from Canberra.


Type of carrier/company

Typical services offered

From Canberra to:

Sydney

Melbourne

Brisbane

Adelaide

Perth

Hobart

Darwin

Couriers

 

$205.00

$230.00

$485.00

$485.00

$915.00

$664.00

$1272.00

Business Relocations or Library/Archive Relocations

Some companies have a range of services available, including the option of climate-controlled trucks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Removalists

Many have business or corporate relocations divisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fine art transport

Climate-controlled trucks with air-ride suspension

$345.00

$455.00

$746.00

$553.00

$1200.00

$1200.00

Costing not available

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019