Conservator’s Picks: Treating Treasures

(The following is a story in the January/February 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.)

Conservation Division chief Elmer Eusman discusses conservation treatment options for a variety of prized collection items.

LCM-Stab_ResizePre-Columbian Objects

“Collections such as this classic Maya whistling vessel, dated A.D 400-600, are safeguarded in customized storage boxes constructed of smooth, inert materials that provide padding without abrading the surface of the object. The boxes are designed with drop walls or easily removable padding to provide safe access to the collection of fragile and irreplaceable objects.” Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division 

Martín Ramírez’ “Madonna”pp_and_exhib_recto_AT_ramirez

“This 1951 drawing is one of the earliest surviving works by the self-taught, “outsider” artist. His ‘Madonna’ was drawn on the back of 22 pieces of postal mail, patched together using pastes he made by chewing starchy foods such as bread, oatmeal and potatoes–items found at the hospital where he was treated for schizophrenia.

Library conservators flattened the many creases, mended the tears and filled the losses.” Charles and Ray Eames Collection, Prints and Photographs Division

3031_001_a02_nmMap of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

“Hand drawn by Lamiralle Boucoune, this map depicting a pivotal battle at Cape Breton during the French and Indian War was discolored and illegible.

Conservators removed the brown-colored silk fabric that had been pasted onto the surface, washed the item to remove discoloration and mended the many tears and losses.

After treatment, many details and colors were once again visible.” Geography and Map Division

Ethiopian Prayer on ParchmentKane Ms188 1.31MB

“Originally housed in a separate, telescoping carrying pouch, this traditional Ethiopian text written on vellum (‘Prayer to Our Lady the Virgin, Mother of Light’) is now housed in a custom-fitted box. The boards are wood, covered in leather. This rare item bears the hallmarks of a traditionally bound Ethiopian manuscript.” Thomas L. Kane Collection, African and Middle Eastern Division

BenYusefPlatinum_croppedPlatinum Photograph

This platinum photograph by Zaida Ben-Yusuf (1869-1933) is an excellent example of pictorialist photography– a style in which the photographer manipulates the image rather than simply recording it. The Library’s photograph conservators are conducting research into how platinum photographs were made, how they deteriorate and what treatments are possible to preserve them for future generations. Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection, Prints and Photographs Division

American Ballet Theatre Exhibit Closes Saturday

The Library of Congress exhibition, “American Ballet Theatre: Touring the Globe for 75 Years,” closes this Saturday, so if you’re in town, make sure to visit. American Ballet Theatre (ABT), which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2014, donated its archives of more than 50,000 items of visual and written documentation to the Library. The exhibition features […]

The Science of Preservation

(The following is a story written by Jennifer Gavin for the January/February 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) Scientific research in its laboratories helps the Library to preserve and display world treasures. Books with cracked leather bindings; crumbling, yellowed maps and newspapers; faded […]

Instrumentally Yours

The late 19th century gave rise to some truly imaginative, public-minded Americans. We all know about the Thomas Edisons, the Henry Fords, the Garrett Morgans. But there were others who, while not household names today, lived very interesting lives and left behind fascinating legacies. Among these we find Dayton C. Miller, born on a farm […]

From Dollars to Distinction

I’m a big fan of “Downton Abbey,” so naturally I have been anticipating this season’s series premiere for several months. Following the episode, there was a special on how the show accurately represents the customs and manners of 1900s Britain. If you’re not familiar with “Downton,” the show centers around the wealthy Crawley family, headed […]

Library in the News: December 2014 Edition

Every year, the Library of Congress announces the addition of 25 films to the National Film Registry, and we are always excited about the enthusiasm for the selected films and the opportunity to spread the word about our preservation efforts. The Washington Post reached out to some of the filmmakers for their thoughts on their work […]

Sensationalism! Yellow Journalism! More, More, More!

It’s the day after Christmas, ho-ho-ho-hum. The presents are already open, your elbows are getting rubbed a little raw with all these relatives around, and you’re sick of holiday cookies and candy and fruitcake. It’s all too tempting to jump on the old cellphone and see what snarky things are being said on social media, […]

Pic of the Week: A Tree Grows … in the Great Hall

Every year, the Library of Congress decorates the Great Hall with a tall tree for the holidays, replete with lights and ornaments for the enjoyment of visitors. Zelma Cook of Tryon, N.C., recalls her first Christmas tree and holidays spent with her family and the mill workers of the village in this excerpt from American Life Histories: […]

Highlighting the Holidays: Home for the Holidays

(The following is a guest post by Monica Mohindra of the Veterans History Project.) “Home for the holidays”- it’s a sentiment that can cut across lines we might otherwise let divide us. For my dad, it means a longing to be with his family in India for Diwali, a multi-day festival of light that falls […]