Semiquincentennial Celebration (that’s 250 years)

Over the next four years, more than 100 of Vermont’s towns will celebrate their 250th anniversaries. In honor of this momentous occasion, Works on Paper is offering special rates to the Historical Societies and Town Clerks Offices within these towns to help preserve documents, town charters, maps and other paper-based items from their collections. These organizations often serve as the repository for large collections of documents chronicling local history and culture. In many cases, decades if not centuries, of improper storage have caused damage to the paper. Simple steps, such as basic stabilization and rehousing in archival storage enclosures, can dramatically improve the condition of these irreplaceable treasures ¬†and ensure they will last for generations to come.

Documents were often folded and tied in small bundles to minimize the amount of storage space they require – confirming that adequate storage space is not a modern issue.

Folded and tied documents from the early to mid-19th century

Decades or centuries of being stored folded can make it unsafe to open documents without first bringing them to a conservator. The paper can become very brittle and resistance to opening can result in tears and breaks along the folds. A conservator can help by placing the documents in a carefully monitored humidity chamber which causes the paper fibers to relax so they can be safely opened.

Documents after humidification and flattening

Tears and minor losses to the edges of the paper are also common problems found in collections of historic documents.

Folds and tears to the edges of a document from 1777

A conservator can make the documents safe to handle and reduce the risk of further damage by mending the tears and infilling the losses. Various weights of Japanese mulberry paper are available and a conservator makes a choice for each document based on a number of factors, including the weight of the original document. Wheat starch paste is the most commonly used adhesive because it is strong, easy to reverse, and is chemically stable.

Mending tears on an 18th-century document

Rehousing is a very important component of treating historical collections. Replacing inappropriate enclosures such as acidic folders and boxes with acid- and lignin-free, materials can be a cost-effective way of improving the condition of a collection. However, there is no single storage solution for all paper-based objects – different types of objects have different storage needs. Works on Paper can provide rehousing guidelines for documents, maps, photographs, and other paper-based objects in a collection.

Archival enclosure and box for a glass plate negative

Please contact us if you would like more information about how we can help preserve your collection or if you have any questions about rehousing guidelines.

The Vermont Historical Society has also created a list of suggestions for ways to celebrate these important town birthdays. Please visit their website for more information:

http://www.vermonthistory.org/