The Fire That Suddenly Bursts Forth in the Close-pack'd Square
August 22, 2007 8:54 PM   Subscribe

CollectionFilter: Our library's Special Collections dept. has just discovered an unusual matchbook in another item of the collection. After looking to see how these books are collected and stored, we found out that the actual matches are usually removed (due to fire hazard, I'm assuming) and the covers stored flat in plastic sleeve. In the case of our matchbook, though, the actual matches are printed to look like soldiers and we'd of course like to keep them. Is there something else we can do to neutralize the flammability of the matches while keeping them intact?
posted by ikahime to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
can you just snip the tips off with a pair of scissors?
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:55 PM on August 22, 2007

Just a guess, but cover the tips with clear nail polish. I'm also pretty sure just getting the match heads wet will severely inhibit their strike-ability.
posted by knowles at 8:58 PM on August 22, 2007

Given the likely risk to other aspects of your collection if the matches catch fire, I strongly advise against getting your answers on the internet.

Instead, contact companies that manufacture matches, and contact your local fire department. The former are likely to have their own collections of old products (and someone who takes care of them), and the latter have a significant interest in keeping fire from breaking out.

The safest bet, of course, is to have reproduction fake matches made, but where's the fun in that?
posted by davejay at 11:50 PM on August 22, 2007

Ah, figural match books are cool, there must be a reasonable solution to preserving them without risking a flash fire. This is certainly a question for the teeming mass brain of the Archives & Archivists list.
posted by Scram at 1:17 AM on August 23, 2007

Water or even dampness will dissolve the match-heads. Obviously you don't want to damage the rest of the book with dampness so it could be a tricky job left to professionals if you decide to do that. Otherwise an X-acto blade can scrape off enough of the match heads to make them essentially inert.
posted by JJ86 at 6:13 AM on August 23, 2007

With all due respect to the previous posters...there is a lot of misguided advice here! PLEASE do not cut, scrape or coat your rare matches with clear nailpolish!

At the museum where I volunteer, I have seen matchbooks stored individually in small polyethylene bags. I suspect that matches lose their flammability as they age, but like you, I'd want to make sure of that before storing them.

I'd consult a conservationist or archives specialist before proceeding.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:06 AM on August 23, 2007

I work at a museum and I would agree with pluckysparrow. Consult a conservationist. You will devalue the piece if you alter it in the ways described above.

Conservation has moved to a place where whatever the conservator does it can be undone if, in the future, there is a better way.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 8:47 AM on August 23, 2007

The Conservation DistList may have an answer.
posted by moonlet at 11:07 AM on August 23, 2007

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