Storing Blueprints

Dear Donia,
How do I store production-used blueprints?

bond paper

Q. Dear Donia,

I have a collection of production-used set blueprints (58 total; they measure about 42 1/8" by 30") from a TV show that are currently housed in standard cardboard tubes (this is how I received them). Of course, this is not a good environment for them so I'd like to move them into a more preservation-friendly set up. They have stayed rolled since I don't have the space to keep them flat, so I initially thought about buying some of Gaylord's archival storage tubes. But, with the number of tubes I would have to buy it would be very costly. I then thought I might be able to put the blueprints into polyethylene poster sleeves which I could then be put in regular (and far cheaper) cardboard tubes. What are your thoughts on that? Will the polyethylene protect the blueprints enough to keep them safe in the inferior cardboard housing? Thanks, Sean

A. Dear Sean,

Great question! Oversize materials are often difficult to store, not just for the home collector but for institutions as well. In an ideal world, the blueprints would, of course, be stored flat in drawers. This is rarely realistic for the home collector so here are some options.

First, all options involve rolling the blueprints around the outside of a 2-3" diameter tube. This prevents the paper from being rolled so tightly that it wants to spring back on you every time you want to look at them.

Second, you will want to wrap the standard tube in either buffered paper, unbuffered paper, Tyvek fabric, or polyester film. All will protect the blueprints from the acids in the tube. The buffered paper will last longer but there is a concern about the blueprints turning pink if they are in contact with buffered paper in the event of a water disaster so if these will be stored somewhere that water could be a problem, use unbuffered paper but know that you will need to change the paper about every 10 years or so as they will not be able to protect against acid migration for as long as the buffered paper. Tyvek is a soft spun polyester fabric that provides good protection. Polyester is a very good blocker but can be slippery when used to cover the roll so you will need to use 3M 315 double stick tape to adhere it to the roll so it does not slip off.

You can then wrap your blueprints on the tube. This can be done singly or in logical groups but try to roll no more than 10-15 blueprints per tube. Fewer would be better but I understand that space is an issue.

As the next step, cover the outside of the blueprints on the tube. This can be done again with any of the materials listed for acting as a buffer between tube and blueprint with the addition of cotton muslin that has been washed and dried without any fabric softener, scented detergent, or dryer sheet. Simply roll your material of choice around the blueprints and tie with cotton twill tape or other soft, undyed tie material.

This tube can then be stored as is or placed inside a larger tube for protection against light, dust, and small water disasters. 

There are a variety of ways to store these tubes. They can sit on the top of a cabinet, they can get rods inside the small tubes and hung from chains with S hooks, blocks can be made with half-circles cut out so tubes can sit on the blocks and be stacked, or you can devise a solution that works for your space. Just know that the tubes should be stored horizontally, not stacked such that the blueprint covers are directly in contact with each other to prevent abrasion, and off the floor.

I know this is a lot of information but I hope it helps.