There is fund-raising, exhibit design, curatorial work, object selection, conservation, writing the label texts, brochure design, fabrication, mounting, installation … and several other steps that I’m undoubtedly forgetting.
On Feb. 12, we’re opening the major exhibition “With Malice Toward None,” celebrating the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, made possible through the generosity of Union Pacific Corporation.
Even though that’s more than three months away, a lot of those steps have already taken place.
Yesterday, I got a glimpse of just one of the stages in the process. Just hours after objects for the exhibit were delivered to the Conservation Division, I visited our science lab to get an idea of the kind of preparatory work that is done before they’re put on public display.
Conservators of all kinds will be giving the objects various degrees of TLC over the next several weeks. Some documents will be “bathed” or treated to reduce the acidity and slow the decomposition of the ink and paper. Others may be delicately mended. Some pages will be “desilked” — which reverses a preservation process done briefly around the turn of the 20th century whereby a think layer of silk was applied to documents — in favor of modern techniques.
The first is a box holding the contents of Lincoln’s pockets on the night he was assassinated; the second is the seed-pearl and gold necklace and matching bracelets worn often by Mary Todd Lincoln. The objects came to the Library in the 1930s as a bequest from Lincoln’s granddaughter.
They have been on display at the Library before, but because of conservation requirements, they’re rarely seen by the public. Starting Feb. 12, you will get another such opportunity. Stay tuned for more!