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Safely Storing Matches

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    • #135470
      Wendi Murray

      Hello! We are currently cataloging a time capsule that was buried in 1941. Included in the contents are 16 strike-anywhere wooden matches (red head with the white tip). Most of what I can find online relate to the storage of safety matches and matchbooks, rather than loose strike-anywhere matches. Can anyone provide advice for safely storing strike-anywhere matches? For example, am I better off storing them in glass containers or plastic bags? Are they stable, or can they spontaneously ignite?

      I know that a common practice for safety matches is to remove the heads but keep the matchbook. That is not ideal in this case, because there is no matchbook and all we would have left to curate are the otherwise non-descript wooden sticks. Any insights on how other museums have handled this would be much appreciated!


    • #135575
      Kaela Nurmi


      I conducted a bit of my own research on strike-anywhere wooden matches. Unfortunately, like you said, most of the archival storage information pertains to matchbooks with safety matches. I did find a few blogs for campers/hikers that travel with strike-anywhere matches. Most of these forums said that they have never had problems with the matches spontaneously igniting unless the matches rubbed vigorously together, i.e. while in a pants pocket. A quick google search about strike-anywhere matches told me that they ignite on most dry, abrasive surfaces. This makes sense for them igniting against each other, but would also imply that they would not ignite against plastic or glass. I think that storing them in either a plastic bag or a glass container would be fine as long as there is no possibility of them being rubbed together. I might suggest placing each match in an individual small archival plastic bag. Perhaps placing layers of archival polyester film (Mylar) between each match in a larger container would also diminish chances of striking against each other. Whichever way you decide to go I would clearly label the container so that they are handled appropriately in the future. I hope this helps!

    • #135594
      Nora Lockshin

      Hello there, this just caught my eye. You may be interested in my post and the comments to it: Off with their Heads?: Matchbooks in Archives. There seems to be a problem with the content display of a Flickr slideshow lower on the page, so I include that also here, to be used in conjunction with the blog post. Leo Castelli Gallery Records Matchbooks

      • #135595
        Wendi Murray

        Thanks for the helpful responses! I opted for storing them each in their own plastic bags, and then placed the bags together (standing upright, heads pointed up) in one large, hard-walled plastic vial. My first inclination was glass, but we try to avoid using glass containers whenever possible. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this!

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