Measurements

In archives literature, you will be reading a great deal about different types of measurements, but the two most common will be linear feet and cubic feet. These two measurements are crucial in space planning for your archives. However, if you are not familiar with these terms, they may be a bit confusing.

The side of a full-size Hollinger box. It is the same measurement for either the letter or legal size. From the collection of The Westminster Schools Archives, Atlanta, Georgia.

The side of a “full-size” document box. It is the same measurement on the side for either the letter or legal size box. From the collection of The Westminster Schools Archives, Atlanta, Georgia.

Linear feet is the amount of front shelf space that the box will occupy. This is calculated by measuring the side of the box that you can see on the shelf, and dividing that by 12 inches. A records center box is measured as 1 linear foot, as one side is 12 inches. Smaller boxes, such as a full-size document (sometimes called “Hollinger”) box, will measure .42 linear feet. This box is 5 inches across the side, so 5 inches divided by 12 inches = .417 inches. (Likewise, a “half-size” document box measures 2.5 inches on the side.) This measurement will help you estimate the amount of shelving you will need in your archives.

Cubic feet is the total volume of the box, and is typically used more frequently in archives because boxes can be of all shapes and sizes. The box can be tall and skinny or short and wide. It is calculated by measuring the width, height, and depth of the box, and then dividing that number by 1728 inches (or 12 x 12 x 12). Thus a large, flat box containing a scrapbook may measure 18″W x 14.75″L x 3″H. The cubic feet of the box is 18 x 14.75 x 3 = 796.5 / 1728 = .460. Depending on how precise you want to measure, it could be .46 or you can round it up to .5. This measurement will help you estimate the volume of the records you house in your archives.

Estimating Space Needed

You will also be asked how many boxes someone might need to clear out their office or work area, or a donor may give you a great collection and you will need to know what type of boxes and how many boxes to order. How do you do that quickly? You can use great charts that others have created. One chart that is available online through the Georgia Archives was created for state agencies who were transferring records to either the State Records Center or to the State Archives:

Various Records Formats to Cubic Feet Equivalents (Standard Record Center Box (15″ x 11 7/8″ x 9 5/8″) = 1 Cubic Foot)

Type Size Volume Cubic Feet
Standard File Cabinet Letter 8 1/2″ x 11″
Legal 8 1/2″ x 14″
1 full drawer
1 full drawer
1.50
2.00
Lateral File Cabinet
(39″ drawers)
Letter 8 1/2″ x 11″
Legal 8 1/2″ x 14″
1 full drawer
1 full drawer
2.50
3.00
Shelf Files (15″ x 36″) Letter 8 1/2″ x 11″
Legal 8 1/2″ x 14″
1 full shelf
1 full shelf
3.00
3.40
Index Cards 3″ x 5″
4″ x 6″
5″ x 8″
12,000 cards
6,000 cards
4,800 cards
1.00
1.00
1.00
Keypunch Cards 80 columns 10,000 cards
(135/file drawer)
1.00
Microfilm 16mm x 100′
35mm x 100′
90 reels
44 reels
1.00
1.00
Computer Prints-outs 21″ x 15″ 10 inch stack 1.00

While this won’t help with the typical donor material, it will help you in preserving the official administrative school records. You see in the chart that a standard letter-size file cabinet drawer measures 1.5 cubic feet. This means that you will need one and a half record center boxes to store the material. If there were two full drawers, you would need three full boxes. If these two drawers were of legal-size, you would then need four records center boxes to store all the files.

Flat boxes storing several years of the school newspapers. The Westminster Schools Archives Collection

Flat boxes storing several years of the school newspapers. From the collection of The Westminster Schools Archives, Atlanta, Georgia.

For the odd-size items you will receive from donors (textiles or scrapbooks), you will review the options from the vendors listed on this site to see if they offer a box in the size that you need. If it is a very special item, most of the vendors will create a box to order, but realize that this will be more expensive than a ready-made size. There are also many options of packing an item, especially an odd-size artifact, but that can be the subject of another post.

While all this may seem confusing at first, the more you work with the boxes in your collection, the easier all of this will seem. If you have a great chart or online resource you have been using, please feel free to share with the group.

Online References

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One response to “Measurements

  1. Pam,
    I learned a LOT from reading this article! I’m sure these calculations helped you figure out logistics regarding the move to Askew and off campus. Thanks for posting.
    Vicki

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