Help me archive my T-shirts
May 27, 2010 9:52 AM   Subscribe

I want to properly archive a large collection of T-shirts. What's the best way to store these, considering that the most important part is the print, which is made of Plastisol, a PVC-based ink?

About 1000 shirts, more or less. Right now, they're just folded up in a pile in a giant cedar chest in my non-air-conditioned store room, or stacked on shelves in two closets in the house. I'd prefer some sort of clear plastic enclosure through which the prints could still be viewed, but I'm worried about PVC-based ink possibly interacting with a PVC-based bag. What about a rigid backing?

The fabric (mostly 100% cotton) is a secondary, but still important concern. I'd ideally like something at least 12 x 12 so that the prints would no longer be creased, as them being folded is detrimentally affecting the prints themselves, as we speak.

What other enemies am I not considering here, besides humidity, stacking & chemical reaction? Bugs? What sort of bugs eat cotton, and how to prevent them from doing so? I'm in the hot & humid south.
posted by Devils Rancher to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
I'd get them out of the cedar chest, or at least line the chest with an undyed sheet, acid-free paper, or piece of muslin. Cedar chests are notorious among quilters for causing tiny brown spots where the wood has been in contact with fabric.
posted by catlet at 9:59 AM on May 27, 2010

Random idea here, not based on any actual experience - what if you stacked up a pile of them, wrapped the stack in some sort of archival, acid-free paper, and then put the stack into one of those plastic storage bags where you use a vaccuum cleaner to suck the air out of the bag?
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:24 AM on May 27, 2010

Cedar chests are notorious among quilters for causing tiny brown spots

So that's what those are! I though it was maybe roach poop. Good call -- I can do this now whilest continuing research.

MexicanYenta, I want to go with something that keeps each shirt individually accessible, as one of the medium-term goals it to actually sort of catalog what I've got, get rid of duplicates, and possibly fool a gallery somewhere into letting me put on a show.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:30 PM on May 27, 2010

I would recommend the book Saving Stuff which has good advice on storing collectibles. If it were me, I would use textile storage boxes like these (not cheap, but probably best for long term storage). Definitely get the stuff out of the cedar chest, as others say, or at the very least line it with a clean piece of unbleached muslin or a clean white cotton sheet. Extremes of heat and humidity can be an issue, and you do have the option of a dehumidifier or reusable dessicants, but I would see if Saving Stuff has some ideas for you since it was written to help people store collectibles at home. There is also some useful general info. here.
posted by gudrun at 8:59 AM on May 28, 2010

Thanks, I think I'll grab that book. We've got lost of photographs, paintings & art prints as well, which are all in various states of decay.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:28 PM on May 28, 2010

I just want to second the recommendation for Saving Stuff. It's my go-to reference for all questions like this.
posted by jeri at 10:52 PM on May 29, 2010

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