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

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 […]

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: Window Dressing

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I spent several days in New York City. The holiday season was in full swing, with several holiday markets around town, lights and decorations adorning street posts and buildings and Rockefeller Center nearly completely decked out – the Christmas tree was up but not yet decorated. One of the things I […]

Inquiring Minds: World War II, Through Patton’s Lens

(The following is a story written by Mark Hartsell, editor of the Library of Congress staff newsletter, The Gazette.) Imagine, military historian Kevin Hymel writes, if George Washington or Ulysses S. Grant had carried a camera and photographed war as he experienced it. How important would those images be as documents of history? Gen. George […]

A Prize for the Piano Man

Last Wednesday, the Library of Congress celebrated the music and career of singer-songwriter Billy Joel, awarding him the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. A star-studded cast walked a packed house at the DAR Constitution Hall through Joel’s own songbook during a tribute concert. I myself had the honor and privilege to also take the stage as a […]

David Seymour (CHIM), Photographer of the Spanish Civil War

The following is a guest post by Beverly Brannan, Curator of Photography, Prints and Photographs Division, and first appeared on the Library’s “Picture This” blog. Photographer David Seymour (CHIM), with three Leica cameras around his neck. Photographer unknown, ca. 1950. When I read For Whom the Bell Tolls in my junior year of high […]

LC in the News: October 2014 Edition

Just as the Washington Nationals were closing out a winning baseball season, the Library of Congress discovered rare footage of the Washington Senators’ 1924 World Series victory over the New York Giants. “Finding footage that has probably not been seen since its last theatrical run 90 years ago is usually a moment for celebration for […]

Celebrating Native American Heritage: Whispering Giants

November is Native American Heritage Month and a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. When looking through the Library’s collections to find blog post ideas, I came across this picture of a carved statue of Cherokee leader Sequoyah taken by photographer Carol […]