(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.
“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
“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
“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
“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
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