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Manuscript End-Processing Manual


Goals and Expectations
Use of this manual






AEON instructions


SAMPLE BOOK (and rules) for labels and tabs






Most people think a manuscript is either a stack of 8 ½" x 11" papers, a bound medieval text, or a rolled or framed parchment of some sort. Many also think that labeling and storing manuscripts would not require much effort. People assume they are skilled enough already, and can do it efficiently without needing advice: probably better than anyone else. How hard could it be to get some folders and a box and put a label on them? The trouble is that there are many unpredictable aspects to end-processing manuscript collections, and challenging logistics behind readying them for use by researchers to be continually overcome. Obstacles arise from all directions. Effort from every region of the brain is required to overcome them. Consulting a manual may help.

It is hard to describe the variety found in manuscripts. They can be bound volumes, or boxes of folders that might also contain anything from silver, coins, and clothing, to eyeglasses, matches, even a fried egg or chewing gum. Houghton Library collections include: handcuffs, swords, artwork, pressed flowers, photographs, death masks, scrapbooks, an early light bulb, medieval texts, an asbestos tile, musical scores, audio tapes, playing cards, jigsaw puzzles, and human hair, to name a few. Whatever happens to have been stored with an author's papers can make it into the library to become part of our collections. A collection can range from hundreds of boxes purchased by the library from an author's estate, to a scrapbook of autograph letters donated by some collector. A manuscript, such as a journal, or an illuminated sheet, can also arrive as a single item, independently of any collection, whether it is a gift or a purchase.

Staff and readers should be able to examine and identify material safely: one can't just let items roll around together in a box and hope for the best. Somehow, each item must go into a folder, box, or binder, no matter what the dimensions, without being damaged. Everything has to have a label. If it doesn't fit in a box, it may need to be labelled with a tag. If there's nothing to tie the tag onto, you may have to sew it on, or invent some other solution. Housing must meet preservation standards. The correct information must be on the label, having met the approval of catalogers and the public services staff. For one collection of up to 10,000 items, each with a different description, one must master software that can help get that unique information onto those labels quickly. It is necessary to estimate fairly accurately for supplies and to make use of scrap. The sequence of items must be kept whenever possible, for there is both an intellectual and a physical order to things.

When item (3) is too big and fragile to fit into the box with items (1)-(10), is it necessary to find an unconventional way to store them all together; or is it better to store them separately and annotate the finding aid? What if an item is sharp, toxic, or otherwise dangerous to handle? Will a box of typescript items be deformed if a small thick volume must be stored in the middle of the pile? Would the answer be the same if the folders were stored upright? How does one safely store a tintype that must be boxed with a stack of letters? Can an an old piece of blotting paper be discarded? What if an item smells of moth balls? Should one remove a straight pin from an Emily Dickinson manuscript; or is it considered an artifact? Is it safe to send an item to the Harvard Depository? How should we store and label an item that is restricted because of fragility or privacy issues? How should we affix a label to a bound volume to avoid covering text? Are we certain the wording of a bookplate is accurate and consistent with past practices? The questions never end.

Goals and Expectations

The main goal of end-processing manuscripts is to ensure that patrons and staff can identify and handle material safely in housing that is neat and clean. Most manuscripts are therefore numbered, housed in acid-free file folders, and labelled on the upper left of the folder. All material is prepared for photoduplication or digitization by unfolding, and removing staples and paper clips. Unfolding the material also allows for more compact storage. By marking affected items "restricted", the Library honors agreements with donors. Manuscript end-processing is an essential activity that supports the Library's mission with regard to the care and security of its collections.



Focus on the work while you are here: cell phones, social media, & schoolwork on your own time
Food and drink are allowed only in the break room.
Water is allowed but must be in screw-top container, kept closed & away from materials while working.
Don't leave drinking water behind at end of shift.
Handle folders and manuscript material with clean hands.
Do one thing at a time and be careful of the original order that manuscripts are in.
Point out defects in supplies to the supervisor.
Proofread call number, source information, and accession number on labels before attaching.
Point out errors in descriptions on labels when matching items to their call number.
Don't discard fragments of collection material that contain text; or throw out any collection-related material (including old folders) unless instructed to do so.
Use only pencil, store pens and felt-tip markers in a drawer (felt-tip can ooze ink onto material if accidentally left open).
Leave work stations clean and organized.
Computers should be turned off before leaving for the day (unless you know it will be used afterwards).

Use of this manual

A student assistant should browse this manual as an introduction to the job after they are hired. They should follow the expectations listed above, but also follow specific guidelines they are given for the collection they are working on and read carefully the sections marked as student responsibilities.The manual is kept by the manuscript end-processor who supervises student assistants. It is meant as tool for the end-processor rather than a set of absolute rules to be perfected and agonized over at a department meeting. It provides a snapshot of current procedures and is a memory bank for handling unusual situations that could recur. The more it is revised and added to by the manuscript end-processor, the richer a resource it will be for end-processing actitivites in the future. There is also a small section for catalogers. The details of end-processing, specifically formatting and placement of labels, involve some personal interpretation. Small variations that turn up in the work can be acceptable, as long as there is consistency within a collection.


Manuscripts are cataloged either as single items in ALEPH or as collections with many items both in ALEPH and with a finding aid in OASIS. There is fillable pdf tracking form that, through drop down menus, can be altered to be used for either Collections or Single items. You must view the form in Adobe Acrobat DC order to use it. Unfortunately this WIKI does NOT SUPPORT Adobe Acrobat DC. (There is a shortcut in the directory that catalogers can copy to their desktops.)

Call numbers/accession numbers, housing /storage indicators, shelving categories, and special locations

Manuscript call numbers have a "prefix"; a "stem"; and an "item" number (though the prefix is stripped away when searching in HOLLIS). The prefix changes according to the dimensions and storage location of a particular box. The stem always begins with "MS", and the item number is always in parentheses. The call number, bMS Am 1200 (6), is a [b]oxed [MS] manuscript collection; [Am]erican; the 1200th one acquired by the library; and it is the 6th item listed in the finding aid. If this item had multiple folders, the first label would read: bMS Am 1200 (6) Folder 1 of 10. On box labels, brackets are used to abbreviate the folder number, for example: bMS Am 1200 (6 [1]). The item record description in ALEPH is stripped of parentheses to further abbreviate for on-screen viewing.
The prefix "bMS" means that the box is a standard size, but could be either flat or upright, either shelved at Houghton or at the Harvard Depository. The same holds true for items shelved in the Harvard Theatre Collection. But these are described as "Thr" [Theatre] rather than "Am" [American] or "Fr" [French], for example. A Theatre Collection call number might read: bMS Thr 1200 (6).
Houghton and the Harvard Theatre collection have approached shelving differently. Houghton segregates flat standard-size (bMS) boxes from flat larger (pf) boxes, and rarely keeps upright boxes onsite. The Theatre collection stores all sizes of both flat and upright boxes next to one another on the shelf. However, this is now changing so that Theatre Collection shelving mirrors Houghton shelving, and mostly flat boxes are now shelved onsite in Theatre.  There is a separate "pf" section that was created for boxes which exceed the depth of the shelf, and will only fit in a double-depth shelving area. However, Theatre Collection shelving is currently in flux. Another example is "fMS" and "MS" overflow at the very top shelves near the end of aisle P-33. To see examples of the housing referred to in this section, see manuscript end-processing supplies.

Accession numbers
New accessions are counted according to what year they are received. They receive an "accession number" before they get cataloged, so we can keep track of them. For example, 84M-62 is the sixty-second item received in the year 1984. Until recently there was an asterisk in front of the year (*84M-62). Also until recently, items were initially shelved under their accession number in specially marked areas of the stacks while awaiting cataloging. Current practice is to assign a call number at the same time as the accession number. There is now no need for a separate holding area, as items are immediately shelved under their call numbers without being cataloged or end-processed. This can create some confusion regarding retrieval, permanent housing and restrictions; but the new system was implemented on an experimental basis to address organizational and space issues.

Accession numbers : variations
Rarely, a printed books cataloger may use different spacing than we normally do.  Manuscript accession numbers with suffixes normally have them in parentheses with a space between the accession number and the suffix, like this:  2015M-30 (173).  They first show the date, followed by a capital "M", for "manuscript". Printed books often use different combinations of letters after the date, and sometimes do not keep the space between the accession number and the suffix, like this:  2015T-37(165). 

In cases where there is more than one item represented by a given accession number with a suffix, the cataloger may put a lowercase letter after the parentheses (again, with no space) as a way of differentiating the specific items, like this:  2015T-37(165)a. This allows a search to reconstruct the original order of the items included under that accession number (i.e., 2015T-37(165)a, (165)b, (165)c...).  It is not deemed important that manuscripts and manuscripts cataloged as printed books/manuscripts (hybrids) are handled differently.

Housing and storage indicators (*applies mainly to Houghton storage)

Items that are shelved upright have no prefix. Their call number begins with "MS" [manuscript]. This includes mostly volumes, and, occasionally, upright document boxes. Shelves for this designation are 31 cm. in P&GA stacks on basement, so items need to be 30.5 cm. or less. The average shelf height for mss. on sub-basement Pusey, is 33.5 cm, so items need to be 33 cm. or less. or less. However, shelves on sub-basement in Pusey for MS Eng, MS Ger, and MS Port are 33 cm. And shelves for MS Am, MS Ital, and MS Lat are 34 cm. So there is a range for all MS items of between 31 - 34 cm. shelf height. It is helpful to keep a piece of card stock that records the various height ranges for different categories. The manuscript end-processor will note changes in storage indicators that occur during end-processing and provide updates for the cataloger. The official size for MS has recently been set at 28 cm. for all future cataloging and shelving purposes.
Since 31 cm. is the exact size of our most commonly used pre-fab, when a tab is added to these pre-fabs, they will not fit on the P&GA shelves, which are also exactly 31cm. So these items must be designated "fMS" and shelved in the "fMS" section of the P&GA stacks. In most other areas of the stacks, the 31cm tall pre-fabs are designated "MS" because they do fit on the shelves after a tab is added. Also, unlike the general Houghton stacks on sub-basement in Pusey, P&GA does not put "f" sized upright items along the bottom shelves, but segregates them in an entire small section at the end of their "MS" storage.
Upright document boxes are 26.5 cm. tall--largest ones are 32 cm. tall. They would fit on most "MS" shelves but are seldom designated "MS" because "MS" is mainly storage for upright volumes rather than boxed collections. The word "boxed" has a double meaning, which can be confusing. A boxed collection is stored in various sizes and shapes of boxes that are purchased in mostly standard sizes from an archival supply vendor. A boxed single item manuscript refers usually to a volume that has had a custom-made clamshell type box and is normally shelved upright. The vendor we use that does such custom work is called "CMI". We therefore call these "cmi boxes". More detail is provided in a section below.
There can also be confusion when referring to the Pusey Stacks because of the two separate areas which are used for shelving Houghton and Harvard Theatre Collection material. The manuscript stacks in Pusey is entered through Houghton's sub-basement, and houses non-Theatre Collection material. The Harvard Theatre Collection has two levels of stack space and is entered via the basement level of Houghton. Though technically both Houghton and the Theatre collection have stack space in Pusey, they are two distinct areas. We don't currently have terminology that makes that distinction. Large manuscript collections waiting for end-processing are usually kept in the Houghton manuscript stacks in aisle Pusey-4,5 called the "collections holding area" on the sub-basement.

The prefix "f" stands for folio, but for purposes of shelving, this simply means all items that are shelved upright, but are taller than 28 cm. They are kept generally along the bottom shelves continuously throughout the stacks. Though occasionally shelving is adjusted to create separate set of shelves for them.
"fMS" also designates an item shelved upright whose width (rather than height) exceeds the width of the regular "MS" shelves. This happens only occasionally. In this instance items are shelved along with all the other fMS items in order of call number.
The height of the fMS shelves varies. In the P&GA Houghton basement it is generally 3 contiguous shelves of 48.5 cm. with the bottom shelf 46 cm. In the Pusey sub-basement manuscript stacks, however, it is most often about 48.5 cm., but sometimes 49.5 cm. We do not generally have volumes bigger than this. When we do, sometimes they are extremely heavy, fragile, with lots of metal hardware in the binding that would do damage if shelved vertically. So anything taller than 49.5 would shelve flat and be called "pfMS", or "portfolio manuscript", and shelved in the "pf" area. As this was written, the official sizes of MS, fMS, and pfMS are being designated. MS is anything 28 cm. or less; fMS is anything larger than 28 cm. There are exceptions to this, however, in some of the special locations like the Keats Room, which does not have a separate area designated for "f"MS items.See SAMPLE BOOK (and rules) for labels and tabs.
(There is no manuscript category for anything larger than 49.5 to be shelved upright, except in the Theatre Collection. In other words, Houghton does not have a category of items called "pfMS" (horizontal) because there are no "pf" manuscript items that are ever shelved vertically).

This indicator applies only to Harvard Theatre Collection stacks on Pusey 1. A sample is:  FRAMED STORAGE  pfMS Thr 414.4 (14). More detailed location information is included in HOLLIS in public view. But not included on the labels, as it is subject to change.

At Houghton, the prefix "b" stands for boxed manuscripts that are shelved flat inside a standard-size clamshell box, or items shelved in a non-standard box size no taller than 13.5 cm. (the standard shelf height for boxed manuscripts).
An effort is made to use standard-sized or near standard-size boxes whenever practical. This effort could be enhanced by grouping like-sized items together before they are cataloged, and giving them consecutive call numbers. There could be more efforts along this line with single items. (For example, handcuffs with one call number could be housed with a medal, and a brooch of different call numbers. The label on the box would read: bMS Am 1200, bMS Am 1201, bMS 1202). Having them together in a standard box would make shelf moves easier. If items have already been given non-consecutive call numbers, however, it makes it impossible to shelve them together without a lot of annotating of records, etc. and more likely they will end up in separate odd-size boxes on the shelf. A drawback to this might be that the box would have to be opened up for shelf reading the barcode on each separate inner enclosure, and more than one record would have to be updated in the event that one of the manuscripts might need to be rehoused and stored elsewhere.
In the case of large collections, catalogers are sensitive to putting like-sized items together before they number them when possible, and make an effort to put odd-sized things at the end of the collection. Catalogs are annotated whenver an item is shelved inconsecutively.
We try never to shelve one box on top of another as it causes confusion in keeping order and in re-shelving. We do this by having the shelves adjusted to 13.5 cm. height so that only a very thin, similarly-sized item could be placed on top of a box if need be. We try to break down materials into boxes that fit the standard size of the shelves whenever possible, so that it is rarely necessary to adjust shelving to fit something that is, say Paige box size, into a regular sequence of standard 13.5 cm. shelving.

The prefix "pf" stands for portfolio, which for shelving purposes means items, usually in a box, that are shelved flat, like "bMS", but are too large to fit on the "bMS" shelves. They are shelved in a separate section from bMS, because shelving a great variety of boxes together makes for problems in maintaining proper sequence and in re-shelving. Here is where the logic of the indicators seems to break down, in that there is no "b" to indicate boxed. This does actually make sense, however, because there are many volumes that don't need to be in a box but are too big or fragile to be stored upright. Such items are shelved with the boxed flat "pf" items in Houghton on sub-basement.
In the "pf" area of Houghton, the shelves are tall enough to stack boxes and flat volumes directly on top of each another. As a result, "pf" items require more care to retrieve than regular boxed items where there is no stacking. The "pf" shelves are awkward, heavy, dangerous, sometimes impossible to adjust, which forces us to do more stacking of items than we would like.
Printing and Graphic Arts collections do not have a separate "pfMS" storage area. bMS Typ and pfMS Typ items are currently combined on the shelves because there was is no more space in the stacks. In fact all of the space for boxed P&GA items has been used up and the spillover area is on Houghton sub-basement, near the "book hospital".

These are items that are in a folder only, and inside a metal drawer in a cabinet--thus far used only for Typ items on basement level at Houghton. (Before we decided to use "drawer" we just used "oversize", but this wording is being discussed). Folders receive a barcode if they are single items. The Theatre Collection also uses flat storage, but now uses a different indicator, see below.

Case Range-half drawer. These are items stored in a folder only, and inside a metal drawer in flat files on the 1st level of Pusey near the windows. PFD indicates that 20x24" folders are stored in two piles, side by side inside the drawer. Single items in a folder receive a barcode. All other items, including Autograph file, Catchalls or other large collections, do NOT need barcodes on their folders. An example of indicating location in records, and on labels, would be P1.C4.01.01.  P1 is floor. C4 is cabinet range 4. Then, .01 is first bay, .01 first drawer.

Case Range-full drawer. These are items stored in a folder only, and inside a metal drawer in flat files on the 1st level of Pusey in Theatre collection stacks,  near the windows. PPF indicates that 28x38" folders are stored in one pile inside the drawer. Single items in a folder receive a barcode. An example of indicating location in records, and on labels, would be P1.C4.01.01.  P1 is floor. C4 is cabinet range 4. Then, .01 is first bay, .01 first drawer.

Sometimes in a large collection (MOLLUS, for example) there are two sizes of standard pfMS boxes, each of which has a different range of of out-of-sequence items. In order to describe their location, we have called the larger ones (oversize). But presently we don't make any distinctions between the various sizes of pf in the cataloging. (Note: Manuscript box sizes are based on standard mat and frame sizes, and are readily available from vendors. The basic pf sizes are: 14x18", 16x20", 20x24", 22x28", 36x40")

There is a black flat file on basement level where mostly TYP items are stored. However items with different call numbers that are too big to fit on any shelves are also occasionally found there.  The folder labels should read:  "pfMS..." with "shelved in pf cabinet" appearing below the call number or somewhere else on the label or folder.

Printed books collections are sometimes processed as manuscripts. Below is a sample call number:
pf (horz) Typ 970.78.6595 (1)


  • PFD and PPF are new storage indicators that have been created to assist with the reorganization of the Theatre Collection stacks.
  • TRC is a new indicator that will eventually be applied to all Theodore Roosevelt material, which is kept in a specific section of the Houghton stacks and is currently being reorganized.
  • TRC-PH-?? or TRC-??-?? is an old indicator system that is still in use with Roosevelt material. "PH" means "photographs". The Roosevelt curator should be consulted for assistance in shelving materials until the reorganization is complete. The old indicator "ROOS" is also being gradually discontinued.

Any other new indicators can be viewed in the item record in HOLLIS, in the drop-down screen next to "Collection". PFC refers to the set of black flat files, called PF Cabinet, found on basement level with Typ items. These indicators are all available in ALEPH.  See SAMPLE BOOK for placement and orientation of labels and folders in drawers for PFD and PPF.

Shelving categories at Houghton and Harvard Theatre Collection

MS = upright storage less than 28 cm. height
(distinct shelving area in Houghton and HTC): mostly upright volumes; occasional upright document box.
fMS = upright storage 28 cm. height or more
(bottom shelves of all MS shelving areas in Houghton and HTC): mostly upright volumes
bMS = boxed manuscript, flat storage, less than 13.5 cm. tall
(separate shelving area of Houghton sub-basement only): standard-size flat manuscript boxes
bMS = boxed manuscript, flat storage, less than 13.5 cm. tall
(shelved at HD): standard-size flat manuscript boxes.
bMS = boxed manuscript, upright document box, taller than 13.5 cm, height limited by HD specifications.
(shelved at HD): all sizes of upright document box and paige boxes.
bMS = boxed manuscript, flat storage, less than 13.5 cm. tall
(distinct shelving area of HTC, lower level): standard-size flat manuscript boxes; upright document boxes, & pfMS boxes of all sizes--all shelved together on continually adjusted shelving)
pfMS = flat box, less than 13.5 cm. tall, but wider and longer than standard size flat box
(in a separate pf area of Houghton): several different pf sizes all shelved together
pfMS = flat box, less than 13.5 cm. tall, but wider and longer than standard size flat box
(shelved in bMS area of Harvard Theatre Collection): several different pf sizes all shelved together with the standard-size flat box.
pfMS = large volumes, over 28 cm., that must be stored flat, but are not in a box are also shelved in the pf area of Houghton along with boxed pf items.
pfMS = large volumes, over 28 cm., stored upright on bottom shelves (only in HTC stacks).
There are other places in the library where some items are shelved, but this is indicated by a word or phrase that follows the call number. See below.
PFC = PF Cabinets on basement. This is storage for oversize items. There are 2 flat files, small black and large white.(lots of Typ stored here, but other things as well).
PFD = Case Range-half drawer (HTC flat files in Pusey). Folder labels read "pfMS" with "drawer" several spaces from end of call number.
PPF = Case Range-full drawer (HTC flat files in Pusey). Folder labels read "pfMS" with "drawer" several spaces from end of call number.
TRC = Most manuscript items in the Theodore Roosevelt collection area of the Houghton stacks.
zMS = anything in the z closet now has this prefix.

Special locations
Some collections are housed in specially segregated areas within the stacks. Some are housed partially in the general stacks, and partially in public or non-public areas outside the general stacks. The call number is sometimes augmented according to the distinct area in which the collection is shelved, such as a room or closet. However, sometimes the call number can reflect the donor, author, or subject that categorizes them rather than the location. Special locations such as these are named below. A listing of all such locations and sample call numbers appear below. Examples of shelf tabs and labels may be found in the sample book, a 3-ring notebook, that is being gradually transferred to this manual. It is mainly volumes that appear in public places.

SPECIAL LOCATION, public area : Dickinson Room
This refers to shelves inside locked glass cabinets. Some printed materials using EDR on their labels may also be housed in the Dickinson Closet, rather than the locked glass cabinets.

  • shelf tab = EDR...

SPECIAL LOCATION, public area : Dickinson Room
These items do not have "EDR" as part of their call number, as printed material does.

  • shelf tab = MS Am 1118.3 for all items in the DIckinson room CLOSET. (no indicator of where they are shelved)
  • box labels = MS Am 1118.9 (no indicator of where they are shelved)–see curator for details*
  • label = DICKINSON ROOM has been placed above the accession number for pf artwork that has no call number, such as *2011M-137PF etc.

SPECIAL LOCATION, public area : Hyde Room
"MS Hyde" indicates a large group of items that were given to the Library by a donor whose surname was "Hyde".

Basically, Hyde collection boxed manuscripts and a few codex manuscripts are stored in the Hyde Back Stacks, which is a non-public area. Printed books and most bound manuscripts from this collection that will fit are shelved in locked glass cases in the Hyde room. The bound manuscripts all have a note in the finding aid to indicate that they go in case 9 in the Hyde Room. We do not make a distinction between "Hyde Room" and "Hyde Back Stacks" on the labels, Any future acquisitions will most likely be cataloged as "MS Eng" and be shelved on the sub-basement in Pusey with the regular collections

SPECIAL LOCATION, public area : Keats Room
For codes manuscripts, this refers to the shelves inside the locked glass cabinets. Boxed manuscripts are kept in the lower cabinets, which are solid wood. They are in 2 different locations. “bMS Eng…” that are shelved in Keats room are stored in cabinets to left of fireplace. The 2 cabinets to either side of the BAL room entrance contain “bMS Keats...” Here are some examples:

There are several styles of call number.

  • label = MS Keats 7       *note: (shelf marks MS Keats 1 - MS Keats 7 are shelved on sub-basement in flat boxes, not marked "bMS" but shelved as bMS.)

  • shelf tab = Keats Room
                        MS Keats 7

  • shelf tab = MS Eng 1730 
                        Keats Collection

  • shelf tab = Keats Room 
                        MS Eng 1641

  • label for manuscript folder = Keats Room
  • (below) KEATS ROOM is NOT part of the call number below, but the records will be annotated to show that as the location.

shelved in:

KEATS ROOM  (left of fireplace)

bMS Eng 1428

F. Holland Day…papers concerning John Keats…

Box 1 of 1



SPECIAL LOCATION, public area : Keats Room (bottom cupboards) - shelf tab = bMS Keats 10

SPECIAL LOCATION, public area : Lobby Items shelved in Lobby have the Lobby location at the top of their label or tab, then the call number directly beneath it. Roman numerals are capitalized.

  • shelf tab = Lobby X.I.I MS Eng 1544 shelf tab = Lobby XI.4.7 fMS Lat 403

SPECIAL LOCATION, public area : Lowell room (shelves). This refers to the shelves behind locked glass cabinets in the Lowell Room. There is no more space here. bMS Lowell continues in the Lowell closet, which is between the Hyde Room and the Printed Books cataloging workroom on second floor. There is no bMS Lowell in the Houghton sub-basement. shelf tab = MS Lowell 58

SPECIAL LOCATION, public area : Lowell room (cupboards) labels = Amy Lowell Autograph Collection (see also Sample Book of labels)

SPECIAL LOCATION, public area : Richardson Room This refers to shelves inside locked glass cabinets and the lower cupboards as well. Mostly taller (fMS) items are kept in cupboards, but they are not designated as "fMS". shelf tab = MS Richardson 72

SPECIAL LOCATION : Hofer inner office "Typ" is the abbreviation for typography, which is the classification for items belonging to the Printing and Graphic Arts (P&GA) collections. Most "Typ" manuscript items are shelved on Houghton basement, continuing on sub-basement near the boxing area. But some are kept in the Hofer inner office, also on basement. There is no special indicator on the label for manuscript items shelved here. However, catalogers do note it in the records. The room houses mostly oversize, heavy items that are awkward to access.There is also a locked just outside the inner office in which objects (manuscripts) are kept, but with a printed books call number beginning with TypZ. Some of these items were once in the z-closet on the 2nd floor.

  • shelf tab = MS Typ (no special room designation on the label)

SPECIAL LOCATION: Houghton basement = PFC 

  • PFC = PF Cabinets on basement (lots of Typ stored here, but other things as well); there are 2 flat files, small black and large white. This is storage for oversize items.

SPECIAL LOCATION : Hyde back stacks This refers to a non-public area of storage where most of the MS Hyde manuscripts are shelved. But "Hyde back stacks" doesn't make its way onto labels as it is too wordy. There is at the moment no designated separate area for "pf" boxes in the Hyde back stacks. So, like Printing & Graphic Arts, and Theatre, all sizes of boxes are shelved together. The prefix "pf" is retained on the labels for large flat boxes with the notion that one day there may be enough space to segregate them. There are also some items in the Hyde Back Stacks which remain in frames that because of their bulk are kept on the bottom shelves in paige boxes without lids. These are also called "bMS Hyde" (since they are technically in boxes), but they are kept on bottom shelves because they are heavy and cumbersome. In the future some might be removed from the frames and stored differently.  See also SPECIAL LOCATION, public area : Hyde Room.

  • labels = bMS Hyde 98
  • shelf tab = MS Hyde 87
  • box label for accessioned item = HYDE 2003JM-40 (pf)

SPECIAL LOCATION : Lowell closet This closet is across from the Z-closet on the 2nd floor, and next to the Hyde Room. It is currently almost full.

  • label = bMS Lowell 19

SPECIAL LOCATION : Printing & Graphic Arts Flat files on basement This refers to oversize flat file drawers.

  • label = pfMS Typ 762 oversize

SPECIAL LOCATION : Pusey-(non-HTC) framed items hung at ends of aisles on sub-basement

  • label = Hung in P44-45 *2002M-43 (pf)


  • label  = bMS Thr 432 (40) SHELVED IN VAULT -  FRAGILE - Light Bulb

SPECIAL LOCATION : Z closet This has been a storage for uncataloged objects that are unusual and difficult to store. It is being gradually cataloged. A pair of Houdini's handcuffs were among the objects stored here. Items are findable only by call number. Many of these items still have a "green slip" carbon that shows a description and the accession number. The senior cataloger collects these slips once something has been cataloged.

  • shelf tab = zMS Am XXXX  (However some items in the Z-closet have been removed and cataloged differently, though retaining their accession numbers which also contain a "Z", for example: 92Z-2)  Items that will remain in the z closet are currently being cataloged with the prefix "zMS".

Responsibilities of the Manuscript end-processor

The manuscript end-processor oversees the preparation of manuscript materials for labeling, prepares and applies labels to single items; supervises and trains students who assist in these activities for boxed collections, and single items. The end-processor also keeps track of items that are restricted, based on information taken from the ALEPH records and finding aids, making sure that information appears on the labels, and that they are routed to the vault if necessary. The manuscript end-processor must also account for all manuscript items that are passed on for end-processing until they are shelved; handing off any changes or corrections to the cataloger when end-processing is finished.The manuscript end-processor assists with shelving new manuscript items. It is also the responsibility of the manuscript end-processor to address concerns about preservation, conservation, housing issues, and supplies with the Preservation Librarian and others.

The first objective is to manage incoming material. This means trying to keep everything accurately labelled, and in a condition to facilitate access until it is end-processed. For example, things that come in loosely bundled with cloth tape should be transferred to a pre-fab, box or envelope as soon as possible. Upright items go on the top shelf of the red "INCOMING MANUSCRIPTS" truck inside the door of the work room. As time permits, like items may be grouped together, i.e. pre-fabs, CMI boxing, questions, items that need minimal work, etc. When the shelves start to fill up, however, the items will need to be worked on. Students help log in new material. The lower shelves of the red truck are used mostly for small boxed collections. Sometimes oversize or oddly shaped items have to be finished right away to make room for other items.
The influx of large collections, single items, middle-sized collections; coordination of supply needs; making good use of time and space are some of the "plates" that constantly need spinning. Students can help with routine large collections, which frees time for the supervisor to ready middle-size boxed collections for labeling, and to work on single items, etc. But boxes are always checked for contents and quality by the supervisor before shelving. The End-processing instruction sheet helps ready work for students ahead of time. Refining and updating that form is a good way to streamline the work. Adding to the manual on a regular basis is also key. More experienced students are usually better equipped to help with the numerous middle-sized collections, since there are many variations, inconsistencies and special preservation considerations. Below are some procedures, warnings, and tips for the manuscript end-processor.

Manuscript Log

The Manuscript Log is an Access database that organizes and formats information needed to produce manuscript folder labels as well as labels for: single items, boxes, spine labels, etc. It also automatically provides yearly statistics. Data is entered from the OASIS finding aid or the ALEPH record depending on whether it is a collection or a single item. The Manuscript Log will also record when the item is received, worked on, shelved, and can include notes about location. There is an "end-processing report" that can be emailed as a .pdf file to show completed work. Below, the data entry screen has been opened by clicking on "Manuscript Log" under "Forms" in the navigation panel on the left (underneath "All Access Objects").

The screen above shows a single entry on top with the database in columns beneath it. If you were to click on the Manuscript Log under "Tables" in the navigation panel, you would see only the database displayed in columns. The "table" is the primary storage area for data. One can alter data in the table, but it must be closed before changes are seen in any of the forms or reports. "Forms" are simply different ways of displaying the table to make data entry easier. The "reports" are displays of the table that can be emailed, published, or printed out, such as folder labels. One can't make any data changes in a "report". That can only be done in the "table" or "form".

"Table" view of the Manuscript Log database.

A "query" is a table composed of specific entries from the main "table". In this database, there is a query "PRINT TODAY'S WORK", for example. In the Manuscript Log, queries are paired automatically to some of the "label" reports, so they do not need to be directly accessed by the user. But one should be aware that any data changes in an opened "query" table will result in a permanent change to the data. For example, if one were to delete an entry in a query, it would be deleted in the database as well. For this reason, "query" in the navigation panel, is kept closed so the list of queries is not visible.
Once you are ready to enter data, you can close the navigation panel by clicking on the double left arrows at the top right corner of the panel that says "all access objects" to provide a bigger screen, shown below. Then search for the call number at the bottom of the screen to make sure you aren't duplicating an entry.

Everything worked on should be entered into the Manuscript Log, whether it is a collection or a single item. The call number, title, provenance, date received are taken from the availability screen in HOLLIS because the needed information is very clear on that screen. ALEPH is used, however, to pull out the accession number, since that does not appear on the availability screen. All information is cut, edited, and pasted into the corresponding fields in the Manuscript Log using the Manuscript Login macro.

After logging in a collection, since there will be multiple items, further information about those items must be imported into a separate database called the "Manuscript Folder Label database", which has a separate set of instructions. From that database, folder labels will be produced. One can then produce item record data, multiple box labels, email announcements, and keep track of bar codes, using a third simple database called the "Box Label database".

Producing labels for single items is a lot simpler. It only requires logging in the item as described above, and most of the needed labels will automatically be generated by the Manuscript Log, all of the different kinds of labels, and box labels are available.
If you know that a single item (like the one in the screen shot above) will only need a small label with the call number and the accession number, you can sometimes skip copying the description, or type in a brief description of your own. If a box or detailed folder label will be needed, the description field is important, however, and will need to be edited properly. The manuscript end-processor then fills out the rest of the form, adding zeros to the stem of the call number in the "sort as" field where needed, and recording the amount of items, labels, volumes, etc. completed. As of now, single items are not required to have a linear foot measurement entry in the database.

Raw data as in the donor/source field above can be left as it is unless it will be needed on a standard manuscript folder label. If the data in that field will be needed, the manuscript end-processor will need to edit out "Gift of", "Mr., Mrs., Prof., etc.", and shorten "Bequest of" to "Beq. ", or "Deposit" to "Dep.". Abbreviations on labels are standard procedure to save space. No matter what kind of label is needed, the end-processor will have to determine the correct information for the accession number field. If there is no accession number, then the date only should appear. If there is also no date, then either the "removed from" or the "recataloged from" or the "transferred. from" information should appear. (If it is necessary to further abbreviate, use "recat. from" or "transf. from"). If there is no source information at all, the abbreviation "n.s., n.d." (no source, no date) has been used, however, since cataloging language isn't uniform in the 541 field, this is no longer used. The information "no accession number" should not appear on the label, unless it is a standard manuscript folder label; but it is included in the record so there will be no question about whether that information was omitted. After an item is logged in, there is a list of labels to choose from in the navigation panel under "reports". These can be printed out immediately. In the cataloger's responsibilities section of this manual, a listing of information groups and customary wording in the 541 field needed for making labels, can be found.

Data can be lost if one is not familiar with Access and with the Manuscript Log database. Therefore editing of data must be done by someone familiar with manuscript cataloging language and practices. For these and other reasons, the manuscript end-processor backs up the Log regularly and oversees it. However, entry of the raw data can be done by a student, using a separate version of the log that is then edited by the end-processor and added to the main database. To do this, use the copy of the Manuscript Log in the shared student directory, that has been emptied and renamed, "student data entry". Students can then be instructed as follows, and when they are finished, the data they have entered can be edited and pasted into the Manuscript Log. This eliminates the danger of inadvertant changes to the database. The "Manuscript Login" macro assists with collecting information for logging in.

Manuscript Log : reponsibilities of students


  • Click on Manuscript Log under "forms" in navigation panel on left.
  • Click on the double arrows at top right of navigation panel to close it.
  • Minimize Access, open HOLLIS, and type "o" in the left column to get to "Other call no."
  • Type in the stem of the call number (do not use prefixes "b", "f", or "pf") and hit enter
  • Print the first page of the record
  • If an "electronic aid is available" click on link, then "easy print view" in upper right (to the left of "help") and print out the OASIS finding aid
  • Staple the finding aid together and paperclip it to the other papers you will be printing out
  • If a finding aid exists, cut and paste the information from the first page into the database instead of using HOLLIS, as below.
  • Otherwise, follow the steps below to collect and transfer the information
  • Click on the HOLLIS "availability" screen, highlight the call number, and paste it into the Log
  • Paste the call number also into the "sort as" field
  • Transfer the description and provenance [donor/source] information in the same manner.
  • Transfer any RESTRICTION information to the "additional information" field in the log, and circle it on the HOLLIS printout. If there is not enough space, type in the basic information by hand.
  • Minimize Access again, open ALEPH, again omitting the prefix to search for the call no.
  • In ALEPH scroll down to the last line, under the tab, "MARC tag"
  • Hit F11 to print the full ALEPH record. To assist with proofing, do the following:
  • Circle the call number and accession number where they appear together on one page.
  • Paperclip the ALEPH printout to the HOLLIS & OASIS printout, beneath the tracking form
  • Find the "541" field, click twice on it to highlight, and copy it (if there is no 541 field, use whatever field has the accession number or source information in it. See "Trouble Shooting" below).
  • Paste it into the "accession number" field in the Manuscript Log
  • Enter the date into the log for each item; and enter the statistic "1" under "#call number" on the right. (The manuscript end-processor will enter the rest of the information).Click on the last right arrow with the yellow mark at the bottom of the screen to create a new record

This macro guides the above steps with pop-up menus, and waits for the user to finish highlighting the desired fields. It remembers the information and deposits it into the Manuscript Log at the final prompt. The hot-key is "WIN+y". The supervisor can show you how to use it.


We are not required to end-process items with an HTC-LC call number because these are classed as printed material and are normally end-processed on the mezzanine. But sometimes an item will makes its way to us because it needs some special housing that mezzanine cannot provide. If you are asked to log iin call numbers that start with HTC-LC (for example:  HTC-LC N5054.S7 1968) you ahould aearch HOLLIS under "Call number (Library of Congress)" and begin typing after the HTC-LC prefix.

There can be multiple entries for one call number in HOLLIS when different works (by the same or by different authors) are bound together. Pick the first call number listed and use the data from that record for the Manuscript Log.

In older cataloging, the accession number and other source information is often the 8528 (or other) field. In this case, copy the information from whatever field has the necessary information into the accession number field in the Manuscript Log. See samples below.

FIELD 541 IS NOT PRESENT, sample #1

LOGGING IN A MANUSCRIPT : TROUBLE SHOOTING (for students) continued...

FIELD 541 IS NOT PRESENT, sample #2
If you find no accession number and it does not say "no accession number", then put whatever information you do find into both the accession number and the donor/source fields in the Manuscript Log and let the manuscript end-processor edit it later.

Item records and barcodes in ALEPH

Whether something is going to the Harvard Depository [HD] or not, each separate volume, enclosure, or container of a collection or single item, must have a barcode and an item record in ALEPH. The default setting is for items that stay at Houghton, with the material type "mixed", the item status "02" and the sub library "Houghton". The shelving indicator (prefix to the call number) under "collection" is controlled by the manuscript catalogers. Below is a default item record for one box in a collection to be shelved at Houghton. Item records created by catalogers have the item process status "CT". But item records that were created in a batch by the system have the process status blank. Sometimes these system-created item records also have "SBC" [smart bar code] that should be deleted. A previously created item record might also have a "note", indicated by a red check. Often the note can be deleted if it is no longer relevant.
Besides the samples shown here, printouts of sample default item records are kept in the Computer Notebook for easy reference. More detailed information about barcode entry, etc. can be found in the BOX LABEL INSTRUCTIONS.

*Note that there are special instructions for use of barcodes with Autograph File and Catchall collections. Any size box containing these types of collections will get a barcode. The folders inside the box do NOT get barcodes. Likewise, oversize PFD and PPF folders from these sorts of collections (in drawers in HTC) do NOT get barcodes. The only folders that receive barcodes in one of these drawers are single items that are not part of an Autograph file or Catchall.  PFD or PPF folders from (non Autograph file/Catchall) large boxed collections are marked with the prefix "pf" and marked "(drawer)" on the label after the item number, but do not need barcodes. Such individual items are marked in OASIS as PFD or PPF, which is the reason no barcode is necessary. See Autograph File and Catchall collections under "COLLECTIONS".


When you are finished and about to shelve the item, delete "CT" (cataloging) under "item process status" below, and leave it blank. Notice that sometimes a cataloger changes the material type from "mixed" to something else, in this case, "VIS". If this is the case, do not change it back to the default "mixed". The tracking form will note whether an item or collection is slated for the Harvard Depository [HD]. But if there is a question about this, the manuscript end-processor may ask the head of Technical Services and/or the cataloger.

ITEM RECORD DESCRIPTIONS (for boxed collections)

To facilitate retrieval, box description rules for item records that appear in HOLLIS are as highlighted.  Below are samples from a specific collection:

Box (standard-size 11x15" flat box): Box 3: items 12-20
Box (larger than standard flat box) Box 3: items 12-20; pf box
Carton (standard size "Paige" box): Box 3: items 12-20; carton
Carton ("Paige box" large than #15): Box 3: items 12-20; large carton
Document box (upright flip-lid box): Box 3: items 12-20; document box
Document box (thin upright flip-lid box) Box 3: items 12-20; half document box

Here is an example of an item record for Box 7 of a boxed collection that went to HD:


Note: We no longer use light blue/gray corrugated cartons for sending collections to HD because they were too weak for the amount of material they held. Whenever these old boxes break down we replace them with the standard #15 Paige boxes. (Replacing them with smaller sturdier boxes would require re-numbering large series' of boxes, which is too big a project). But the handles on Paige boxes, or even the box itself, gives out too sometimes from the weight of the contents and must be replaced. Paige boxes are referred to as "cartons" in an item record. Newly processed collections are currently parcelled into smaller standard size boxes whenever possible, rather than into Paige boxes, so that weight is not an issue.
For large collections there is a special Access Box label database in the Collections folder.

Procedures, warnings, and tips for the Manuscript end-processer : all manuscripts


*For examples of solutions to especially difficult housing issues, see slide shows under HOUSING SOLUTIONS, listed in the appendix.


In general, we do not use archival envelopes of our own for permanent storage because pulling things in and out of an envelope can damage them. We prefer a 4-flap folder where the innermost flap completely covers the item, and extends to the edges of the inside of the folder.

Microfilm is steadily being replaced by digital imaging. Public Services has its own method of penciling a note onto a folder to show an item is in the DRS (digital repository service) that would affect us more in the future if a folder had to be redone for some reason. If so, we would use their methods to transfer the information onto the new folder.

Keep magic markers in your own drawer so you will know when they are being used and can make sure they are not accidentally left out. Felt-tipped pens can do a lot of damage quickly if the cap is left off and it rolls next to some manuscript material. The ink in the markers also migrates to contiguous material over time.

In general if a letter can be unfolded and still fit in the folder, it should be unfolded. However if unfolding it would make it too large for the folder, we keep it folded. Also, if unfolding it seems like it would damage the material we would keep it folded. In this case, if it is important to the curator to have something unfolded, it should be done by preservation staff. Often this will result in an item being moved from "bMS" to "pfMS" storage. Relabeling and asking catalogers to update records is one of the tasks of the manuscript end-processor.

If an item has bent corners (dog ears) or other random creases, we generally do not unfold these, as they can break off. Also if we did this as a general rule, we would be spending a lot of extra time on something that is actually a preservation task, and potentially creating worse preservation issues by detaching pieces.

We do not make any new folds in manuscript material. That is we cannot fold something that isn't already folded in order to make it fit in a folder.

Drawers at the workstation are marked "no food". Students should take breaks (a 15 minute break every 3 hours) and eat in the staff lounge or outside the building. A bottle of water is ok as long as it is kept capped and away from collection material and is taken home or stored in staff room at end of shift.

Use an inner paper folder when an item is in danger of shedding fragments, has a post-it, or is fragile or badly ripped. The folder will keep fragments together and will provide a backing for the ripped item to be handled safely. Use an inner folder also if an unstable item, such as a clipping or a sheet with stains from pressure sensitive tape, is offsetting to adjacent items. If there are a lot of such items in a folder, using single sheets of interleaving might make the contents less thick and easier to manage. An inner folder protects both the front and the back of a sheet. If, for example there is some pressure sensitive tape only on one side of a manuscript, a single sheet of interleaving may suffice. If a clipping is the last thing in a folder, one does not need to put any interleaving behind it because it is not offsetting onto anything but the folder itself.
If there is fragile media in a collection, such as photographs or drawing/pastel/painting, the item can be put into a completely separate folder if appropriate. The end-processor can change the number of folders for an item if necessary, annotating the finding aid for the cataloger to make changes at the end.
Mylar inner folders are sometimes used when paper is torn, as an alternative to repairing the item. They are expensive and add bulk, so are used sparingly. Do not use a mylar folder on pastels or other media that might be sensitive to static electricity. Consult the Preservation Librarian on current usage.
See also: GUIDELINES FOR TYPES OF MANUSCRIPTS, FORMATS & MEDIA / BOUND PRINTED MATERIAL : Album or Scrapbook : interleaving clippings in an album.

When it is determined that a notebook cover or similar item should be discarded, the end-processors should keep a list of these items, along with what was discarded, and append it to the corrections that go to the cataloger after end-processing is complete. Catalogers may have to update any housing notes if there is a change. In the section on Responsibilities of catalogers, there is a list of commonly discarded items.

Items that have been microfilmed in the past have small labels beneath the regular label that say: "Do not photograph Microfilm on file". When replacing a folder, a new microfilm label should be attached to the new folder so that the information is not lost. End-processing assistants must always keep the old label with the item until the microfilm number is transferred to a new label and attached to the new folder. Some volumes arrive with a microfilm label adhered to a slip of paper that rests inside the front cover. Consult with preservation about whether these can be left in. If the volume is going on the shelf and has no other inserts, the information should be copied onto a new label which is adhered with methyl cellulose inside the front cover.

These items often arrive in large cartons and are not easily stored on the red truck. They can be kept on a separate shelf in the manuscript end-processing workroom until there is time to look them over. It is with this size of collection that filling out the is most helpful because several middle-sized collections can be readied for students ahead of time.

The more folders an item is broken down into, the safer the handling. However, materials and space are expensive and scarce nowadays, so we don't break things down as much as we used to. The cataloger provides the number of folders for an item in the finding aid, but the manuscript end-processor decides whether to divide further, or to divide less. It is up to the cataloger to indicate those instances when folders must remain as they are, via notes on the tracking form, or a note slipped into the collection. Sometimes there are distinct sections that must stay together. If there is a question, the end-processor will consult the finding aid and the cataloger if necessary.

While end-processing, watch for any clear enclosures/folder/sleeves within a collection that are not archival. Such sleeves should match the brands we currently use, or be discarded. The manuscript end-processor should determine whether a sleeve is really needed, whether to isolate the item in a separate enclosure, whether to put other items in sleeves also, or to put the sleeved item also inside a paper folder so that it does not put surrounding paper items at risk via static electricity. We don't put mylar folders next to surrounding manuscripts because they can stick and then rip. Do not put any art media such as chalk or pastel next to mylar as it can get pulled off from the static. Photographs that don't fit into a photosleeve can be safely housed in a mylar folder. Mylar inner folders must always be the same size as the outer folder or enclosure. Consult Preservation Librarian about current use of folders. There may be a current preference for avoiding use with torn or fragmented/fragile material because of concerns about static disturbance, possibly since readers might open the folders, not realizing they are meant to stay closed.
Our archival mylar folders are cut to the size of the 3-flap folders, and are not normally used with interleaving paper as an inner backing, as this would encourage people to open the folder to see what was on the verso of the manuscript, whereupon static could cause the item to rip.

Old barcodes from Widener transfers, etc. are usually lined through the code only (not the numbers) with a very fine-point black felt-tipped marker. This is best kept in a drawer, or special container on a shelf or other area where it will not come in close proximity with manuscript materials or be easily borrowed nd set down by someone passing through your workstation when you are not there. You should check with the cataloger before crossing out the barcode. They will have to make a note in their records and delete old records in Aleph, sometimes in conjunction with the printed books section.
When necessary, barcodes directly adhered to items can often be removed easily by preservation staff with a heat tool. Sometimes it is worth inquiring whether the curator or cataloger thinks the barcode should be removed.

Years ago, it was library's practice to pencil in the call number on the item itself (often a single item, but these sometimes get added to collections later). The end-processor should look for that it and verify any of these old "recat. from" numbers, notifying the cataloger if there was any mistake in copying it into the records.Then the old number is carefully penciled through, if that has not already been done. A ruler is not necessary, but if one feels the need, probably a very thin, small, flexible plastic ruler would be best. But use judgement, i.e. don't use a ruler if you are going to need to place it on top of gold leaf or pastel or some other medium that might be damaged. We don't normally erase or re-write the new call number on the piece as we use printed labels instead nowadays. In the case of a single sheet that has no cover, the label on the outside of its folder is its identification. If the penciled call number is current, do not cross it out, however.

If a large project necessitates putting work on hold, the shelves in front of the elevator, to the right, may be used for overflow. Only the call numbers, MS Am, MS Eng, and MS Mus are kept there currently.

OVERSIZE AND ODD MATERIAL (pf, realia, etc.)
The manuscript end-processor should investigate materials that are too large to fit into the standard-size box. These are usually stored in larger "pf" boxes at the end of the collection. But sometimes items a cataloger has flagged as "pf" will actually fit in a smaller box, which is less of a labeling and storage challenge. Odd material such as all different kinds of objects are usually also stored at the end of a collection. Sometimes a small object will have to be pulled out of a regular size box and stored separately at the end, often with other objects from that collection. See also: GUIDELINES FOR TYPES OF MANUSCRIPTS, FORMATS & MEDIA.

Paper clips are almost always removed from manuscript material because they can make creases, marks, rust stains, and tears. They are removed by placing the manuscript leaves flat on the table, then holding down the longer end of the paper clip (which will be covered by the manuscript leaves) with your finger, and carefully pulling up the shorter end of the paper clip and bending it up until you can easily take it off without danger of tearing the paper.

PAPER CLIPS (plastic)
Plastic paper clips, cannot be bent like metal ones, but the same principle of lifting the two sides, rather than pulling them off applies. They must be removed because they cause tears. Do not use plastic paper clips to attach notes to any manuscript material. In fact, plastic paper clips are best thrown out or otherwise taken out of the library, unless instructed, as they are a danger to the collections.
If there is ever a need to use pen to correct an acid-free manuscript folder, the Weissman Center (Alan Puglia) suggests using black (no other color but black) Sakura brand, Pigma Micron pens. We have 2 such pens for the supervisor's use. Like felt-tip markers, these pens can pose a danger and should be stored separately from collection material when not in use.

"Scotch tape" or "masking tape" is referred to as "pressure sensitive tape", meaning it adheres because pressure is applied to make it stick. If an item has tape on it, you may want to put them into an inner folder (of folder stock) if the adhesive is oozing out. Or if the adhesive seems dry and stable, you could interleave it on both sides with the correct size of permalife instead. For excessive tape, or badly oozing tape, make a note and tell the supervisor. We sometimes put them into a mylar inner folder to contain the adhesive and keep it and/or stains from the tape from migrating to other items. Do not try to remove tape. Keep in touch with Weissman Center for current protocols.
If you find tape whose adhesive has dried and it has "popped off" by itself, you should examine it carefully to see whether it has any text on it at all, any pencil, pen, or typing or marks. If it does, we should keep it, ask the supervisor what to do. If it doesn't, ask whether it's alright to throw it away. In some very rare instances, with items (like Yourcenar), which have lots of editing that uses scotch tape and small pieces of paper, conservators might find such a thing useful in order to restore the original order. But in most instance, we just throw away a piece of scotch tape with no text.


In preparation for large digitization projects like Colonial North America, an entire collection may need to go to preservation.To assist Weissman Preservation Center (WPC) staff, the slide show: Temporary housing for preservation projects demonstrates how a collection can be re-boxed for travel and to accommodate necessary re-housing and re-labeling that will take place by end-processing staff when work is completed

Use squirt bottle of water and paper towel to clean sticky fingers while working.
Clean bone or teflon folder, bowls, brushes with warm soapy water, and dry with paper towels.
Bowls and brushes are rinsed periodically with alcohol.
Do not set a water jar directly on a table.
Store the squirt jar of water vertically inside the plastic bin when not in use.

Responsibilities of catalogers : all manuscripts

See the instructions for Numbering folders, labeling boxes, send to end-processing in the Manuscript Section, Processing manual, from the Houghton Technical Services Wiki.


Numbering folders, labeling boxes, send to end-processing

and Tips for catalogers.


Boxed collections are housed in two different ways. Either they are in acid-free file folders with a re-inforced tab that stand upright inside legal-sized Hollinger boxes, or they are in 2-flap acid-free folders that rest flat in a box with an attached lid (called a clam-shell box) that was specially designed for ease of use in the Reading Room. Usually collections that present few special housing considerations and are not frequently used are stored upright and sent to HD. If a collection is too fragile to go to HD, or if heavy use is expected, it may instead be kept in flat boxes on site, since Houghton shelving is adjusted to accept flat boxes about 4" high. Shelving in the Harvard Theatre Collection (HTC) and at HD can accept either upright or flat boxes. When a collection uses both flat and upright boxes, each type has an identifying prefix. Manuscripts in the standard-size box, whether flat or upright, have the prefix "bMS", meaning "boxed manuscript", as part of their call number. Any flat boxes larger than the standard size are called "pfMS" boxes, for "portfolio manuscript". Rarely, an upright box that is part of a larger collection must be kept at Houghton, and in that case it has no prefix, and is shelved with upright bound volumes, as simply "MS", since it is too tall for the regular boxed manuscript shelves. This was reviewed in more detail under the previous section: "Call numbers/
accession numbers, housing /storage indicators, shelving categories, and special locations".

Some collections consist of diaries or scrapbooks, etc. In this case, the "(item number)" represents one of the bound volumes, rather than a folder full of loose sheets. Volumes that are stored upright have no prefix. Their call number begins with "MS". If they are shelved flat, their call number will begin with "bMS" whether they are in a box or not, because all flat items that approximate the size of the standard flat box (11x15x3") are shelved in the same area. In this instance "b" means "boxed", but also refers to a specific area of the stacks. There is a separate section on end-processing single items that applies to end-processing such collections.The difference between a collection of bound volumes and a single item bound volume is that the single item will not have an OASIS finding.

Basic steps for end-processing collections : standard folder labels (REVISIONS IN PROGRESS)

These instruction are based on a filed named: README.txt within the folder:    H:\HOUGHTON\Technical Services\MS Section\MS documentation\hou.labels.folders


(Similarly, the Location of files for box labels are within the folder:  H:\HOUGHTON\Technical Services\MS Section\MS documentation\hou.labels.boxes 

  • Examine collection to assess supply, student help, and other needs.
  • Discuss questions with cataloger or relevant others.
  • Create a workable plan for completing the collection on time.

  • Create GUIDELINES for the front of the corrections notebook for large or complicated collections. 
  • Create a Finding Aid Corrections notebook by putting a printout of the OASIS finding aid into 3-ring binder.
    Use red pen and "post-its" as tabs to note corrections.
  • Examine document for diacritics before and after labels are formatted. See "Troubleshooting" at end of "Labeling large collections" document below.
  • Follow instructions for Labeling large collections.
  • Create label template in ACCESS using  the Manuscript Label database in the COLLECTIONS FOLDER.
  • Have cataloger proof draft of first sheet of labels.
  • Fill out an End-processing instruction sheet for the notebook (student completes verso),
  • Discuss "Goals, Expectations, and General Procedures for students" with student assistants.
  • Gather data for box labels and item records during end-processing, following BOX LABEL INSTRUCTIONS.
  • Inspect each box briefly for quality control while making sure all items are present and in order.
  • Send boxes to HD (or to stacks) in batches as they are finished (follow current HD protocol).
  • Log out the finished collection, recording number of folders, date shelved, etc.
  • On the directory, move the folder for that collection to a folder marked "finished" for that fiscal year.
  • At end of fiscal year, archive the folder on a memory stick for use in the event of future recataloging or to help locate missing items.

Alternative Steps for end-processing collections : abbreviated folder labels 
SEE:  Simplified folder labels for a collection

Responsibilities of students : all collections

  • Unfold all material unless it protrudes or nearly protrudes from the folder afterwards.
  • Do not try to flatten random creases or dogears (bent corners).
  • Remove paper clips by bending rather than sliding, as instructed.
  • Remove staples with microspatula as instructed, unless the staples are part of the binding of a pamphlet.
  • Remove brads, straight pins, etc. only if instructed to do so.
  • Flag photographs or other unusual material, as instructed.
  • Note item numbers and describe any problems or questions, as instructed.
  • Interleave or otherwise segregate harmful or delicate material as instructed
  • Do not try to remove pressure sensitive tape or adhesions from manuscripts, keep a list of such items.
  • Do not use pressure sensitive (scotch, etc.) tape to mend or construct enclosures of any kind.
  • Do not attached "post-its" directly to manuscript material of any kind, unless instructed.
  • Adhere label to front of folder, as instructed.
  • Keep erasure spread minimized so it doesn't get into the folders.
  • When an item is labelled incorrectly and the folder is going to be reused--be sure to line through the old label in pencil as soon as possible so that there is no confusion about whether something is missing from that folder. Also double or triple check to make sure nothing is in it before giving it to the supervisor to be used as scrap.
  • Inform supervisor of items that still have cataloger's notes in them
  • Discard any incorrect or irrelevant labels before you leave for the day, so there will be no confusion about items being overlooked.
  • Make temporary box labels and enter box label data into excel spreadsheet as instructed
  • Do not use pens of any kind around manuscript materials.

    Follow the End-processing instructions sheet for each collection, and complete verso, after reading Goals, Expectations and General Procedures listed above.
    Follow any special Guidelines (for sample, see: Guidelines in the notebook, if any, as instructed.)
    Read and follow all sections concerning students below.

    Procedures, warnings and tips for students : all collections

    Sometimes collections will need to be refoldered. Do not apply labels in advance to empty folders in order to "save time" as this can cause one to mistake an empty folder for a finished one and it can throw off the numbering of all the items. Also some items may turn out to be oversize and shelved separately, requiring a different size folder. If there happen to be many such items, the wrong size folder will continue to be labelled and supplies will go to waste. Applying labels slowly and carefully matching them with the items one at a time makes this less likely to happen, and provides an extra measure of "proofing" of everyone's work.

    Sometimes a group of papers is bound together with brads or staples or sewing along the edge. Always make a note of such bindings and ask whether to remove them. Usually staples are left in if they are part of a formal-looking "binding", or in a pamphlet. Usually brads and thread are removed as they can more readily damage the paper. Certain kind of brads are not removeable with ordinary tools, so they are left in. However, it is best to ask first, as the curator sometimes has a specific reason for wanting to keep the binding intact. (Even though as a standard practice, we remove staples that often appear on the upper left corner of a group of papers.)

    Place a label holder on the box, rubbing it down with a teflon folder as instructed, and cut and fold the backing paper from the self-adhesive box label holders to make temporary labels that list the call number and range of items in pencil. If we run out of label holders temporarily, use post-its on the boxes. Center labels on the short end of the box unless otherwise instructed.
    Items at the beginning or end of a box range that are shelved out of sequence do not need dummy folders because that information appears on the box label.
    Use brackets to denote folders. However, folders are only specified when the sequence is broken and continues to a new box. On a box marked: (377)-(378), where item (377) has twelve folders, but all twelve are in the same box, there is no need to indicate the range of folders. If the sequence of folders was broken, the labels might look like this:
    Box 9: items (376)-(377 [2])
    Box 10: items (377 [3]-[5])
    Box 11: items (377 [6])-(378)

    Affix a large lined post-it sheet to the verso of a page that lists items needing correction or having questions. Allow the bottom edge of the post-it to protrude about 1/2 inch below the page so it is easily visible. List the item number and the question/correction. For example:  "(1) = 2 folders, not 6?"  or "(37) = sp. 'tomayto'?"  Affix a matching color small post-it to the temporary box label, listing each item number that has a question.

    We no longer use the excel spreadsheet "Box.list" to record the correct prefix (b, or pf), the range of item numbers in each box, items needing "dummy folders", and other notes, such as missing items or other problems of any sort. It proved to be too time-consuming and caused confusion because it made for one too many places in which to keep and duplicate corrections. See CORRECTIONS TO THE FINDING AID.

    Make sure that all papers and unused supplies, etc.leftover after a collection is finished are neat. Discard any labels that you know are not going to be used so that they don't create confusion about whether the work was complete. Any labels that are left behind should be clearly marked as to why they were not pasted down before handing peripheral materials to the supervisor, who will note any further necessary corrections to the finding aid. Give all leftover materials/supplies to the supervisor as well, and make sure the work station is clean and ready for the next collection.

    Catalogers sort collections into folders and number them. They sometimes they number smaller collections in pencil, but for larger ones, they use removable stickers. The end-processor will print these out for the catalogers from the Manuscript Log database. They can also be printed using the removable stickers word document. Great care must be taken not to print these on permanent labels instead of removable ones (use Avery 6467).]
    After matching the item number of the permanent label with that of the removable sticker, affix the label and rub it down well, especially on the corners and edges, with a teflon folder. Then place the removable sticker neatly on a piece of scrap paper and keep those all in order until the collection is finished. That way if an item is missing we'll know whether or not we saw it.

    Drawers at the workstation are marked "no food". Students should take breaks (a 15 minute break every 3 hours) and eat in the staff lounge or outside the building. A bottle of water is alright as long as it is kept capped and away from collection material; and is taken home or stored in staff room at end of shift.

    Interleaving should approximate the size of the folder (about 1/16" smaller on all sides), not the size of the collection material. Use legal-sized sheets of permalife for legal-sized folders, and letter-sized sheets for letter-sized folders. We have packages of inner permalife folders with tabs for both legal and letter size folders. There is also a box of permalife, phototex, and Apollo tissue interleaving folders that we custom cut ourselves for items stored in flat standard size boxes. In some cases, use inner folders of folder stock, as instructed, which we also sometimes custom cut and keep in a document box for collections stored upright. User inner folders and interleaving sparingly so as not to add unnecessary bulk to a collection, or to overuse supplies.

    A blue dot pasted anywhere on a folder (any folder any time) is our symbol that a negative or slide is on file. Let the manuscript end-processor know if you see any blue dots anywhere by noting the item number.

    We don't use post-its ("sticky notes") on manuscript material because it can leave a residue that collects dirt. They can also harm some leather covers. However, in modern collections a post-it might be part of the material. In that case, make a note of the item number and you may be asked to put it in a permalife inner folder to protect other items, in case it were to detach. If there is an excessive amount of post-its throughout the collection, we might decide not to use any inner folders at all though, as it would add too much bulk and use up a lot of paper.

  • "Scotch tape" or "masking tape" is referred to as "pressure sensitive tape", meaning it adheres because pressure is applied to make it stick. If an item has tape on it, you may want to put them into an inner folder (of folder stock) if the adhesive is oozing out. Or if the adhesive seems dry and stable, you could interleave it on both sides with the correct size of permalife instead. For excessive tape, or badly oozing tape, make a note and tell the supervisor. We sometimes put them into a mylar inner folder to contain the adhesive and keep it and/or stains from the tape from migrating to other items. Do not try to remove tape.
  • If you find tape whose adhesive has dried and it has "popped off" by itself, you should examine it carefully to see whether it has any text on it at all, any pencil, pen, or typing or marks. If it does, we should keep it, ask the supervisor what to do. If it doesn't, ask whether it's ok to throw it away. In some very rare instances, with items which have lots of editing that uses scotch tape and small pieces of paper, conservators might find such a thing useful in order to restore the original order. But in most instance, we just throw away a piece of scotch tape with no text.
  • Do not put pressure sensitive tape (scotch, etc.) on any enclosures, as it can stick to materials and cannot be easily removed. Enclosures are designed to function without the use of tape and adhesives whenever possible, in order to minimize exposure of material to dangerous substances. Also, enclosures are designed to avoid having to slide materials in and out. For example, a 4-flap enclosure is meant to be pealed open. It is not meant to function as an envelope.

    Remove all staples at upper corners and random staples. See "Binding Materials" for when to leave staples in. Do NOT use a "claw" type staple remover. Get a demonstration of the procedure below. Place sheets flat on a table with the ends of the staple exposed. Slip a microspatula under one end at a time, rotating the spatula to lift the end up. Turn the sheets over and slip the spatula under the front part of the staple and rotate until you can pull it out. If thin/fragile paper, put the corner of a rectangle of mylar under the two ends of the staple first and then try sliding the microspatula under them.Ask for instruction or assistance with fragile items or heavy duty staples before proceeding. Sometimes staples can safely be removed from thin/fragile paper using one's fingernail.

    We have a stock of re-useable acid-free file folders that catalogers usually use for sorting collections. They come in various whites, and in a greenish tone. When transferring materials out of these folders, please turn them completely inside-out and stack them in an up-turned Paige box. If they all face the same direction (i.e. all fold edges going same way in box) they will tilt and start to fall out of the box. Once they start tilting, change the direction you are stacking them and it will even out. This makes for a neatly filled box of empty folders, ready to be re-used by the catalogers on another collection. When the box is full, stick the front of one of the folders out of the front of the box and store with other boxes of empty folders. It is best to separate out the greenish ones as they don't erase very well. We sometimes find other uses for them.

    Catalogers sometimes use old folders to sort collections, and expect us to transfer material into new folders. If it has been determined that the old folders are not acid-free, you will be asked to unfold them completely as you go along, to make sure there is nothing left behind, and rip them in half along the fold. Then shake them gently as a double-check, and give them to the supervisor to dispose of. We never throw out any old folders without opening them and tearing them in half first.
    Do not stack the folders as you go along, intending to unfold and tear them afterwards, as this creates another chore and a pile, which cause confusion. Someone may come across a pile of folders and take them, thinking they are empty and re-useable, only to find a manuscript accidentally left behind. And, if someone takes such a pile and decides to throw it out, then anything that was left behind would be unknowingly lost.

Procedures, warnings, and tips for students : upright collection.

Position manuscript material away from the reinforced tab of the file folder.
Work slowly so label doesn't accidentally adhere to manuscripts.
Label should cover any penciled text on the upper left tab and sit about 1/16" below top edge
Text that might protrude should be erased before the label is affixed to avoid smearing ink.
Use white Mars plastic Staedtler erasers for folders, sweep work area frequently into wastebasket.
Be consistent with placement in a given collection, once the location is chosen.
Do not reapply spoiled labels: keep a list of reprints needed.

There are acid-free board "spacers" available to prevent this from happening. There is also both a thinner and a wider version of the document box available. If you cannot slip your hand into the back of the box, it is overfull. But it is also important not to under-fill the box. The folders and their contents will start to slip and curl at the bottom if the box is not adequately full. Consult the supplies slide show.

In addition to the crease along the bottom of the folder, there are two additional score lines that could be folded to adjust the thickness of the folder if necessary. When in doubt about where to crease the folder, it may be better not to crease it at all, but inform the supervisor so that they can take care of it or give you advice. The supervisor can use the guidelines below:

  • IF UPRIGHT FOLDER IS NOT FULL ENOUGH bottom of folder might stay flat, but pressure from other folders in the box can cause bottom to "fan out" which causes adjacent folders to curl at bottom. Also causes bottom edges of contents to curl over time.
  • IF UPRIGHT FOLDER IS NOT FULL ENOUGH surrounding folders can create pressure causing folder to push up the contents unevenly and rest on the edge of one crease rather than laying flat. This can cause contents that would otherwise fit in the folder to stick above the top of it. Also, bottom edges of contents can eventually start to curl or cause adjacent folders to curl.
  • FOLDER IS FILLED PROPERLY when small amount of contents do not require an extra crease at the bottom. Folder is filled properly when the thickness of the material matches thickness of the folder. Sometimes it is necessary to add a custom crease in order to match the thickness of the material.

Folders with thick contents are the most likely to curl if the creases at the bottom of the folders are not folded to make the bottoms flat. However, one should not fold the bottom of a folder flat if there are only a few sheets inside the folder, because this too will cause the folders to slip down and become deformed. Please ask for a demonstration of the meaning of this as it is important to understand for the safety of the materials, and see below:

If volumes are too tall to stand normally inside the box, or if the bottom of the text block is flush or slightly longer than the bottom edges of the boards, let the volumes rest on
their spines within the folder. If they are stored with the spines up, it will put pressure on the boards and they will eventually detach.

Procedures, warnings and tips for students : flat collection.

Position manuscript material away from the upper left corner of the folder, to create a flat surface on which to rub down the label, and so as not to put pressure on the material itself. Return manuscript material neatly to its final location within the folder. Work slowly so label doesn't accidentally adhere to manuscripts.
Label should cover any penciled text on the upper left corner and sit about ¾" below top edge and about ¾" from the left (folded) edge.Text that might protrude should be erased before the label is affixed to avoid smearing ink. Be consistent with placement in a given collection, once the location is chosen. Do not reapply spoiled labels: keep a list of reprints needed.

If you find an object, an unusually thick folder, or a volume in a box to be foldered, make a note of it or tell the supervisor who will take care of any custom housing for it. Often a volume will have a custom, stiff 3-panel folder made to fit the width of the volume and the height of the box. It will then be stored on the top of the pile, with a premade label that says KEEP ON TOP.This will keep it from sliding too much in the box.

Keep sheets as square as possible inside the folder, but do not try to pick them up and tap the edge on the table, because often they are fragile. Instead, for badly disarrayed sheets, lay them on top of each other one at a time slowly and carefully. But do this only if they are badly disarrayed or it will just waste a lot of time. Most collections probably won't even need to be neatened up. Keep the original order of the material, make sure no sheets are upside down (unless you can determine that this is part of the correct order).

Procedures, warnings and tips for Manuscript end-processor : upright collection

For upright document boxes, use archival corrugated board "spacers" boxes that are not all the way full. Document boxes come in half width, tall (12 ¾"), and wide (7"). We use the wide and tall rarely so as not to have too many different types of supplies to stock, store, and keep track of. Occasionally we use letter-size boxes, when it better suits the material. But we have only standard and half width of these. We custom make folders out of scrap for the tall document boxes, cutting them to the full height of the box. See Supplies Database for details on boxes.

Use a custom inner folder, which we cut from white acid-free folder scrap and store in a legal-sized document box (Hollinger). Unlike the legal-sized folders, these folders are the full height of the box and provide protection for manuscripts that would otherwise protrude from the top of the folder. These inner folders do not have tabs. We use these custom folders for protection, even though they cover the label on the reinforced tab of the outer folder. If vendors made folders the full height of the boxes, we wouldn't need to make our own. If such folders were available, we would use them exclusively, because it is safer to have the folders all of equal height. Occasionally we might use the custom folder alone rather than as an inner folder. In that case, we would put the label on the outside front of the folder so it is visible.

Reuseable white acid-free "music-sized" folders from storage area can also be cut down to the size of the front flap of a legal-sized folder, and also trimmed a bit on the end so that they fit easily inside a regular legal-sized acid-free manuscript folder. These are useful for items that are torn, or need to be kept together, or need to be isolated for whatever reason. They can be used for clippings that are fragile. This also helps use up old stock that would otherwise be unusable.

For a collection that is going to HD, use an extra tall (12 ½") Hollinger box for items that are best stored upright but do not fit into the regular size document box. DO NOT use a tall document box for HTC items that will be stored onsite, as they exceed the dimensions of the shelving. Use of the tall document box may be re-evaluated so that the number of different kinds of boxes and supplies can be minimized. In that case, we may decide to use flat boxes for those oversize items. For items that are removed from their normal sequence, the manuscript end-processor will annotate the Finding Aid Correction notebook with "shelved at end of collection" or "shelved as pf at end of collection".

Procedures, warnings and tips for Manuscript end-processor : flat collection

Here are some examples of boxes fitted out for minimal movement of contents during transport to HD. In future this level of customization may be reserved for extraordinarily fragile items. (see sample box fitted out for transport).

Interleaving is used to protect manuscripts from items within the collection that may cause damage, such as acidic newspaper clippings, or pressure sensitive tape. We often use Apollo or permalife paper, folding a larger sheet into quarters before cutting to size. Always measure your first several cuts by putting them inside a folder to make sure you are cutting correctly before cutting a large batch. Or use the template (sample) on file.We don't want them to be the exact size as the inside of the folders because they would be likely to slide past the folds and get their edges bent when the folder is closed up, or stick out of the edges of the folder. They should be just slightly (1/8" approx.) smaller in dimension than the inside of the folder. They should be almost full-size, because it keeps whatever is behind it from touching other material. We don't use 8 ½ x 11" Perma-dur or Perma life sheets, for example, because manuscripts protrude from behind it. Cut all 4 sides, in order to make them as square as possible on the paper cutter.
Especially for flat collections, we might also use thicker folder stock, acid-free board, or corrugated board to separate items that may damage each other with their bulk, unevenness, or protrusions, such as a spiral notebook. To avoid the effects of gravity on the materials, since they rest against each other, we put very fragile items, such as tintypes, or brittle photographs inside pre-fabs and store that on the top of the pile inside the box, using a pre-printed label that says "KEEP ON TOP".

We currently use white 2-flap acid-free folders, cut to the size of the box, for most flat manuscript collections.

We are using up the supply of these sturdy custom folders on collections of photographs or collections that have many small delicate pieces to be kept together. The Reading Room uses spoiled 3-flap folders to transport materials for reproduction, because they keep things from falling out. We no longer buy them because they are a bit difficult and time-consuming to fold, their thickness uses up a lot of space, and they are a bit cumbersome in the Reading Room.

Autograph files and Catchalls

The large collections referred to thus far are mainly closed groupings of items from the same source, such as gift or bequest of a certain individual, or purchased with a particular fund. But some collections are composed of items that each have a different source. They are grouped together either because they provide examples of handwriting and signatures of famous literary figures (hence the name Autograph file), or because they are miscellaneous and unrelated (usually) single sheets.There is a rather large Autograph file at Houghton and in the Theatre Collection. They were begun in the early years of the library and we continue adding to them. Their call numbers are : "Autograph file" and "HTC Autograph file". Items in these two collections, are filed alphabetically by author. They do not have item numbers like most other collections do. We have not added barcodes to the boxes for the Autograph files because each item, within its folder, has its own item record (see: Item Records and Bar codes). The number of boxes cannot be determined by looking at the item records for these collections. If a box is added, the finding aid should be updated. That is how one would know the number of boxes on the shelf.

Catchalls are also collections of single items that are related in subject matter, but that have come to the library from a variety of sources. Normally each item does not exceed one folder. Older collections are often filed alphabetically, but newer ones tend to have item numbers to which items are continually added, out of alphabetical order. Keeping the official list of all Autograph files and catchalls is part of the manuscript accessioning process. Most catchalls have normal-looking call numbers, but some do not. Examples are: 

Lowell Autograph file (old collection that was originally alphabetical but was given item numbers and closed; filed by item numbers)

Portrait file (filed alphabetically; no item numbers)

HTC Programs 2 (filed by item number; items are added continually, out of alphabetical order)

bMS Thr 511 (filed by item number; items are added continually, out of alphabetical order)
This is a collection of Tennessee Williams typescript compositions, 1936-1979 and undated, from various different sources. One of its box labels appears in the sample book.

One difficulty in end-processing these collections is that they are in all different sizes of boxes. To assist with that, see the Box & folder sizes report in the Catchall database..


For consistency, information about box and folder sizes is added to the Catchalls database via a drop-down menu:


Single items do not have finding aids in OASIS, because they don't represent collections of anything, but stand alone. They come in many shapes and sizes. They can be sheets of paper that get put into an acid free folder within a prefab; a bound volume requiring no housing; a volume or sheets of paper inside a cmi or preexisting box; an oddly-shaped item inside an oddly-shaped box; an upright document box with multiple folders; a flat clamshell box with multiple folders; or pf boxes of any size with multiple folders, etc. Single items can be shelved at Houghton or can go to H.D. There are many variations.
NOTE: Sometimes a small manuscript collection will arrive that seems more a single item, because it doesn't have a finding aid in OASIS. Instead, the "items" are listed in the 520 field. It is easy to get confused, even though there are separate tracking forms for collections and for single items. Custom procedures are required to produce the labels for such collections, since the format/placement of data doesn't conform with that of other manuscript collections. If the collection is end-processed as a single item by mistake, some of the information could be misconstrued on the labels.

Basic steps for end-processing single item manuscripts

■ Receive single items on the top shelf of the red "incoming manuscripts" truck in the manuscript end-processing work room.
■ Flat boxes are received on the lower shelves of the red truck, but exceptions can be made to conserve space.
■ If there is no space for the item on the truck, use the shelves behind the manuscript end-processor's work station. If a collection is more than 2 Paige boxes, consider using the overflow area on (basement) B N-26.
■ If B N-26 is used, make sure the call number is added to the list of items shelved there and make a note of its temporary location in AEON.
■ Make sure the AEON slip accompanying the item shows the item is checked out to Manuscript end-processing. There should be no need to go into AEON until the item is ready for shelving.
■ Whether stored upright or flat, receive information about the item from Manuscript Collection & Single Item tracking form (viewable only in:  Adobe Acrobat DC and the ALEPH printout (with circled call number and accession number) from cataloger.
■ Examine item to make sure call number is visible and item is safe or in a safe enclosure while it is on the truck waiting for end-processing.
■ Discuss questions with cataloger or relevant others. Repeat this step whenever necessary.
■ As time permits, enter the item into the Manuscript Log, or batch items and have students log them in, using steps provided earlier in this document.
■ Print out the necessary labels from the Manuscript log, and end-process items according to practices and procedures listed below.
■ In ALEPH, create an item record, if none exists, using the guidelines in this document.
■ Scan bar code of the item into the item record.
■ Log out completed items, noting date shelved and number of labels made, etc.
■ Route items to "re-shelved" in AEON and place them on large white truck near door.
■ Note the date shelved on the tracking form and file it in box next to workstation, according to call number.
(These are kept until statistics are finalized at end of fiscal year).

End-processing single item manuscripts : no housing required

Bound manuscripts (volumes) that are not part of a larger collection sometimes require no housing. The procedure for end-processing such volumes is different than that of boxed collections. Volumes without preservation issues or loose sheets/inserts can go upright on the shelf as they are after receiving labels and a shelf tab. Sometimes, however, volumes are housed flat because their boards have a worn bottom edge that will cause the volume to rest on the text block, and thus damage it over time. Volumes stored flat for this reason (usually larger volumes) may not require a box, unless they have loose pages or other preservation issues.
*NOTE: If a loose page or two at the beginning or end of the volume has made a clean break, the volume may be a candidate for quick repair, as this would be cheaper and faster than having a box made for it. Consult with or route the item to the Preservation Librarian, who may have further consultations with the curator or head of technical services. The same can be said for a detached board or spine. All single item volumes that do not require housing receive the following labels:

small label for back of volume:

shelf mark 
accession number

We use abbreviations in the source information on our labels. We omit "Gift of", "Mr., etc.", "Prof.". We shorten "Bequest of" to Beq. We do it to conserve space on the labels. There is a list of abbreviations used by catalogers in the past which we sometimes have to correct as they can be confusing. For instance, "r.f." which could mean either "recataloged from" or "removed from". We still abbreviate in some instances, but our abbreviations are more clear. For example, we say "recat. from" and "transf. from" and we spell out "removed from".
Note: sometimes the accession number does not exist if the item was received before such numbers were given. In that case, we put the date (month day year, if available, if not--just the year). If information is scant we use the abbreviations: no source, no date; recat. from... (recataloged from); removed from... ; or transf. from... (transferred from), in place of an accession number.
Occasionally one will see both an accessions number and a recat. from number in the 541 field. Or sometimes there may be more than one "recat. from" number. In these instances, check with the catalogers to make sure this field is being entered consistently, and that all information has been updated.
HTC sometimes uses a "place holder" zero "0" in the accession number just after the hyphen. Here is an example: 2003MT-0112. We do not include the zero, so the label would read: 2003MT-112
*HTC however, also has some of its own old internal accession numbers, with points, rather than dashes. When this number is the only available one to put, we keep the zero.
The small label for the back of the volume normally goes in upper right of the inside of the back board. Avoid covering text.

shelf tab:

shelf mark  

Bound volumes need a long shelf tab made from acid-free folder stock with the call number on the front as shown above. The tab is actually longer than shown here. It is the full height of the volume, plus the height of the bar code. Leave 1/16" or so between the barcode and the volume so avoid any chance of the adhesive from the bar code accidentally getting onto the volume (see below). Presently folder stock is used that is thicker than the white acid-free folder stock, because the white acid-free stock is damaged easily. The thicker stock doesn't fit into the computer, so a typewriter is used to add the call number to the top of the tab. The call number goes flush left on the top of the tab to make it more visible, and to not spend time centering it. We use scrap, cut slightly wider than the barcode, rather than using a computer to measure out the width. However, there is now a report in the Manuscript log for printing out shelf tabs onto the thinner white folder stock.

(verso of shelf tab)


A barcode is placed on the back of the shelf tab as shown above. There are four kinds of bar codes: Houghton and Houghton [HD]; Havard Theatre Collection and Harvard Theatre Collection [HD]. This is subject to change. The shelf tab is placed inside the back board of the volume, near the gutter.

 donor plate:


Bound volumes get a donor plate, centered, inside the front board, attached with methyl cellulose. To select the right donor plate, check provenance information in HOLLIS, or the 541 field in ALEPH to see what fund an item was purchased from, or in the case of a gift, the name of the donor. Then try to find a match in the three-ring notebooks that record all plates on the mezzanine. For all Houghton funds, and for some of the more complicated funds and gifts, consult the Donor Plate database (\\Hcl-wid1\groups$\HOUGHTON\Technical Services\Shared\Houghton Donor Plate database\Donor Plates in Houghton Library.accdb) for Houghton Library in the shared directory of the Technical Services folder. See the sections on Donor Plate database and Donor Plate Guidelines in this document.

*See SAMPLE BOOK (and rules) FOR LABELS AND TABS for information on when to use the generic "HCL" donor plate shown below.





Though small labels and donor plates ideally are centered, some subjectivity regarding placement is unavoidable when text or other markings appear that should not be covered up. Also sometimes subjectivity in placement will occur when multiple donor plates must be pasted into one volume. Aesthetic sensibility and experience is required for this. Allowances must be made for an individual's judgement on placement. No two people will always put the plates in the identical spot. To assume otherwise is a kind of flawed perfectionism that may lead to work being unnecessarily re-done, which is not in the best interest of the material.
Instructions about placement of the small label and donor plate are reversed for Arabic, Indic, and Persian, manuscripts. For these volumes, the donor plate goes on the back cover and the small label goes on the front cover.

When an item has a strong enough front board, clear of text, the plate is fully adhered to the center of the board. It is brushed from the center outwards with methyl cellulose on a pad of newsprint. When it is affixed to the board, an opened paper towel is placed on it and a teflon folder is used to smooth it down. Afterwards, a "sandwich" of hollytex, blotter, and mylar rectangles (about 4 x 5") is placed on it and the book is closed, acting as a weight while the plate dries overnight. The sheet of hollytex goes directly on the plate, to prevent sticking. The blotter, on top of that, absorbs moisture; and the last sheet, mylar, prevents moisture from transferring to the text block.
Plates can also be "tipped in" so one can lift them to view text. When tipping a plate into a volume, use about 1/16" of methyl cellulose and put very near the "gutter" of the volume if possible, as this will help it stick when the volume is closed. Use a rectangle of Hollytex to prevent sticking.

*NOTE: Volumes that are going individually to Harvard Depository (offsite storage) do not require shelf tabs. They are tied into a Tyvek envelope and the barcodes and labels are applied to the exterior of that envelope, as outlined under  End-processing single item manuscripts : Harvard Depository (offsite storage).


End-processing single item manuscripts : CMI boxes

Sometimes volumes come to end-processing needing a box because they have a detached board, vulnerable text block, or some other preservation problem. CMI is the name of a company that makes custom boxes and four-flap enclosures for volumes of all shapes and sizes. The volume is labelled but not barcoded because the barcode will go on the outside of the box rather than on a shelf tab. Volumes with loose pages or inserts are also boxed whether they are in good condition or not. Such volumes are put into a white acid-free envelope whose flap has been trimmed off (at the request of the Preservation Department). Currently they are checked out with an AEON call slip that routes them to "Preservation – CMI boxing". We used to put these items on the "boxing shelves" on sub-basement in Houghton where they awaited measurement by Preservation staff, making an effort to keep them in order of their call numbers. Items are now measured by the Manuscript end-processor or a student trained and supervised by the manuscript end-processor, basically following the written instructions that were used by the Preservation Officer in the past, though the workflow has changed.
Volumes that go into a CMI box get a small label inside the back cover, just like an upright volume that does not require any housing. They also get a donor plate. But instead of a shelf tab, they will receive a spine label with the call number, and a barcode will go on the upper left of the front of the box. If there is no place to put the donor label on the volume, it can be pasted inside the front cover of the box instead.

See details in: CMI Manuscript End-processing (Acquisitions and End-processing section of the Houghton Technical Services WIKI).

*NOTE: CMI or phase boxes for volumes that are going individually to Harvard Depository (offsite storage) are labeled slightly differently.   End-processing single item manuscripts : Harvard Depository (offsite storage).

For examples of CUSTOM FITTED OUT CMI boxes, see:

End-processing single item manuscripts : cloth boxes

Rarely, if an item is very valuable and important it may require a cloth box, possibly with a leather spine label. In this case, the volume receives a donor plate and a small label as would a volume that did not need housing. If there is no place to put the donor label on the volume, it can be pasted inside the front cover of the cloth box instead.
The volume is then into a white acid-free envelope whose flap has been trimmed off. An AEON call slip that routes them to "In Conservation - Boxing" and a preservation routing slip is included that mentions a cloth box is required. The volume is then given to the Technical Services Librarian on mezzanine, who brings it to Preservation.
When the boxes are ready, Preservation staff will bring them to the end-processor for labeling and final shelving.
If a spine label hasn't been affixed by the box maker, or if the call number doesn't appear on the spine label that the box maker has made, a neat, formal-looking paper label on rag paper should be made, consisting of only the call number. It can be pasted on with pva, as methyl cellulose might not hold. The bar code can then be adhered with pva onto the front upper left corner of the box, as is done with cmi boxes.

Alternately, a short shelf tab can be made using the shelf tab report in the Manuscript Log:

shelf tab:

call number

The shelf tab should have a bar code on the back as shown in the previous section about volumes that do not need housing.
If the call number appears on the spine label that the box maker has made, the box will only need a bar code on the upper left front.

*NOTE: Upright volumes in cloth boxes for volumes that are going individually to Harvard Depository (offsite storage) may be labeled differently. See section on  End-processing single item manuscripts : Harvard Depository (offsite storage).

End-processing single item manuscripts : pre-fabs

Some single item manuscripts might be merely a few sheets of paper. Rather than wasting a box for such a small amount of material, or having a custom cmi box made, we put them into pre-fabricated (pre-fab) enclosures made by Gaylord, so they can be stored upright with bound volumes. These are stocked in several sizes and stored on Mezzanine and in a special aisle of the stacks in Lamont, known to the books end-processor.
Sheets going into a prefab need a labelled two-flap inner folder to keep them from falling out when the pre-fab is opened. Students make these ahead of time from scrap and they are stored with the pre-fabs on shelves behind the end-processor's workstaion. Pre-fabs used in this manner also receive a donor plate pasted inside the front cover, an identification label on the front, and a barcode under that.
Items accumulate on the truck with the tracking form and ALEPH record, and AEON slip protruding on top and visible. When the truck is beginning to get full, items consisting of loose sheets (sometimes having arrived in white acid-free envelopes) should be transferred into the proper size pre-fab.
Paperback or otherwise vulnerable volumes of a certain thickness also go into pre-fabs. These volumes receive a small label in the back, as is the case with most other volumes. The donor label is pasted inside the front of the volume, rather than inside the pre-fab whenever possible.
Items consisting mainly of several loose sheets that require an inner white paper have their donor plates fully pasted down inside the front of the pre-fab, since there is no book "board" upon which to affix it.

Between projects, the manuscript end-processor finds the right donor plate for each item, and produces all needed labels for volumes, inner folders, etc. Pre-fabs can be batched for pasting in the donor plates and other labels, and done by students. If done in batches, prefabs can be left open and stacked in small piles to dry.

Sometimes awkwardly shaped items can be stored in a customized prefab. And, oftentimes, one can use a prefab to hold loose sheets that are supposed to accompany a volume, but are larger than the volume itself, thus creating a 2nd volume. If there are loose fragments, like a clasp, a pre-fab can be sometimes trimmed to the size of the volume, and measured with it for a CMI box. Here are some examples of custom fitted-out prefabs:

*NOTE: Single items in prefabs that are going individually to Harvard Depository (offsite storage) are labeled differently, as noted in the section  End-processing single item manuscripts : Harvard Depository (offsite storage).

End-processing single item manuscripts : flat or upright document box

A single item manuscript consisting of many sheets of paper in folders, will be housed either upright in a pre-fab; upright in a document box or flat in a flat box.
One can make a single folder label using a Word template if that is what seems easiest at the time. See: Labeling single items. But making a single label in Word can cause unanticipated formatting problems. It is easier to simply use the Manuscript Folder Label report in the Manuscript Log. As long as the information is entered into the Log correctly, there should be no problem printing a single label for an item.

Follow steps for making abbreviated manuscript folder labels listed in simplified folder labels for a collection. Instead of printing out an OASIS finding aid, print out the first page of HOLLIS. It is much easier to work on something when you have the record printed out in front of you, and it accompanies the item until end-processing is done. Instead of taking the data for the Manuscript Log from an OASIS record, use the availability screen in HOLLIS, and use ALEPH 541 field for the accession number. Skip those portions of the document that pertain to multiple folders, as a true single item will not have multiple folders, but will be simply (for example): bMS Am 2440 Folder 1 of 3, Folder 2 of 3, etc. A single item does not normally have "(item)" numbers in parentheses like a manuscript collection does. Though occasionally a cataloger will list pseudo-item numbers in an ALEPH record when there is no OASIS finding aid.

If using a small label that has only the call number and accession number, choose the report: Spine labels numbered adjustable, so that you can enter "1 of 3", "2 of 3" in the "item" field (because "Folder 1 of 3" is too long to fit on that size label). If using a larger label, choose the Alternate folder label report instead.
If using a large full label, choose the report Adjustable Manuscript Folder label and type in Folder 1 of 2, Folder 2 of 2 into the "item" field in the Adjustable labels table in the Table list. The box label can be printed out directly from the Manuscript Log using one of the Box Label reports.
Fill out an End-processing instruction sheet for single items to be housed in document boxes, and keep it with the box, along with the ALEPH printout, call slip, and labels. Review the instruction sheet and materials with the student before allowing them to begin end-processing the collection.

If the item is to be shelved in an upright document box, follow the pertinent information on upright housing covered earlier in this document. Similarly, if it is to be shelved flat, follow the pertinent information on flat housing.
After the folders are labelled, inspect each box briefly for quality control while making sure all items are present before shelving.


End-processing single item manuscripts : Harvard Depository (offsite storage)

Historically, no single volume manuscripts to be stored upright have ever been sent to HD unless they were in an upright document box. Now this has changed. Procedures regarding housing (wrapping) and label placement mirror those of the upright single volumes that are cataloged and end-processed as printed books. These instructions apply only to upright manuscript volumes in cmi boxes; phase boxes; prefabs; and volumes that don't require housing.They do not apply to flat or upright document boxes. (Any items that are too small or thin to fully occupy a box the approximate size of our standard flat metal edge manuscript boxes should ideally not be sent to HD).

CMI AND PHASE BOXES : Harvard Depository
Procedures for CMI and Phase boxes for manuscript volumes are the same. The only differences between those boxed volumes shelved onsite and those shelved offsite are that offsite boxes must include an "HD HOU" or "HD THE" sticker below the barcode. A clear plastic protector sheet is applied over the labels on both the spine and the front of the volume as shown below.



PREFABS: Harvard Depository
The only difference between prefabs shelved onsite and those shelved offsite is the placement of the labels on the front. A prefab shelved onsite has the call number label on top and the barcode below.  A prefab shelved offsite has the barcode on top, the "HD HOU" or "HD THE" sticker underneath it, and the call number on the bottom. A single clear plastic protector sheet is applied to cover all three labels, as below:


This procedure is the same as that outlined in the Printed books End-processing manual. Items are put into a Tyvek envelope, tied in a specific manner with cloth tape, and labeled on the front of the envelope in the same manner as a prefab.

(image will be inserted here).

Donor Plate Database

This is an access database containing the full name of all active Houghton funds, dates, account numbers, Houghton department, approximate amount in stock, notes from the "Endowment Funds of Harvard University, June 30, 1995" (known as the "green book") or elsewhere, and an image of the plate if a plate is available. It stores the same information about some of the other plates commonly used by Houghton as well. Each plate or fund has a keyword that enables alphabetical sorting, but the listing can also be sorted by account number, curatorial department, or strict alphabetical order. The database is the source for printing labels for the guide cards behind which the donor plates themselves are stored. These labels now have an image of the plate so that they can be more easily matched with the correct fund, a process that can be tricky at best.

If a plate cannot found for a particular fund or donor, or if it is not clear which plate to use, consult with Printed Books acquisitions and end-processing. Problem plates are entered into the Database so that we have a record of decisions that are made. If we determine, finally, that there is no plate, we usually make one on the typewriter using the current pre-printed template. The Houghton Funds Macro types in a fund name from a short list of Houghton funds. It also directs the user to a listing of all active Houghton funds with account numbers that can also be copied and pasted in, which is produced by the database. The macro also provides the option of entering the database itself. The manuscript end-processor updates the database periodically, working closely with other members of the Acquisitions and End-processing unit, and keeps a backup copy of it.

The University now has e-bookplates that can be viewed in in some records. These plates also provide information (probably from the "green book") about the funds. However, one can not yet be certain that the plates shown correspond with the item if the library has multiple holdings. A few errors have also been found with some of the e-bookplates listed. This is another resource to consider when trying to match a plate, but should be used cautiously at present. There are some screen shots of the database below.

This is a screen shot of the Donor plate database when it is first opened.

This shot shows the report called "Alphabetical listing". Ctr-F has been opened to show how one must change "match" from whole field to "any part of field" (from drop-down menu) before searching. Access currently doesn't have a feature to change this default. Viewing the database under "reports" is preferable as accidental changes cannot be made to the data.

Some entries have more than one image. You can click the green arrow to scroll through the images (no more than 3). Or double-click on the image to enlarge it. This is just a report produced by the database so edits are not made here, however.

This shows what happens when you double click on the image. Choose "view" to see an enlargement.

The report called "NOTEBOOK" prints an illustrated listing of all the Houghton active funds for record keeping purposes. Those with no existing plate are blank. This report also prints onto Avery 5164 labels, which are the same size as the temporary labels used for Paige boxes by the catalogers. These labels fit onto the new guide cards on mezzanine, which have been made from scrap archival folder stock. The label on the left, with the image, goes onto the front of the guide card. The source information, on the right, goes onto the verso of the card.

The report called "Listing" is a list of fund names, dates, and account numbers. It is also one of the choices available in the "Houghton Funds macro" when searching for a fund name.

Houghton Funds Macro

The Houghton Funds macro is run with the hot keys "WIN+z". It can be run and used in any program. It first opens a pop-up window, as shown in WORD below. Working in conjunction with the Houghton Donor Plate Database, it can be used by catalogers or by acquisition to help complete the 541 field in ALEPH. When fund names are accurate, finding the right donor plate is easier.


The macro then shows a list of funds from which to choose. The little green man at the bottom right of the screen is there to show that the macro is "running". If you click on the green man, it will stop the macro.

The macro types the name of the fund (as below) at the position of the cursor when you click OK.
William Bentinck-Smith Book Fund

Choosing "Other Funds and Bequests" opens the "Listing" in the Houghton Donor Plate Database. From here, one would need to highlight and copy a fund into their document.

Choosing "Houghton Donor Plate Database" opens the database itself, a screen shot of which has appeared previously.

Donor Plate Guidelines.


We currently continue to use the (small) HCL plate on things which need a plate but for which provenance is unknown. Most transfer items should have an old plate of some kind in them, but for things which don’t, a small HCL plate can’t hurt, unless directed otherwise by Head of Technical Services or curator.

WHEN TO USE HCL (Harvard College Library) plate:
  ■ when an item is given by an anonymous donor.
  ■ when an item is purchased with funds other than Houghton's (usually Widener funds)
  ■ for transfers, such as: "transferred from New England Deposit Library" (see: fMS Ger 290)
  ■ for transfers, such as: "transferred from Widener in 1971" when there is no information in Aleph about the original source; there was no original donor plate put into the volume by Widener); there is no bound accessions record in RR for *71M-124 in which to check for any missing information: MS Ger 285
  ■ for transfers, such as: "transferred from HTC in 1967", with the accession number *66M-205. There are no bound accessions records to check; nothing is known about provenance beyond that it was transferred from HTC: MS Am 2261
  ■ when an item has been purchased by another library, not accessioned and then given to us (these, strictly speaking, aren't transfers). We are noting the fund(s) used and purchasing data in the 541, as we would for one of our own purchases. These items are receiving Houghton accession numbers, ownership labels and tabs, as per usual.

  ■ if items are on deposit
  ■  if an item is given to Harvard by someone whose last name is unknown (see: MS Gr 33)=re-check this, see HCL plate above.
  ■  if an item has been accessioned by another library and then given to us (bona fide transfers)


Below are guidelines for the manuscript end-processor in handling various different types of manuscripts, formats and media found within the collections. The manuscript end-processor keeps this section up to date.

Types of manuscripts (audiovisual, clippings, photographs, printed material, realia)


DIGITAL DISKS : CDs, LDs (Laser disk) and DVDs
CDs and DVDs should be removed from housing that is not polypropylene and stored upright in a polypropylene case. If they occur in a flat manuscript box, they can be removed and stored and labelled as MS, and the finding aid can be annotated accordingly. If it is necessary to keep the old housing, they can be stored upright together on the shelf and labelled 1 of 2, 2 of 2. Large numbers of cds/dvds can be put in boxes in order to keep them with a collection, if necessary, as long as they are in polypropylene cases and stored upright. If a folder contains both letters and a cd/dvd the finding aid can be annotated "cd/dvd shelved as ms". The folder label include the same information. Consult Preservation Librarian about LDs.

Audio material:

Audiotapes, etc. are subject to condensation when moved to store offsite. Weissman has guidelines for audiovisual materials of all kinds. They recommend always making a preservation copy before sending off to HD. This is because all magnetic tapes are in a constant state of "decomposition". Protocols will be established, but for now deal with the tapes on a case by case basis. (When a single reel occurs among a collection, it can sometimes be housed in a simple 3-flap sleeve adhered to a stiff board and stored upright among papers, using standard acid-free materials.) Consult Houghton Preservation librarian as needed. They too should be housed so they don't move around in the box. Various kinds of magnetic tapes include DAT (Digital audiotape); micro cassette--from hand-held recording devices; reel-to-reel tape; standard audiocassettes.

Audiocassettes, in general, especially if there are many, can be housed upright in a box so the exposed tape edge faces upward. Replace jewel-box type plastic covers with archival ones only if chipped, or if more protection is needed. Loose chips or fragments can fall into the tape and damage it.

Phonograph records are stored upright and usually sent to HD. (Consult with Harvard Depository about whether to mark "COLD STORAGE" (see instructions for 16mm. movie film). They should be packed firmly so that they stay upright and won't warp. There are boxes made especially for phonograph records. Each record should have an acid-free protective sleeve if there is no other sleeve protecting it. The catalogers will determine whether the orginal sleeves will be kept, and the Preservation Librarian can assist in determining whether the original sleeves can be housed next to the records. Consult Preservation Librarian about other specific storage methods for metal, vinyl, or wax records, and about new ways to house phonograph records in future.

Bound albums containing phonograph records sometimes fit better in an extra-tall document box rather than a phonograph album box. If one record is too large to fit even in the taller box, see the housing solution slide presentation for an oversize phonograph record album.

Visual material:


MOVIE FILM (16mm. etc.)
Movie film reels should be stored flat (according to the Preservation Librarian). If film is in good condition, stable, not warped, doesn't smell, is polyester-based, etc. it can go to COLD STORAGE. Ask Preservation for advice, as protocol can change.
If the film is warped, smelly, non-polyester based, i.e. very old, unstable-seeming in any way, it should go to "COLD" storage at H.D. Items that go to H.D. in a plastic bin need only have the plastic bin itself marked "COLD STORAGE". However, for mss. we also currently use labels that say "COLD STORAGE" for each individual box going to H.D., so that we (at Houghton) don't get confused. We let H.D. know that some cold storage items are coming, but mostly it is the signs on the boxes and bins that alert them. They then have their own system for recording the fact that these items are kept in cold storage.  Films are either acetate, nitrocellulose, or polyester, consult the Preservation Librarian. The READY for H.D. form used to include a special form for cold storage, but we have never used it, so it was removed.

Betacam or Video Home System (VHS); consult the Preservation Librarian. In past these have been stored upright and labelled along the edge for easy viewing. Videocassettes, in general, can be stored upright with the exposed tape edge facing up. Note whether there is a tab on that edge that needs to be removed to prevent taping over, and ask Preservation Librarian how to remove it.

When original letters and ms. material include clippings, we normally unfold them as much as possible so that Imaging Services doesn't have to do that. We then interleave them with permalife, apollo, or permadur sheets so that they don't discolor surrounding material. However, if the clippings are adjacent to material such as photocopies of other clippings, we would not interleave. See also: GUIDELINES FOR TYPES OF MANUSCRIPTS, FORMATS & MEDIA / BOUND PRINTED MATERIAL : Album or Scrapbook : interleaving clippings in an album.


Daguerreotypes can be stored upright only if: (a) the original box is in good condition, i.e. hinges in good working order, cover not loose and (b) it is in an enclosure that has been custom padded-out for protection. Otherwise, they can be stored flat, also in a padded-out box, and it does not matter whether they are stored with the image facing up or down, however in most cases it is preferable to have the image face up, so the reader can see it without having to open it and then close, flip over, and open again.

Old metal canisters, or paper reels can go into microfilm boxes/cartons. If going to HD, use tissue or some other method so that they won't roll around in the box.

In the past it was thought that since negatives are different than photographs chemically, they should be stored in a different sleeve made of polyethylene rather than polypropylene. However, the new photo conservator tells us that if we simply use Phototex paper (available from Archivart) rather than polyethylene to interleave or folder negatives, we can avoid doing damage to those few types of negatives that don't store well in polyethylene. Thus, we can avoid having to test each batch of negatives to see whether they are the ones that are the exception to the rule. We keep a pf size ream of this paper in stock.

These are put into archival 4-flap folders, from preservation vendor. They come in various sizes. They should be stored upright. The Preservation Officer is looking into purchasing the right type of boxes, so should be consulted before proceeding.

Tintypes can be stored upright in a prefab, in an inner folder, with a phototex barrier. However they must have enough slight pressure to make sure they don't wobble in transit. Whatever the stiff outer enclosure, it should be padded out, or double pre-fabbed, to keep it from getting bent or crushed. Tintypes can go to HD. 4-flap folders for glass slides, with an inner backing of acid-free matboard cut to size of the folder usually work well as inner folders.

We try to use sleeves with the most number of pockets per sheet as possible. Storing four photographs in one flat sheet uses space more efficiently than storing four photographs in two sheets; especially if there are hundreds of photographs in a collection. Anyone using photosleeves should first view How to use Photosleeves.

PHOTOGRAPHS : chemical instablility
The main thing to watch for in any kind of photograph or negative is instability--meaning that an item is off-setting onto other items, or has adhesive or other sticky substances, or labels that could stick or off-set onto other items. If an item is cloudy, the image is otherwise obscured or seems like it might have mold on it, consult the Houghton Preservation librarian.

It's recommended that blueprints, cyanotypes (old blue photos), albumen prints (a photograph printed on paper that is coated with an emulsion of egg whites) and early color photographs be protected and stored in unbuffered material. HOWEVER, since that is time-consuming and confusing to students/staff, Brenda tells us that it is ok to store all photos in the same kind of materials, no matter when the photographs were produced.

PHOTOGRAPHS : idenfication
If there is uncertainty whether an image is a photograph or a half-tone, a lupe (8x) or illuminated microscope (30x) can be placed on top of a small sheet of mylar over the surface of the image. Photographs will not have regularly placed "dots" indicating a non-photographic process.

Use the same polypropylene photosleeves that are used for the majority of our photographs.

PHOTOGRAPHS : postcards
We don't put postcards in photosleeves unless they are actual photographs and not reproductions. If you can't tell, ask. We have a 30X illuminating microscope/8X magnifier that will reveal the many tiny dots of a half-tone, which indicates it is not a true photograph. Hold the tip of the magnifier slightly away from the surface of the postcard, or use mylar to protect as a barrier.
If there are many photographs that are postcards, ask the curator whether or not the postcards merit being put into photosleeves, because perhaps that image has been reproduced so often elsewhere that the photograph itself is unimportant. If so, it won't be necessary to spend so much time and use up expensive supplies on them.
Black and white, or color photographs go into the right size photosleeves, which are made of polypropylene, stored in boxes on the shelves in our workroom. Ask for a demonstration of how to use them, as it is not intuitive. Photos can also be safely stored in archival Mylar folders/sleeves.
When, a sheet of photosleeves is only partially filled, (for example, a sheet that will hold 4 photos is used to store an item that only contains 3 photographs), we use scissors to cut away the empty photosleeve. We save the unused portion of the photosleeve sheet in a black box in folders according to size. The reasoning is that if a reader sees an empty sleeve, they may waste everyone's time asking us to confirm whether something is "missing".
It is usually best to distribute all such fragments into these folders when done with a project as it becomes wasteful having them pile up without organizing them. And, it is less likely that someone will take the time to look through to find what they need. Keeping them in folders also prevents dust accumulation between projects. Storing them that way makes them much easier to find.
Photographs are usually stored flat, but sometimes we store them upright if they are mostly thick and in good condition.

Photographs that are matted are normally left as they are, unless the mat is very acidic and not relevant to the piece. Or it the mat is irrelevant and the photograph is not attached to it. Many factors, including the importance or condition of the collections come into play when making decisions about housing photographs. When a photograph is mounted on a stiff board, with a sheet of tissue tipped onto the top and covering the image, the tissue can often be removed with permission of the curator. The photograph can then be transferred to a polypropylene sleeve, which is the desired form of storage.

PHOTOGRAPHS : upright storage
We put all photographs into photosleeves. If a photograph is a bit taller than the folder, we make an inner folder out of white acid-free folder stock, just slightly smaller than the outer folder. The inner folder is at least the same height as the photograph. We try to make such folders uniform in size within a box as it looks neater, rather than have a lot of custom-sized inner folders of all different heights, even if it means that the photograph will sometimes be shorter than the inner folder. If there are a lot of photographs that are too big for the sleeves, we will put them into inner folders made usually of white acid-free folder stock, or simply interleave them with the folder stock.

X-rays are treated like negatives. It is best to store negatives in paper that does not have a watermark. Thus far, the only paper we have is phototex. If we need to use stiffer paper on a rare occasion, we use white acid-free folder stock. Since phototex is such a thin tissue, we often make a 3-flap folder which is the same length as the longest dimension of the enclosure.


(Housing Solution for a flag).


See MANUSCRIPT MEDIA, powder-based

Can be housed in unbuffered tissue: the same kind used for textiles. WPC says that buffered tissue would have calcium in it that could be abrasive to mirror.

Manuscript Formats (matted items, rolled items, spiral notebooks, etc.)


Books stored upright
Sometimes annotated books are found in a manuscript collection. If these are too tall to stand normally inside the box, or if the bottom of the textblock is flush or slightly longer than the bottom edges of the boards, let the volumes rest on their spines within the folder. If they are stored with the spines up, it will put pressure on the boards and they will eventually detach. If the book is in good condition, and has no inserts, it can be housed upright by itself as an "MS".
Books stored flat
Sometimes there are many books in a collection of mainly papers. They can be stored flat in separate piles within a box with a divider to keep them from abrading each other. Often a tab that is the full width of the volume and the width of the box, and of a slightly stiff material, is made to keep them from moving around too much in the box. They can be treated in the same way as bound manuscripts. Books within a collection that is mainly papers and letters are not plated. Sometimes a small label is put into the back of the volume, however, as would be the case with a bound manuscript within a collection.

BOUND PRINTED MATERIAL : Album or Scrapbook : interleaving clippings in an album
Scrapbooks are usually housed flat to make detachment of contents less likely. Try to estimate the thickness of paper that would be added to the volume if you were to interleave every page. This might be so much paper that it would compromise the structure of the binding. But if it is just a few pages and doesn’t seem like it would harm the binding, you could interleave. But, first find out whether this is an extraordinarily valuable item (sometimes clippings are not very rare); and whether the binding is already somewhat damaged. If the item is not unique or of great value, you may choose not to interleave.

Consider as well whether there are more such albums within the collection, and how much paper it would use up. If there are a lot, you might also decide not to do interleave.

If you do decide to go ahead, you can use Apollo “tissue” that is just slightly thinner than permalife, cut precisely to the size of the text block. Or if not much interleaving is needed, one can use 8 ½ x 11 and 11x17 permalife that has been cut to size.

Staples that are part of the binding are not removed from pamphlets. But they can be folded flat, at the staple, in order to reduce the thickness of a folder if necessary. They can be stored either upright or flat.

If they are large and to be stored upright, make sure they are very secure inside the box so they do not curl. We do not put labels or donor plates into magazines. Care should be taken in the placement of the folder if the periodical is to be stored flat. If it would cause contiguous items to warp, then they can be stored on the top of the pile inside the box with a "keep on top" label on the folder.

DEATH/LIFE MASKS : originals or casts of face and other parts of body
Whether plaster or metal, these are all to be stored in the VAULT together, usually in a "hat" box, padded with volare or acid-free tissue, and with tissue as a "base" for the hollow area.


Matted items can go into folders along with the rest of a collection as long as they are roughly the same size as most of the other items within the box, and do not present any other apparent dangers to surrrounding material. If a large part of a collection is matted, or if the matted item is likely to be exhibited some day, we might go so far as to put a sheet of transparent paper interleaving behind the mat, and put an additional label with a water-based adhesive on the verso of the mat, or inside the mat below the hinged item, so there is no problem identifying it during the sometimes harried process of installing an exhibit, when folders can get separated from items.
If a mat is acid or in bad condition, the curator or cataloger may approve discarding it. Old hinges can be carefully cut off above the edge of the sheet with a scalpel or sharp olfa cutter. The curator or cataloger may want text photocopied for the curatorial files before discarding old mats. (see also: MATTED PHOTOGRAPHS).



Palm leaves are sometimes held together with string. We often leave the string intact because it keeps the pages in order. Decide on a case-by-case basis whether to remove string and store separately.

ROLLED STORAGE (oversize sheets of paper, canvas, etc., such as posters)
Below is a version of Houghton Preservation instructions, enhanced for the Acquisitions and End-processing section: (temporary–changes/ additions are in red). Basic instructions for rolling and labeling the posters/large sheets are viewable in a brief powerpoint presentation
, using a mockup as a visual. *NOTE: Oversize sheets are sometimes called "posters" because these instructions were formed during a project involving a large collection of posters. We expect additional collections of posters to be acquired in the future.

When to Select Rolled Storage
Rolled storage is appropriate for collections which will not fit the largest box size of 24 X 36 x 3” and for which there is no flat file storage space. If items are brittle, have multiple tears longer than 1 cm, or present difficulty in unrolling, please consult Preservation before proceeding with this housing option. Recommendations may include sandwiching such items between sheets of mylar, using an inner sheet of paper interleaving if media is friable, i.e. unstable, powdery, flaky, etc., and making sure mylar only touches paper interleaving rather than the actual adjacent posters.

Preferred Supplies for Rolled Storage:
Heritage® Archival Tube Boxes 40” and 60” Boxes in 4.5 and 6” diameters

for 40” width boxes:
Metal Edge PBR 4050, Paper, Permalife Roll, 40 x 50" roll 
(may have to trim the 40" dimension to approx. 36" for most rolls, to allow for corrugated tube anchors at either end)

for 60” boxes:
Legion Paper Interleaving 90gsm 60"x300'
(first ask Houghton Preservation staff. Sometimes we borrow from Weissman Center).

Mylar outer later to protect from dust
Preservation may be able to procure sheets from Collections Care in Widener as needed.
(sheet need only be large enough to wrap around the tube once with about 3" overlap)

I. Procedures for Rolling Oversize sheets onto tubes (with video and pictures)

First prepare the box by removing the core (tube) and feeding cloth tape through the holes available in the tab construction. The tape should lay flat and be long enough that a bow can be tied around the whole box when the lid is on. This is the method of closure for the box.

  • Inserting the cloth ties:




II. Preparing the stack of sheets/posters and interleaving:

All sheets/posters should have interleaving between them. There will be a final (unnumbered) sheet of interleaving covering the last item as a barrier against the tube itself. (Exceptions for interleaving such as posters that have canvas backing should be verified with Preservation before the interleaving is omitted.) 

Layer sheets (posters) of approximately the same size and interleaving together in a stack

Posters of a similar size can be stored together with a maximum number of 10 posters per roll.

  • If there is a difference in the size of the posters, layer the stack so that the largest item is on the outside of the roll and the smallest is on the inside of the roll. 
  • Slightly stagger both the posters and the interleaving sheets within the stack and do not align either the head or tail of the sheets within the stack. Staggering the stack reduces the thickness and the hard edge that the rest of the roll will rest against. Pencil the call number onto diagonal corners of the posters and interleaving. This is to ensure that the posters can be identified no matter which end is used to start the roll.  It doesn't matter if you choose upper left/lower right or upper right/lower left, as long as you are consistent within a roll. The interleaving sheet that is below a given poster is the one that will help identify it, should the posters get out of order when they are removed from the roll. 

  • Weight bottom and top edge of stack.

Below: the first sheet/poster is set on top of its interleaving.

Below: 10th (last) poster on top of the 10th sheet of interleaving. Numbering that corresponds with that of the sheet (or poster), is penciled onto the interleaving sheet below it.


Below: penciled numbering on verso of last folder in lower left corner.


*NOTE: numbering also occurs on the opposite (diagonal) corners at the top of each sheet, so that the stack can be rolled and items identified from either end.



Preservation can help decide when interleaving may be omitted 
Below is a stack of canvas-backed posters that did not require any interleaving. They were marked in pencil exactly as the paper posters were marked.


III. Rolling sheets onto the core support

Place core support (tube) at top or bottom edge of stack and position so that the core is centered and at least 2 inches of the core is exposed on either side of the stack.

  • Measure ends to center before rolling
  • Remove weight from core end and begin rolling (go slowly)
  • Hold even tension as you are rolling so that there are no gaps and the roll does not telescope. (The roll should not be loose and multiple edges of items should not be visible.

Below: examples of "telescoping". (A stack of papers rolled with uneven tension will "telescope", as will a large roll of mylar  if carried upright without support underneath).


Preventing telescoping

Once the stack is rolled, wrap the entire thing in a small sheet of Mylar cut to a length that can circle the core with about 3" overlap. Then tie with cloth tape. The roll should have at least 2 cloth ties. A third tie can be added for larger rolls.
(*NOTE: the following video omits the last step of covering the rolled tube with
mylar before tying–see below)

Below: finished rolls covered in mylar (which was omitted in the video). Shown also is the top half of one of the corrugated "anchors" being reinserted to hold the tube in place.


Box labels
Shown above at right is a temporary (green) removable label, which can be reaffixed as needed so as to be visible before the boxes are ready to ship offsite. As with other boxes that ship to HD, the final label should be on the short end. As of this writing, these 4 and 6 foot boxes will be stored on the top shelves in the Depository.


IV. Procedures for Shipping to HD

Sending tube boxes to HD requires special coordination.

  1. Alert Public Services to the number and size of tube boxes that need to be transported.
  2. Public Services will request the oversized materials truck and schedule a pick-up time for the truck.

Alan Puglia advised to use a mailing tube (archival ones are expensive and not right sizes for us usually). If it is not archival, wrap it with permalife (from the roll stored in the manuscript end-processing work room) . Paste (methyl cellulose) this onto the roll so it doesn't come off. Then wrap the item around the roll. Then wrap either mylar or another sheet of permalife over all and tie with linen tape. This procedure is to be vetted by Houghton's preservation department next time an item needs to be rolled. Items can also be stored rolled temporarily as they are, without using a tube. Wrap them with permalife and tie loosely with cloth tape. Store them separately in a box.

SPIRAL NOTEBOOKS (metal or plastic)
Many spiral notebooks will fit in the largest size of prefab. This will protect the materials that lay both underneath and on top of it from being dented by the metal or plastic. The largest pre-fabs are slightly shorter then the ms. boxes, but not too short to be used inside the box as if it were another ms. folder. However the width must be trimmed about 1/8 of an inch in order to be able to close the box. It might be best to use a metal ruler and olfa cutter to save wear on the paper cutter on the work table. Try to cut as close to the inner folder as you safely can. If you are using clam-shell boxes you won't have to trim the pre-fabs--but you will if you are using some of the older boxes, as most are slightly smaller inside.
The green paper cutter is not strong enough or large enough for cutting thick board like this. Always trim the pre-fab empty of contents, or you could end up cutting off the edge of a manuscript.
If stored upright, spine should be facing down, and be sure to accurately crease the bottom of the folder it is in. If this seems to present problems to rest of material, make a stiffer folder for it, or consider whether it could be stored with the spine up instead. If stored flat, you may have have it on top of the pile with a label "keep on top", unless it does not seem like it will damage other material or be damaged. One could pad out the area of the protruding spiral with board, but it is very time-consuming and materials are costly to do this routinely for large collections.

Manuscript Media (metals, paint, powder-based, plaster, textiles, etc.)

Copper plates, mounted on wood, used in book illustration, should be stored in boxes small enough that weight is not a problem. They should be on their sides, rather than laying flat, so that the surface is less likely to be damaged from pressure. They should have either full individual folders or 2 pt. board or mat board interleaving, rather than corrugated board, as corrugated might make an uneven impression on them. And they should be stored as firmly pushed together as possible so they don't move much, though not so tightly that they are exerting pressure on each other and on the box.
As far as buffered, non-buffered, Weissman Preservation Center (WPC) does not specify one or the other, just to use the usual materials we have on hand, i.e. the mat board and the 2 pt. board that is used for most everything else.
Check with WPC for other metals. Sometimes they are to be stored in unbuffered boxes, or at least wrapped in unbuffered materials to make corrosion less active. Sometimes a ziplock bag might be acceptable, though bags in general are less desirable than folders/boxes that don't require pulling the item in and out.
Handcuffs, swords, etc. (see: bMS Am 2373) have been housed in unbuffered 6-pack microfilm boxes from metal edge. A cushion or ring base can be formed out of the UT30500R Acid-free unbuffered tissue from Gaylord's. Buffered boxes can also be used as long as it is lined with acid-free unbuffered tissue.

POWDER-BASED MEDIA (flat storage)
Artwork or important/fragile manuscripts that use charcoal, chalk, pastel, other powdery media should be put in a specially cut mat and then housed in a pre-fab (if they fit) so that nothing touches the surface. It is best if they are stored at the top of a box so there isn't excessive weight on them. Use a pre-printed "KEEP ON TOP" label. Do not use mylar or mylar-like material next to such items as static may pull some of the powder off the surface. Check with Houghton's preservation office before putting any kind of protective paper inside the mat as well.


Matches are sometimes part of a collection. Matches can often be removed from their boxes, or removed from a packet by taking out a the staple. The flammable tips are powdery and may flake off onto other items in the collection.

PAINT (flat storage)
Small oil paintings on canvas should be put in a pre-fab so that they won't be exposed to pressure or accidental bending that might cause the paint to flake off.
Water-based paints (acrylics, watercolor, poster-paints, etc.) should be separated from other materials. There is no need to use special folders or prefabs unless the paint has a thickness to it that looks as if it might be damaged by pressure or bending.

Plaster death/life masks, plaster casts of other body parts, etc. can be put into a box that has about 1/4" thick ethafoam bottom and beyond that, a "ring" made of unbuffered acid-free tissue tied with linen tape (mentioned also under "metal") can be put on the bottom as a base to keep items steady.

Crumpled unbuffered acid-free tissue, rolled into snakes, can be put inside clothing next to folds, since that is where damage usually first occurs. Leave items as unfolded as possible. You will need larger boxes than usual for costumes, etc. The box doesn't have to be unbuffered, as long as there is unbuffered tissue between the item and the box. Use the large roll of tissue we keep in the manuscript end-processing work room.


A green 3-ring notebook is kept near the manuscript end-processor's computer, with troubleshooting tips for most of the computer applications used in manuscript end-processing. It contains the following printouts for ready reference. Some of them are now here as attachments as well. Some instructions about linking text in the WIKI can be found on the general end-processing WIKI page:

ALEPH item record default and unusual samples

Macros (Macro Express Pro) and instructions

Troubleshooting notes and articles for ACCESS and WORD



Step 1 : photocopy box labels before they are placed on boxes, after barcodes have been affixed.
Step 2 : send email notification to Houghton staff

  • Using design view, change Query in Box Label database to reflect current batch of box numbers
  • In the Box Label database, right click on "email" report and choose "export" "to word.rtf document"
  • A word document will appear with call numbers, box label information, and bar codes.
  • Copy and paste information into an email with the subject : READY FOR HD
  • Email should include number and size of boxes
  • Add any additional information and send the email to yourself first to check for errors
  • Send email to senior cataloger so that records can be updated; to the printed books end-processor who calls in the pickup request from HD; and cc the Technical Services Librarian

Step 3 : check with printed books end-processor to make sure the pickup request has been called in.

  • Assess weather conditions for the morning of pickup (usually the day after it is called in).
  • If weather will be wet, talk to printed books end-processor about ordering gray plastic bins from H.D. to put the boxes in; and determine best day for pickup

Step 4 : stack boxes/bins under bulletin board; fill out and attach READY for H.D. form.

Step 5 : print the email onto the back of the photocopy of the labels and file it in the HD Notebook.

NOTE: We have recently begun sending some upright manuscript volumes to HD. Below are some basic instructions from the Harvard Depository. See also the section on End-processing single item manuscripts : Harvard Depository (offsite storage).

Bound volumes in good physical condition should have the barcode labels attached to outside covers. Barcodes should be placed in the upper-left-hand corner of books, with the spine facing left. An alternative barcode location for books transferred from browsing collections is at the top of either the front or back book cover. No books can be accepted at the Depository with barcodes more than one-inch from the top of either cover or on the inside of either cover. Fragile books should be stored in protective acid-free envelopes, wrappers, or boxes, with one barcode attached to the outside of each container (in the upper left-hand corner), and a duplicate barcode may be affixed to the actual book. The preparation and barcoding of fragile items is described in more detail in the following section (Preparing Fragile Books For Transfer).

Harvard Depository Notebook

Photocopies of box labels (with barcodes) are kept, annotated with date sent to HD. This is used for security, as a resource if questions arise, and lately, for statistics. There are currently three volumes of this notebook.

SAMPLE BOOK (and rules) for labels and tabs

There is a three-ring notebook containing samples of labels from past collections that is sometimes useful for understanding how labels have evolved over the years, and how to handle unusual circumstances. Some of the samples pre-date 1981. Sometimes an unusual question will come up that seems new, but that was addressed in the past. A simple solution can often be found. A new online version of the sample book is begun here as a shared resource:

Sometimes catalogers will choose to allow an accessions number serve as a call number. For volumes, the small label in back can use the date on the bottom instead of duplicating the accession number. For example, printed books that were once classed as 52L-MANUSCRIPTS and are being reclassed as 52L-1140 etc. will have small labels that look like this:


If there is no date, then "no date" can be used instead.  For volumes over 28 cm, put a lowercase "f" in front of the accession number (call number), but leave a space in between them. The "f"s are shelved in a different aisle. Some of the older ones have an uppercase "F" at the end rather than a lowercase "f" in front.  To continue the current practice, here is a sample label for an item in a prefab over 28 cm.:

              f 52L-1141

In the past, catalogers used an asterisk at the end of a call number to indicate that an item was part of Houghton's collections. If the cataloger includes that asterisk from the old call number, use it. If an asterisk appears physically written on an item (as is often the case with RECON items) but the cataloger has not included it, then we won't bother including it on the label or card either.
Use information the cataloger has provided, since we are copying the information directly from ALEPH to make labels. It is no longer an important issue whether the asterisk is or is not included at the end of a call number.

Recently Houghton has stopped using an asterisk in front of the accession number (i.e. *2000M-33 would now be simply 2000M-33).


MS Am 2522
[Amy Lowell] [graphic] [ca. 1880?]. 1 photograph : tintype ; 1.5 x 2 cm.

source accession number

Brackets are used when information is supplied by the cataloger. But some types of bracketed information is not supposed to appear on the label. Information about author or place, for example, such as [Amy Lowell] is necessary to keep. But other descriptive information, as below is not meant to be included.

Here are some examples of bracketed items that should not appear on the label (except as marked):
[art original]--DOES BELONG
[motion picture]–DOES BELONG



sample Tennessee Williams catchall box label.



f F 6870.53.20

This is an odd collection of volumes (logbooks). Each has its own call number, but it is cataloged as a manuscript collection. Since it is manuscript, labels can be done in the manuscript fashion, putting the call number in a single line along the spine, rather than breaking it up at the points as is done with printed books. The volumes don't get individual barcodes because they are considered as items within a collection. The small "f" indicates folio. Large F is part of the call number (Fearing).


FRAMED STORAGE (in Harvard Theatre Collection, Pusey level 1)

Here is a sample call number as it appears on a label. The specific location is not included on the label, as it can change, but is entered in HOLLIS as public information:

        FRAMED STORAGE   pfMS Thr 414.4 (14)


(Example of a standard label, and a label with additional information.)
This may change according to recommendations of the Collection Preservation and Security Standing Committee when the subject of labeling boxes is addressed.

NOTE: *A small piece of tape must be adhered to the open end of the label holder so that the label can't slip out.*

Labels are printed on Avery 5911 perforated business cards. The bar code and the HD sticker are affixed to the card, NOT to the label holder. This is because if the label ever needs to be changed, the card can simply be removed and replaced.  Also the label holder doesn't offer protection for stickers adhered to the outside of it thus defeating its purpose. And, there would be a problem removing those stickers from the outside of the label holder if it were necessary to do so.


Below is a sample of a plastic label holder that had a self-adhesive label stuck to the outside of it, thus making it useless. In this example, an additional label (not pictured) had also been stapled over the label holder and the self-adhesive label. Since the legs of the staple cannot be bent in, they protrude sharply into the box, endangering materials and human hands. Staples should not be used to affix box labels. Label holders are meant to facilitate temporary labeling and future changing of label information during end-processing. But if a temporary removable label is used by the cataloger, it should be placed directly on the box, rather than the plastic label holder, as these removable labels also tend to stick to the plastic and are hard to remove.


Please see the  Box labeling presentation.



  • labels = bMS Hyde 98
  • shelf tab = MS Hyde 87
  • box label = HYDE 2003JM-40 (pf)


Lobby X.1.1
MS Eng 1544
recat. from Her 2.5

"Lobby X.1.1" is part of the call number and should also appear exactly as shown on the shelf tab.

Lowell Autograph Collection : SAMPLE LABEL

Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827. A.L.s. to Count ...Oppersfdorf...1s.(3p). 1 folder.

Amy Lowell Autograph Collection



T. Troward, ALs to [William James],
19 Jun 1909 and John Kershaw, 2 ALs
to William James, Feb. 1909 and 20 Feb 1909,
removed to bMS Am 1092.1

This type of label is normally pasted into the front cover of the volume, at the bottom, against either the left or right edge, rather than centered.

Some material that is part of the Woodberry Poetry Collection is shelved at Houghton and cataloged as manuscript material, using the same prefixes, stem, and item number system as other large manuscript collections. They are called Poetry Blue Star because originally, when the books were shelved in the poetry room of Lamont, there was a blue dot or star attached to the label. We don’t do that anymore now that they are shelved in Houghton, but just use the asterisk as a star, that was once blue. The category "BLUEB", (Blue Star b) should be chosen as the "collection" designator in the item record.

For a flat boxed item, see the sample box label below:

bMS Am 2753  POETRY*
Woodberry Poetry Room (HCL) collection of photographs of poets, 1959-1994 and undated.
Box 1 of 1

Manuscript folder labels look just like those from any other manuscript collection. They do not need to include the "POETRY *" designation. Boxed items are shelved with all other boxed collections on sub-basement. They are not included in the special "Blue Star" area of the stacks behind the cmii shelves that is designated for printed Blue Star material.



A small percentage of collections are given printed book call numbers but are cataloged as if they were a manuscript collection and are end-processed by Manuscript end-processors. Normally the labels are identical to the abbreviated ones used for a manuscript collection, including only the call number, THE HOUGHTON LIBRARY, and the accession number.
There may be particular rules for the inclusion of the lowercase "b" in the call number on folders and box labels. Here are some samples that provide guidelines.

f *AC95.B5665.969c
Black Panther papers
The lowercase "b" for "boxed" does not precede the call number in this instance because the boxes are in a shelving area for upright volumes. The "f" shows that it is shelved with "folios" (on basement level). There is a space after the "f". Though in the past there often was no space.

b SF-133
In this instance the lowercase "b" means "boxed" rather than "broadside". The "b" was included as an aid for locating the material within this special room.

If this were a manuscript collection, the "b" would be retained on all labels because it appears as part of the call number in HOLLIS. Some in printed books, however, may omit the "b" boxed indicator for items going to HD, since they do not have a location at Houghton.

p FB9.A100.968p (1), etc.
This printed book collection is cataloged like a manuscript collection in that it has (item numbers) at the end (1), (2), (3), etc. The lowercase "p" is an indication of location and currently a space appears after it. But most of the other items, done before macros were used, do not include a space after the "p". So it is not crucial whether or not the "p" is done the old way or the new way. However, regular printed books end-processing uses the space after the "p".

All pre-1600 manuscripts are restricted, regardless of call number. Because this is already well-known by the Reading Room, we don't label such items restricted, unless perhaps there is a special archival copy to make readers aware of, or some other special restriction called for by the curator.
All other manuscripts from the time periods after 1600 will be marked restricted according to the dictates of the HOLLIS holdings record. The wording on the label is short. Sometimes it merely says "RESTRICTED". Sometimes it is possible and appropriate to list the reason for the restriction as below:

bMS Hyde 98 (1382) RESTRICTED : closed until 2053

bMS Am 2072 (7) RESTRICTED : use archival photocopies


RESTRICTED : consult curator for access


The Stack Supervisor is in charge of producing and updating labels at the ends of the aisles where manuscripts are shelved. Here is a sample label.

bMS Am 1948 (cont’d.) -

bMS Am 2031

Pusey - 12


THEATRE COLLECTION STACKS : PPF and PFD DRAWERS (oversize folders and labels)




(label goes parallel to crease of folder, at the top left, as shown above)


Items labeled as “pf” are kept in pf boxes on P-2.
Larger items go into flat file drawers.

18 x 24” 20 x 24" folders are placed side by side in the “half-drawers”. (WE HAVE SINCE SWITCHED TO 20X 24" INSTEAD of 18 x 24")

28 x 38” folders are the standard for the “full drawers”

(For slightly larger items, oversized tan folders 34 x 45” can be used)

For help in determining what size to use, consult with Manuscript End-processor.

Orientation of folder labels are as follows.

half-drawer folder:   (18 x 24”)      (20 x 24")       

Full drawer folder:   (28 x 38”) : for larger items, use folders 34 ½ x 45”



When examining folders in Reading Room on a table they normally open like a book, from right to left, as shown below.

The label should go vertically in the top left corner, both for pfd and ppf folders.


                Top left corner of folder

Left is the
creased edge
of folder                                                                                                                                                   (on right is open side of the folder)



Inside a half-drawer (pfd) the (20 x 24") folders are oriented side by side with the label (open) end facing the front of the drawer as below (sometimes fragile items are kept on top of the pile.)



Full-drawer folders (below) (ppf) (28 x 38" or larger) are oriented with the crease facing the front of the drawer. The label will be right-side up and facing whomever is opening the drawer.













bMS Thr 432 (40)
FRAGILE - Light Bulb
Boston Bijou Theatre Company records, 1882-1927.

Box 1 of 1





The Library is responsible for the care and security of its collections. End-processing manuscripts is an essential activity through which that responsibility is met. Consequently, maturity is expected of student assistants; which involves ability to focus, follow through, be organized, follow rules, and ask appropriate questions. Good communication is required from the beginning of the hiring process. All students hired for end-processing manuscripts should be shown a copy of the current job posting during an interview, so that both parties are clear on expectations. Some of the expectations mentioned in this manual are also mentioned in the job posting itself. If there is time, have student candidates read a copy of the Goals and Reponsibilities, if not during the interview, than certainly on their first day of employment.

Below is a sample Harvard Student job posting:: 

Job Description: For large and small collections, unfold letters, remove paper clips, staples, etc. from manuscript material; transfer manuscripts into appropriate archival folders and boxes. Match items with correct label and attach to specified type of folder, following basic housing principles and procedures. Comprehend and independently point out and correct inconsistencies in the orientation of folders/labels and type of boxes used. Enter data for box labels; list potential errors or problems. Occasionally assist making and attaching labels to volumes, alphabetizing, or simple tasks related to cataloging assistance.

Job Requirements: Manual dexterity/attention to detail while doing repetitive tasks/word processing/basic office skills/care in handling fragile materials. Ability to stay focused on work that can be tedious; good attendance, good hand skills; patience. Alert and sensitive to conservative consumption of archival supplies.


Additional Information/Comments:

Food and drinks in break room only.

The Student Notebook keeps a list of ongoing general tasks that can be used as fillers between projects, or a change of pace in the workflow. These are things that can be done by both Harvard students or high school students.


In the past 2 years we have hired a high school student part-time through the School-to-Work program run by the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers in conjunction with the Cambridge Office of Workforce Development, Youth Programs and Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. The students help affix labels on straightforward collections, preparing supplies such as inner folders, and helping to log in and prepare paperwork for incoming items. The regularity of their scheduling makes them a helpful part of the student team.

Student notebook.

Information pertaining to students in this manual is printed out and kept in a red 3-ring notebook at the student workstation for ready reference; and is updated by the manuscript end-processor.



The supervisor will show you some simple ongoing tasks that you can do in between projects. Here are some examples:

  • Cutting down scrap acid-free folders for shelf tabs
  • Cutting down scrap acid-free folders for dummy folders
  • Cutting white acid-free sheets to just under 8 ½ x 11” to fit in computer for printing box labels
  • Fold phototex sheets for inner folders
  • Fold Permalife or Apollo for inner folders


There is a map of the sub-basement, kept at the work station of the manuscript end-processor, which shows the manuscript storage and supply areas. Based on the map in the Houghton sub-basement, it is useful in orienting students when they are asked to retrieve things from the stacks.


This is a pdf document, derived from the Manuscript Supplies database used by the Manuscript End-processor. It provides a list of supplies that have been ordered both in the past and currently. It also provides a url link and vendor/item number information to assist technical services staff both in and outside the Acquisitions, Accessioning, and End-processing unit in placing orders. Unlike the access database, it does not provide reports for emailing orders to the Technical Services Librarian. It is used as a source of information for choosing and requesting supplies.

Manuscript Supplies database and ordering instructions.

The Technical Services Librarian receives requests for both office and preservation supplies. All supplies are ordered by the Technical Services Librarian. The procedure for requesting supplies is to send an email to the Technical Services Librarian with ordering information, and a date by which the supplies are needed.

Screen Shot of the Supplies Database (used by Manuscript end-processor):


There existed an exhaustive supplies database in the past for the entire library created by the Manuscript end-processor (in Paradox), which has been shared with Houghton Preservation department. However the current database is fairly new and includes only basic items such as boxes and folders. Each time something new is ordered it is added to the database. The supplies slide show gives an overview of standard box sizes for manuscripts. The sizes mirror those used by museums for storing matted works of art.

Reusable and miscellaneous leftover supplies are kept in the "Supply Aisle" on sub-basement in Pusey, next to the autograph file, near the ramp. The main stock of new supplies is kept in the Richardson alcove, which is on sub-basement in Lamont: up the ramp and straight ahead to the left near the end of the aisle. There are also supply "closets" two doors before, and one door beyond the Richardson alcove.

Screen Shot of database order form.

Supplies : cartons (Paige boxes)

See Paige box storage 

Supplies : folders.

Standard sizes for 2-flap folders are mostly the same as those listed in the printed book end-processing manual under: Supplies, Acid-free folders. (See the Houghton Technical Services Book End-processing Wiki. See also:  Acquisitions and Accessioning Special Topics : Broadsides for sizes specific to printed books section.) The correct standard sizes are listed below (consult with manuscript end-processor, as some of the ACTUAL sizes may vary by a few fractions of an inch to accomodate the particular interior structure of the various boxes):

STANDARD SIZES (November, 2014)

Acid-free folders

  • 10 x 13" = small (old) black box
  • 11 3/8 x 15 1/4" = New Clamshell box (can be trimmed to 11 3/8 x 14 5/8" to fit Metal Edge box below)
  • 11 3/8 x 14 5/8" = Metal Edge box: IDEAL SIZE (can also trim down New Clamshell box folders to fit if supplies get low)
  • 14 x 18"
  • 16 x 20"
  • 20 x 24" (half-drawer size for HTC and most drawers)
  • 22 x 28"
  • 28 x 38" (full-drawer size for HTC and most drawers)
  • 35 x 45" (largest full-drawer size for HTC and most drawers)
  • SMALL QUANTITIES OF VARIOUS DEFUNCT LARGER SIZES are in HTC supply drawers, consult manuscript end-processing assistant.
       (NOTE: the white Lichtenstein map flat file on basement can hold items up to 36 x 60" consult preservation officer about items this size or larger)

Supplies : photosleeves.

Photosleeve sizes are divided into basic groups, some of which are named. They are listed according to size below:


  • Sheets: Used very infrequently. About once every 4 years there is a collection of slides that uses up no more than 2 packages. So we don’t need to keep many on hand. Can also be used for storing coins, buttons, etc.
  • Individual slide sleeves (mylar): We have a small supply of these. They too are used very infrequently. Sometimes these can be used for storing coins or buttons, etc.; in conjunction with other photosleeves.

Baseball card size:
2.5 x 3.5" (9 inserts per page)
Used less frequently, but very suitable for older small photos, sometimes for housing buttons or coins.

Snapshot size:
(snapshots from 50s/60s are often square : but since manufacturers no longer make square, we categorize them into the following sizes that are available):
3.5 x 4.5" (6 inserts per page)--no longer available: this size is being replaced by 3.5 x 5 below
3.5 x 5" (4 inserts per page)
Used less frequently, but very suitable for certain collections that have a lot of this size. Usually only about 1 collection every year or so that might need these. Other collections sometimes have a few of this size.

Stereocard size:

Houghton Standard size: 4x5 range (MAY BECOME OBSOLETE)
4.25 x 5.5" (4 inserts per page)
This was a very good all-around sheet, since it was slightly wider then 4" and held 4 photographs. It was good becuase it fit so many different sizes and accomodated so many photos per sheet.
4x5 (4 inserts per page)
We currently have a lot of these and will have to evaluate them. Good that they hold 4 per page, but they are narrower and might not accomodate as many different sizes.

NEW Houghton Standard size (to replace 4x5 range): 4x6 range
4 x 6" (3 inserts per page)
These are good because you can fit 3 to a page.
4 x 6" (2 inserts per page)
These are ACTUALLY 4x7.5" which might turn out to be occasionally useful. But they only hold 2 photos, so not very versatile. Probably don't order this type again.

Houghton Standard size: 5x7 range
Pockets are too large to be more than 2 inserts per page
5 x 7" (2 inserts per page) TOP LOADING
Top loading is not as good as side loading, because we fold the edges of the pockets down over the photographs to secure them. If a photo takes up the entire 5" height, there is nothing left to fold down. Side loading (below) is better because there is more often extra room in the 7" width to fold under; and it is unnecessary to do any folding along top.
5 x 7" (2 inserts per page) SIDE LOADING
These are more versatile. We should switch to these and stay with them. However, there are already lots left in storage from old HTC supplies.

Houghton Standard size: 8.5 x 11 range
8.5 x 11 (1 insert per page)
These are good, but check Lineco, which seems to have a 9" x 11" range size which would be even more versatile

Houghton Standard size: ANYTHING LARGER than 8.5 x 11
Use a large mylar folder; or a piece of white (Word Tech) folder stock. Use phototex paper for large flat photos or smaller photos: it's too floppy for a large upright photo.


























Documents mentioned in this manual (arranged alphabetically by software)



Box Label database - from Collections folder.
Catchall database
Donor plate database
Manuscript Folder Label database - from Collections folder
Manuscript Log
Supplies database

Manuscript Collection and Single Item Tracking form (viewable only outside the wicki, in Adobe Acrobat DC)

Houghton Funds Macro [hot key : win+z]
Manuscript Login Macro [hot key : win+y]

AEON instructions
Box label instructions
Box label template in Word
End-processing instruction sheet
Guidelines  (sample)
Labeling large collections

Labeling single items using WORD (sample) - not recommended for large collections.
Manuscript Collection & Single Item Tracking form (sample filled out form).
Ready for HD form
Responsibilities of catalogers
Simplified folder labels for a collection (Alternative steps for end-processing collections : abbreviated folder labels)

Box labeling presentationPaige box storage
Photosleeve presentation 
Supplies slide show


BOX : fitted out for transport
FITTED OUT prefabricated document enclosure
PALM LEAVES : string

RE-HOUSING PROJECTS : when not using temporary labels


Separate listing of forms, sample sheets, and templates


Miscellaneous topics regarding use of the WIKI



There are two ways to do it: the first is to use the “print” in your browser. This works for single page jobs—material that you can see in the pane of your browser. The other way is to export. Under “Tools” you’ll see entries for “Export to PDF” and “Export to Word.” Either will work. I like .pdf because it preserves more of the formatting. So, just go ahead and export it then print the .pdf out.









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