By Anna R. Friedman, Book Conservator, Field Book Project
Like most archives, space and staff time are both precious resources here at the Smithsonian Archives. Whenever possible, I try to achieve preservation and conservation best-practices, but I also endeavor to not make extra work for my coworkers. For example, this box of records came through the lab last week.
There are several piles of papers, tied together with twill tape in the back of this box. Each twill-tied packet is labeled a “folder” for ease of cataloging terminology. Twill tape is a convenient way to keep loose stuff together. It is cheap, durable and fairly stable. However, it can rub against fragile or brittle materials and cause tears or other damage over time.
If I were to remove the twill tape, and reorient each packet into its own folder so that it rested on its long side and backed up to the following one, this box of records would easily become two or more boxes of records. Since adding extra boxes between box 32 and box 33 involves adding even more work to one of my cataloging coworkers, and adds extra boxes to our shrinking shelf space, I needed a solution for these packets of records that would allow the records to remain in the space currently allotted to them.
RU007318 Box 32 Folder 4 G. Arthur Cooper Papers in a four flap wrapper
I knew I would choose between four flap wrappers or corrugated clam shell boxes, since both are options that add minimal extra thickness to the original and are fairly easy for patrons to use. In this case, with all the loose papers, I was afraid the clamshell would be bulkier in the box, and have more potential for damage to the pages when patrons go to access the notes. The four flap wrapper fit nicely in the same amount of space that the tied up package used, and now it’s better labeled.
Before I put the folder’s worth of field notes back in its box, I mended the edge tears on the few pages that needed help using remoistenable tissue. I made the tissue in lab by brushing out a conservation adhesive called Methylcellulose A4M on a piece of inert polyester film and laying tissue down on the adhesive layer. For this treatment I used a very thin pre-toned Japanese tissue that is close to the off-white color of the paper. I applied the mend by tearing off a piece of tissue the size and shape appropriate to the mend I wanted to make and then brushed over it lightly with a brush that was dampened with deionized water. The mends were then sandwiched between non-woven polyester and blotter and weighted until dry.
RU007318 Box 32 G. Arthur Cooper Papers after Folder 4 treatment
There are several more folders in this box that will get this same treatment, and similar packets of records in other boxes in this collection will also be mended and rehoused in four flap wrappers to maximize their longevity. We are planning to host interns on the Field Book Project like we did last summer, and this would be an ideal project for them to complete.