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

The Warrior Poet (a.k.a. Fellow Traveler No. 1)

Many larger-than-life figures have served as the Librarian of Congress.  As the Library once again plays host to that seminal document affirming the rule of law, Magna Carta, today we shine a spotlight on the man who was Librarian of Congress when the great charter first visited the Library – Archibald MacLeish. MacLeish, before his […]

Rare Map on Display at Library Scored Some “Firsts”

(The following is a guest post by Wendi A. Maloney, writer-editor in the U.S. Copyright Office.) Engraver Abel Buell “came out of nowhere,” at least in terms of cartography, when he printed a United States map in 1784. “He’d never done a map before,” says Edward Redmond of the Library’s Geography and Map Division. Nonetheless, […]

Inquiring Minds: The Intrepid Explorer

(From time to time, we’ll feature the story of one of our many researchers here at the Library and the discoveries they made using our collections. The following is the story of Meg Kennedy Shaw, who conducted research on her father, a British desert explorer, botanist and archaeologist.) Meg Kennedy Shaw has made many trips to […]

A Journey to the Northwest Frontier in 1783: The Journal of George McCully

(The following is a guest post by Julie Miller, early American specialist in the Manuscript Division.) People who visit the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress often ask where our collections come from. Sometimes the answers are surprising. This is true for a journal kept in 1783 by a Revolutionary War veteran from Pennsylvania […]

WDL Marks 5 Years of Sharing Cultural Treasures with Globe

(The following is an article written by Mark Hartsell, editor of the Library of Congress staff newsletter, The Gazette.) The idea was as big as the planet itself: Gather and digitize the globe’s  cultural treasures, assemble them  on one website and make them available to the world for free and in multiple languages. Such a project, […]

Ten Thousand Treasures

The World Digital Library – a website of world cultural treasures offered free of charge in seven languages to anyone on the planet with access to the Internet – has put up its 10,000th offering. It was part of a package, actually – a group of rare manuscripts from the collections of the Walters Art […]

You’re Supposed to Steep Tea in Boiling Water

On Dec. 16, 1773, a group of Bostonians dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded ships docked in Boston Harbor and dumped some 340 chests of tea into the water. Today marks the 240th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. “A number of brave & resolute men, determined to do all in their power to save their […]

A Celebration of Mexico: Masterpieces of Aztec Material Culture

One in 10 people living in the United States of America is of Mexican origin. One in five Americans is Hispanic. The Library of Congress is hosting a special “Celebration of Mexico” next month to honor this segment of the population and provide some important educational opportunities along the way. The Library has the largest […]

A Congressional Legacy: The Peter Force Library

Purchased through an act of Congress in 1867, the Peter Force Library became the foundation of the Library’s Americana collections.  As the nation sought to reconstruct the Union after the Civil War, so, too, did the Library of Congress seek to build a collection that documented fully America’s history. At the time, the nearly 100,000 volumes […]