Hi Colin: I would think your curatorial and conservation staff (doesnt CMC have any conservators? shame on them if they dont!) would help you with this question. Usually history curators want to keep the original parts and containers as far as possible.
If that dirt or those cotton fibres and "dust bunnies" are causing damage and likely to hasten the deterioration of the records, then probably best to leave it alone, unless the item is required for display. One of those wee vacuums should be able to pick up the debris and a soft brush remove it from the grooves. If there are large quantiities of these things, there may be manufacturers' Care Instructions. That will tell you what was traditionally used to clean them. You dont want to use any kind of solvent cleaner which could damage the wax. New cases would only be necessary for those without cases, or cases that are so badly damaged or dirty as to cause abrasion or attract pests: insect, rodent, mould.
If the records are considered part of a musical instrument, then part of their function is to make music (or spoken word?) and that cant be done if they cant be played. So is there a record playing machine for them to be tested on? Even from an archival point of view, the information they contain, cant be accessed unless there is a way to listen to them, in which case they are artifacts soley. If that is so, its back to the curatorial question -how many hundreds do you need to show what the wax cylinder recording looked like?
You are in the nation's capital where the national cultural conservation research labs are: contact Bob Barclay at CCI re musical instruments care, or the Sound Recording Division at Library Archives Canada -the Gatineau Preservation Centre, for storage requirements. Hope this helps you.
Bev Lambert, Conservator
Provincial Archives of Newfoundland & Labrador
The Rooms, 9 Bonaventure Ave.
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
>>> [log in to unmask] 10/4/2005 12:29 PM >>>
The storage of flat discs and audio CD's has been the topic of late, but I'd
like to raise a question regarding the safe storage of wax cylinders. My
question has to do with the original factory cylinder cases. These cases
have a cotton lining inside to protect the surface of the cylinder. This
may have been the solution in the late 19th century, but is it appropriate
For instance, I came across a case that had clear stone-like objects stuck
on the inner cotton walls. It turned out to be drips of glue. These drips
of glue probably came from the Edison factory since there are signs of even
more glue at the bottom of the case. (Perhaps the factory worker sneezed
when applying the glue) :-) With these hard particles being in this
container, the surface of this particular wax cylinder is now irreparably
damaged from taking the cylinder out & back in over the years. Fortunately
I have only noticed this one example as I work my way through the 3300
cylinders in this museum's collection.
I have also found that the cotton lining particles can get in between the
grooves of a cylinder, and can blend in with dirt or the like. This is a
larger problem regarding brown wax cylinders.
Can anyone tell me if it is best to store wax cylinders in their original
containers, or is it better to replace them? I know that there is an
archival quality cardboard container that exists, but is this the best
Canadian Museum of Civilization
100 Laurier Street
Fax: (819) 776-7055
Tel: (819) 776-8466