Making a Box: in conclusion

Article | Updated 4 months ago

The following article was written by Xavier Leenders, Assistant Curator of Anthropology at the Western Australian Museum.

Making a museum quality box is often much more complicated than what one might initially envisage. For the most part, boxes are used in the museum to A) create a stable micro-climate in which objects may rest; B) store objects in an organised and economical manner which minimises space requirements; and C) protect objects during transport (say when moving to and from an exhibition). The process requires a lot of pre-planning and a lot of accurate measuring (as you can see in the video). Nevertheless, this was actually one of the more simple boxes we might make in the Anthropology and Archaeology Department.

You’ll notice that the frame (the actual ‘box’ section) takes me very little time to erect since I chose to use a pre-cut base and lid made from archival standard blue cardboard. The complicated part came in developing a mounting system for the arrows I was looking to store. We have hundreds of arrows in the Anthropology ‘World Cultures Collection’, and so I was looking to develop a mounting system that could accommodate different sizes and lengths. I started constructing the mount by cutting out a removable base board for which the mount could be stuck to. After a little bit of complicated mathematics and trigonometry (that’s right kids, it’s still useful after high school), I managed to calculate the distance between each corrugation relative to the width of the base board. In playing around with corrugating the blue card, I figured a 5cm x 5cm corrugation could adequately hold each arrow while leaving a large enough ‘raise’ that would enable me to stack two levels within the one box.

Person sitting at a desk writing, behind a box filled with arrows.

Making a box in the anthropology and archaeology department laboratory.
Image copyright WA Museum 

As you can see in the video, I spend a long time cutting out each mount and making sure each is raised high enough off the base board so that arrows never touch anything but the soft ‘cell-air’ foam that I lay upon the corrugations. After this, it was just a matter of gluing everything together and making sure the top layer was raised high enough off the bottom (hence the foam blocks that I cut up). In the end, I decided to tie two bits of thick archival string onto the top board so that it could be more easily removed from the box.

All in all, while this turned out to be a nicely made box (if I do say so myself), it was largely a failure because the mounting system failed to hold more than 14 arrows in total; which considering the size of our collections is hardly enough. Often these things can only be figured out once the box is made, but I’m proud of it nonetheless.