I. Conserving the documents [See examples]
What is preservation?
Preservation involves the activities necessary to
stabilize and protect historical materials. In the case of manuscripts, preservation today might include the
flat-filing of papers that have long been folded up, removal of paper clips and other metal fasteners, and storage in
secure, environmentally controlled facilities.
What is conservation?
The term "conservation" refers to actions and treatments that are
applied to threatened or damaged documents.
The process includes examination, research, documentation, treatment, and preventive care.
The society's curators and conservators used the most up-to-date
methods and products available in the treatment of the Custis papers.
Because of poor storage conditions under which the Custis Family Papers were held at times before their
arrival at the Virginia Historical
Society, many of the items were severely threatened and unstable. In an effort to preserve those threatened
materials, conservators in the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s submitted many of them to the process of lamination,
a now discredited means of paper preservation, which was then still in developmental stages. As the lamination began
gradually to degrade in recent years, and as other conservation issues developed under the laminate, the Society sought
special funding in order to reverse the previous processes and to restore, as much as is now possible, the greatly faded
and damaged contents of the collection.
Our chief goals were to determine how widespread among the collection lamination treatment had been applied in past
decades; to capture images of the surviving documents prior to treatment; to develop and implement a series of treatments
to reverse the lamination process (and other degrading conservation treatments); and to submit the delaminated documents to
a fresh set of accepted restoration treatments hopefully to ensure long life to all of them.
The Society's project consisted of an extensive inventorying of the entire collection of 909 cataloged items, many
of which are multi-paged; identification of processes used for preservation by previous generations of archivists and
conservators; scanning of the papers to produce enhanced images of what text remained in the event that the delamination
process might result in any additional text or material loss [by Systems Integration Group Inc.]; and the delamination process itself, which is a complex
procedure requiring strong chemical baths and extensive paper restoration treatments. All this was undertaken despite
the inherent risks to the paper under the laminate. [more about the conservation process]
Introduction | Document gallery |
Conserving the documents |
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