What is the best way to store vinyl records over an extended period of time?
January 5, 2007 8:03 PM   Subscribe

What is the best way to store vinyl records over an extended period of time?

I need to pack away and archive a thousand or so 12" vinyl records so that when I open them back up 5, 10, 50 years from now, they'll be in the exact same condition as when I packed them. I'm not interested in shelving, but actual packing materials.
  • Will cardboard do the job? Or do I need something more robust, maybe airtight plastic?
  • Will a dusty old garage do? It is cool, dark, and dry from what I can tell. My main concern is temperature. At what temperature do vinyl records begin to warp? And can they stand the cold? I'm located in San Diego where the weather is pleasant year round, so maybe this is not an issue.
  • Should I put them in individual PVC sleeves before packing them away into the box? Once they're in the box, they won't be coming out for a long time, so I'm not really worried about them rubbing on each other.
  • The solution should also be fairly modular, for future moves.
posted by afx114 to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
My pretty extensive collection has survived storage in hot, unairconditioned Arizona sheds and damp, cold San Francisco basements. I have them individually sleeved (it's worth it, the few that weren't sleeved fucked each other up pretty badly in various ways).

When they were stored, they were stored in small (13" cube) boxes, vertically within the box, not packed tightly.

I have since built a shelving unit for them, so that I can enjoy their recordy beauty. I highly recommend it, as much of a pain in the ass as it is to repack them when you move. Things should be displayed, used, and appreciated. If they're packed away, you're not loving them.
posted by padraigin at 8:44 PM on January 5, 2007

Best answer: im going to have to agree with padraigin. shelving is the way to go (even in a garage). you dont have to worry about boxes slipping and falling, or the pressure of heavier boxes bending ones below it. but even without shelving.. ive worked extensively with record collectors in the los angeles area (record collections between 10-20,000) and im going to say, flat out, that even in a dry climate, moisture of any kind is an absolute record killer. especially if you're looking at your collection from a collector's aspect, your records will be worthless once mildew begins to eat away at the covers and spreads through the boxes. people tend to underestimate moisture. you can pack your boxes nice and tight, wrap each one of them, but at the end of the day, one major rain (or damp conditions) can kill an entire box in minutes. im not just talking about slight wear and tear - you will not even be able to stand the smell of your records once mildew gets at them (in other words, beware dark and damp).


do not stack record boxes on the floor - create at least a few inches of space between the floor and your boxes.
records generally will not warp unless you store them in direct sunlight, or if they are stored in high heat at a bad angle.
posted by phaedon at 8:56 PM on January 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

padraigin and phaedon's advice is excellent... The only thing I can add is to make sure they are upright (completely vertical)... You don't want any stress or pressure on them at all.
posted by amyms at 9:25 PM on January 5, 2007

Response by poster: The boxes will be on shelves in the garage, and the boxes won't be stacked on top of each other. I'm still more concerned about the actual packaging of the boxes themselves. I don't want to leave them loose on the shelves for fear of rats and other critters tearing them up (I'm mentally scared from my Mom's cat clawing up her entire original Beatles collection back in the day). From what it sounds like, I'll need a plastic seal-able box to keep out the moisture.

I checked on Bags Unlimited and found some Plastiq Corrugated Record Boxes So I think that's what I'll do.

posted by afx114 at 9:38 PM on January 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You may want to look at the book Saving Stuff, written by Don Williams, the senior conservator at the Smithsonian Institute. This is a wonderful reference for anyone seriously concerned with preservation. Pages 164-166 deal with vinyl records.

Mr. Williams notes the following:
"1. Vinyl discs are adversely affected by direct ultraviolet light and temperature fluctuations. Temperature variations eventually induce distortions on the record.
2. Remove shrink-wrap on records, as it will continue to shrink and warp the record."

He also says to store them in archival glassine paper sleeves especially made for the purpose, and then place the record/sleeve inside the jacket. They should be stored upright and snugly against each other to reduce distortion risks - but not crammed together. And they should be stored in a dark, clean, cool, dry space - with a good rule of thumb being 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 20-40% relative humidity.
posted by jeri at 2:53 PM on January 6, 2007

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