Tag Archives: paper conservation

Saving Horace Trumbauer From 91 Inches of Tape

In 2014 we implemented our Adopt-a-Book Program. To date over 44 items have been adopted by 22 donors. We started this program as a way to raise money for the conservation of materials from across our collections, especially those that we might need to send out for conservation because of an object’s size or special needs.

One such project was adopted by Mrs. Georgeann C Corey in memory of George Nassif Corey (T’69). This architectural blueprint of Duke’s East Campus by Horace Trumbauer was created in 1924. At some point in its lifetime it was the recipient of a DIY repair with self adhesive tape and the adhesive caused a lot of staining and damage.

Duke University
Duke University East Campus as designed by Horace Trumbauer (1924) [recto; Image courtesy of NEDCC]
Duke University
91 linear inches of tape adorned this blueprint before treatment. That is just over 7-1/2 feet of tape! [verso; image courtesy of NEDCC]

This was a perfect item to put up for adoption due to its size, the amount of tape removal needed, and its need to be lined. This blueprint is 52-1/8″ by 40-1/8″. It is too large to fit comfortably in our washing sink, and we have no suction table or karibari board to facilitate the lining. We also wanted a digital image and facsimile reproduction made so that the original could be safely housed while the facsimile could be displayed.

Thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Corey, we were able to send this drawing to the Northeast Document Conservation Center for treatment. You can see from the images below that the treatment was truly transformative. NEDCC conservators removed 91 linear inches of tape, reduced the staining from the adhesive, washed it and repaired the tears and losses, and finally lined it with Japanese tissue. NEDCC digitally captured the drawings and made a 1:1 physical print of the file for us to use as our use copy.

Duke University
Trumbauer blueprint after treatment. [recto; image courtesy of NEDCC]
Duke University
Trumbauer blueprint after treatment. [verso; image courtesy of NEDCC]

This is one of many success stories from our Adopt-a-Book Program. We look forward to sharing others with you in the future.

What’s In The Lab: Revolutionary War Medicine

Written by Grace White, Special Collections Conservator

I recently had the pleasure of treating a group of the Philip Turner Papers from the History of Medicine collection held in the Rubenstein Library.  Philip Turner was a Surgeon General for the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and this particular bundle of papers contained military hospital returns for 1778.  The 30 papers record soldiers’ injuries and illnesses such as dysentery, fever, scurvy, rheumatism, inoculations for smallpox and occasional battle wounds.

21 before after

The papers had been crudely stitched together with thread, making it nearly impossible to lift and read any one page.  The bundle had also been folded and creased, and there was evidence of water damage with stains, mold and many tears and losses.

I removed and saved the thread and began my treatment of the individual papers.  I surface cleaned them all to remove dirt and loose mold spores, and then I washed them with water and solvents to kill any remaining mold and to reduce staining and acidity.  Finally I mended and flattened the papers and housed them in a folder.  They are much safer for researchers to use now, and their visual appearance is also much improved.  These kinds of projects are so rewarding.

before and after

As a side note, one interesting discovery I made was that several of the papers are watermarked with a crowned “GR” for George Rex, the king of Great Britain and Ireland.  Using imported British paper was probably not uncommon in the colonies, but the Georgian watermark is an irony for papers of the revolutionary army.

GR watermark

1091 Project: Interview With A Conservator


This month as part of the 1091 project we are presenting an interview with our paper conservator, Grace White. Regular readers will remember that Grace joined the staff last year. Since then, she has worked on a variety of things including some very, very large WWI posters; she curated an exhibit on the tools of the trade; and has helped with a lot of the renovation prep, including the papyri rehousing project. Grace also writes the quarterly “What’s In The Lab” series for the Devil’s Tale.

In this interview, Grace discusses what she does, how she came to the conservation profession, her favorite treatment as well as her favorite tool. Check out our other staff interviews from our “10 Years, 10 People” series, and be sure to click over to Parks Library Preservation for their interview!