Saturday, October 30, 2010

Common Problems with Letters

I told Samantha Sheesley, Conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, that I found a paper clip on one of the June and Art love letters.  When I removed it, the reddish-brown image of the paper clip remained.

“That’s typical,” she said.  But I did the right thing in removing it.  Rust will discolor and weaken the paper.  You carefully slide off the paper clip, throw it away, and live with the stain.

Another common problem – although only found in one instance in the June and Art letters – is pressure-sensitive tape.  These scotch tapes and masking tapes are the bane of conservators.  The adhesive penetrates through the paper, leaving an ugly yellow scar.  As for the tape itself, it doesn’t even do its job right.  Eventually, it dries out and falls off, leaving nasty adhesive residue still on the paper.

According to Sam, you shouldn’t attempt to remove the tape yourself.  The risk of tearing or skinning the paper is considerable.  She recommends either leaving it alone or taking it to a professional conservator to remove.

Pressure-sensitive tape attaching a
feather to a card.
And the last problem is (thankfully!) one that we didn’t find at all in the June and Art letters.  Sometimes letters are stored in warm, damp, dark places that breed molds.  You’ll probably see it if it’s there – sometimes they can be quite psychedelic, Sam says – and you may smell it, too.  It’ll have a mildew scent.  If that’s your problem, don’t mess around with it.  Either throw it out, or schedule a visit to take it to a conservator.  It’s not something to keep around the house.

Thanks so much to Samantha Sheesley for her gracious consulting on letter preservation this past week!

© 2010 Lee Price

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Old Paper vs. New Paper

Examining the June and Art love letters (1949-1951), Samantha Sheesley, Conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, commented on the problems with acidic twentieth century wood-pulp
Thomas Jefferson letter from the
collection at the David Library of the
American Revolution
(Washington Crossing, PA).
papers.  “Normally the letters and manuscripts that we are asked to work with are much older,” she said.  “They present a different set of physical and chemical problems.”

For instance, here’s a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote at Monticello in the early nineteenth century.*  Like most of the letters of its day, it’s written on cotton rag.  After 200 years, the paper remains flexible due to the length of the paper fibers and discoloration is minimal due to the lack of acidity in the sheet.

By comparison, my parents’ letters are on wood pulp paper.  It’s lost much flexibility and is
turning an ugly yellow.  I wish these letters
Letter from June Anderson to
Art Price, 1949.
were holding up better – after all, it’s only been 61 years.  I guess it’s a good thing that the John and Abigail Adams love letters will outlive the June and Art letters, but on a personal level it’s a bit upsetting.

But I bet my mother would have been surprised to see her letter compared to Thomas Jefferson’s!

* Special thanks to the David Library of the American Revolution in Washington Crossing, PA for agreeing to share this beautiful example from their collection!

© 2010 Lee Price

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Love Letters as Objects

I asked Samantha Sheesley, Conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, for her thoughts about the June and Art love letters – not the content, but the physical objects themselves.

According to Sam, both June and Art wrote on commonly available machine-made wove paper, usually with a linen texture.  June tended to use matching envelopes.  Art’s envelopes rarely matched and were frequently of cheaper, more acidic quality than the letters.  All the paper involved, both the letters and the envelopes, were originally a brighter white and are now moving toward a yellowish-brown color, typical of discoloration from inherent acidity and exposure to light.

There are ways of slowing the degradation of the letters – such as storing them at a cool uniform temperature, keeping them in the dark, and storing them with microchamber paper which contain zeolites (molecular sieves to trap pollutants) – but slowing the degradation process is the best that you can hope for.  In Sam’s words, there’s “lots of inherent vice built into modern material.”

June and Art usually wrote with ballpoint pens, which were just becoming popular in the late 1940s.  June’s pens tended to leave unsightly blots of ink on the paper which often bleed through to the other side.  Sam says the paper in these blotted areas may be slightly weaker than the surrounding paper, but proper storage and safe handling practices will help to prevent additional damages.

In the June and Art blog, I’ve removed most of June’s endless problems with pens.  But since we're on the subject of pens, here are some of June's thoughts:

“(darn pen!)”

“(the pen leaks, too)”

“As you can see, I’m back to my old pen again.  Shirl’s sister is using hers.”

“I hate this pen, don’t you?”

“How do you like the ink?  I bought some Parker’s Superchrome Ink today – it’s special for these pens.  I’ve meant to buy some ever since you gave me the pen.  I really think it writes smoother with this ink.”

 “I just filled this pen and as usual got ink all over it.  Not having a blotter, Shirl told me to wipe it on the couch.  I refused, saying, ‘No, I’m going to be neat about this.’  With that, I grabbed the nearest paper bag and wiped the pen on that.  It’s fine, except that the pretzels fell out on the floor and Shirl had the last laugh.”

And, on receiving a pen as a gift from Art:

“Does the writing look any different to you?  (I’m confused on how to fill this pen.  I’m not even sure if it’s right this time – it takes me awhile to figure these things out.)  I should have waited until tomorrow, but gee, it got here today and how could I wait?  Oh, it writes so nice and easy – I don’t need to press at all – it just glides along.  Looks like I got it filled this time, hmmmm?  Or maybe I shouldn’t mention that so soon.  Do you realize this is the first time I’ve ever written you
with my own pen?  I’ve always used Shirl’s and that you have to dip into the ink all the time.  Thank you so much.”

© 2010 Lee Price

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Preservation Tips for Letters

Samantha Sheesley, Conservator at the Conservation
Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, with one of the
June and Art love letters.

We began working with the June and Art letters when my mother (June) asked my wife to organize her half of the correspondence.  This was in early 2004, less than a year before my mother died.  My wife put the letters into plastic sleeves and then into a binder.

After my father died in 2009, my sister and I discovered his half of the correspondence.  I took the letters back with me to New Jersey where I combined them with my mother’s letters, organized them chronologically, sleeved everything in plastic, and packed them into three binders.  In addition, I transcribed them into the computer (Microsoft Word) for digital preservation of the contents.

Last week, I asked Samantha Sheesley, Conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, if we had handled the letters appropriately so far.  Her response can be summed up as:  Pretty good, but with room for improvement.

Sam recommended –
Letters in need of flattening.

Flattening the pages before putting them in the sleeves.  They flatten paper professionally at the Center but even amateur flattening is better than none if the letters can be opened and flattened safely.  My wife and I had unfolded the letters but hadn't attempted to flatten them.  Sam said that carefully placing the letter between acid free papers on a smooth flat surface under a heavy weight (like a phone book) for a day or two would help.

One leaf per sleeve, add identifying
information to white edge with
a sharpie.
Restricting myself to one item per sleeve.  I had grouped all pages from each letter, plus the envelope, into a single sleeve.  Sam strongly recommended only one sheet per sleeve, including a sleeve just for the envelope.  That’s a lot of sleeves, I protested, but Sam insisted it’s for the best.  When I argued that I wanted to keep each letter together for organizational reasons, she said to write the identifying information along the white edge of each sleeve with a sharpie.

Using a three-ring binder/storage box.  My binders were standard school issue, with the paper edges exposed to light.  According to Sam, the best storage for these papers would combine a three-ring-binder photo album structure with a clamshell storage box that keeps out light and dust.  The archival supply company Gaylord offers several possibilities.  This is a nice one:  Preservation Box.

© 2010 Lee Price

Monday, October 25, 2010

Save the Choice Stuff

All this week, we’ll be covering the subject of preserving letters, with special attention to the love letters of June and Art.

I’m so thankful that my parents kept their letters.  The letters survived five moves during their lifetimes, and that probably means at least five instances when they had an opportunity to clean house (and toss them in the trash) or consciously choose to preserve them.  They chose wisely.

I’m not advocating being a pack rat.
I’m in a family with some pack rat tendencies and I see very little good in indiscriminate hoarding.  There’s a big difference between selective preservation and clinging to everything.  With my parents, many possessions came and went while the letters remained, tidily kept in boxes and probably rarely looked at or thought about.

Save the choice stuff.

A letter from the past can:
-- Provide invaluable genealogical information.
-- Clarify where people were at key moments.
-- Offer insight into past events.
-- Suggest reasons why life unfolded in the way that it did.
-- Create new ties and understandings through shared linkages in the past.

Looking through these old letters is a constant reminder that the things we do – and the choices we make – matter.

© 2010 Lee Price

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Accession

At the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, I spread the items out on the accession table.  Art on tissue paper from sixty years ago, pencil sketches, watercolors, a charcoal sketchpad, photos of all kinds, and one of the love letters -- 80 items that either had extra special meaning for my sister and me or that appeared particularly fragile.

Lee Price (the client), CCAHA Executive Director Ingrid Bogel,
and Director of Paper Conservation Mary Schobert
look at the photos and artwork.
Mary considers the condition of a piece of
tissue paper covered with sketches and writing.

Mary made a personal connection between
Art's Navy images of Shanghai and her own
father's service there.

In Mary's opinion, many of the items were in good shape --
more in need of good storage than costly conservation treatment.

The following items remained at the Center, accessioned for the conservators to prepare condition reports, treatment plans, and cost estimates –

For matting:
Mounted photograph of June’s father at Brown University

For digital restoration:
“Wives of Presidents” artwork on board, watercolor and ink
4 color photographs

For conservation treatment:
4 black and white photographs from Art’s time in the Navy, including a panoramic shot of minesweepers
 “Fabric textures” artwork on board by June
Pencil sketch of a dog by Art
Drawing of model in dress with a cellophane window frame
Sketch of a Navy fight scene by Art
4 life sketches, pencil on paper, by June
Folded tissue paper with pen and pencil art and notations
Large board with two models in dresses, watercolor by June

© 2010 Lee Price

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Selecting for the Accession

My sister Jamie and I selected approximately 80 items from the June and Art collection to bring to the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts to get a professional opinion on their condition.

At the Conservation Center, we call it an "accession" when a client brings material to the Center for a preliminary examination.  You schedule these sessions in advance via a phone call.  I scheduled a week in advance of my accession.

Accessions usually result in either 1) recommendations on how to care for the items or 2) leaving the items for the conservators to prepare a full condition report, treatment plan,
and cost estimate.  At the Conservation Center, the cost for a condition report/treatment plan for one item (or several items if they can be grouped) is $100.

The night before the accession, my sister and I combed through the June and Art material looking for items that were either of particular personal value to us or that appeared to be in unusually fragile condition.  The items we selected included art on tissue paper, pencil sketches, charcoal drawings, watercolors, photos of all kinds, and one of the love letters.

© 2010 Lee Price

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Working with Professionals

Much of the work involved in preserving a family collection can be done by the dedicated amateur.  But there are certain tasks – like conservation treatment – that should be left to trained professionals.  Plus, there are times when you may want some professional advice.  When you need a pro, here are some places to call:

Regional Conservation Centers:  I work for one so (naturally!) I’m listing them first.  There is a network of 11 nonprofit regional conservation centers in the United States that offer expertise in the fields of conservation and preservation.  Some of these centers offer services to individuals and some don’t.  It never hurts to call.  Here’s a
Contact and Locations list of the regional centers along with a few other organizations that offer preservation expertise, courtesy of the Regional Alliance for Preservation.  I work for the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (Philadelphia, PA), which serves the Mid-Atlantic region and specializes in paper and photograph conservation treatment.  We would take your call.

Private conservators:  Many conservators have established private practices that are usually focused on their particular specialty (so there are textile conservators, object conservators, painting conservators, etc.).  Most professional conservators are members of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC).  To find a private conservator, I’d recommend using AIC’s easy-to-use “Find A Conservator” tool. 

Digital Imaging Specialists:  This emerging field is still in the process of developing a set of professional standards.  Michelle Dauberman, the Manager of Digital Documentation at the Conservation Center, notes that you should look for someone with a background in digital photography and/or graphic design.  “Both photographers and designers utilize Adobe Photoshop heavily and can effectively apply their graphic art skills to restoration work,” she says.  “The most significant thing to look for when seeking digitization or restoration help would be a solid portfolio of work.  Ask to see samples of what they’ve worked on.”  If you like what you see, chances are that they’ll do a good job for you, too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Invasion of Privacy

Three ring binders full of June and Art love letters.

Regarding the June and Art love letters, a friend shared this on a message board:  “It still..... it seems like peeking. Too personal.”

The initial plunge into family items can feel like a major invasion of privacy.  You open drawers with trepidation.  You dread what you might find under the bed…  And you wonder, is this okay?  Would they approve?  Or would they want their records burned, buried, or locked away until all parties involved have been dead for decades?

History erodes privacy rights.  Kafka’s manuscripts end up published despite his expressed wishes that they be burned.  Anne Frank’s private diary goes public.  I understand the feeling that it’s “too personal,” but there’s an historian in me who insists on peeking.

With the June and Art correspondence, the options were:  1) to destroy the love letters, 2) to keep the love letters in a secure location, unopened and unread, 3) open and read them, then put them away, or 4) open and read them and then share them with the world by blogging them real-time (minus 61 years).  Without much hesitation, my sister and I chose option 4.

There was remarkably little ethical struggle in our case.  During her last year, my mother asked my wife to organize her letters, perfectly aware that we were reading them.  We know that my parents were proud of their artwork.  They both liked new technologies.  And they certainly appreciated the value of preserving family stories and photos.  We’re pretty sure they’d like the June and Art blog.

But I can’t claim that our case is the norm.  These particular letters happen to work well as a romantic narrative.  But one shudders to imagine a blog, 60 years hence, based on sexting messages of the early 21st century.  Eventually, it’s all history and the historians will peek.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Good Photo Album

I’ve decided to conclude photo album week at Preserving a Family Collection on a positive note.  Good photo albums are available.  They’re good for preservation and make attractive presentations of photos, too.

Several years ago, we moved some of my dad’s favorite photos to a new high-quality photo album.  We purchased a photo album with top-loading sheet protectors, photo corners, and horizontal archival storage box from Gaylord, a respected name in archival preservation. 

I brought this album along for Barbara Lemmen, Senior Photograph Conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, to look at during the same session where she looked at our old black-paper and magnetic photo albums.  She thought the top-loading system (where you secure the photos in place using the photo corners and then slide the entire page into the plastic) was appropriate for a case like this, where we had photos of many different and unusual sizes.  When the photos are all the same size, she suggests three-ring binders with pocket pages.

Photo albums have always been marketed as gift items for the holiday season.  While it’s a shame that in the past many albums have not lived up to their preservation claims, the good ones nowadays genuinely are high quality.  Just do your research in advance and purchase the album that works best for the types of photos in your collection.

An Open Invitation:  Please feel free to share in our Comments section about your experiences with preserving your family collections or to ask preservation questions about items in your care.

© 2010 Lee Price

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More on Photo Albums

Photo album week continues at Preserving a Family Collection!

I’m trying to keep the technical language to a minimum on this blog, but I thought it might be useful to follow up the past two entries on photo albums with some more in-depth information.

First, a comment on interleaving from Mary Schobert, Senior Paper and Photograph Conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts:

"Remember when you are proposing storage housing for photographs that the surface that touches the print surface should be a paper that is specifically made for this purpose, not 10- or 20 pt board, corrugated or ragboard.   The concern is abrasion, and many materials that have a fine chemical composition are not especially non-abrasive.  Two papers we have that are suited for this are Renaissance and Microchamber interleaving."

The National Archives really plunges into the nitty-gritty of photo album preservation here:

And here’s some in-depth background on that Photographic Activity Test I mentioned Monday, courtesy of the Image Permanence Institute:

The two sites referenced above – the United States National Archives and the Image Permanence Institute – are among the most reliable sources your could ask for in this field.

An Open Invitation:  Please feel free to share in our Comments section about your experiences with preserving your family collections or to ask preservation questions about items in your care.

© 2010 Lee Price

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Magnetic Photo Album

Photo album week continues at Preserving a Family Collection!  Today is the sad case of the so-called “magnetic” photo album.

Unfortunately, I’ve got a bunch of these albums, dating from the early 1960s to the late 1980s.  They may have looked nice once, but the formerly white album pages have deteriorated to a sickly yellow-brownish color.  You know it can’t be good for the photos!

Barbara Lemmen, Senior Photograph Conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, took a look at one of our family’s magnetic photo albums and patiently explained how the albums are slowly yet surely damaging our family photos.  You lay the photo on the adhesive-coated album page and it catches.  Bonds immediately start forming between the adhesive and the back of the photo, and increase over time to firmly hold the photo in place.  Then, over the years, the chemicals from the adhesive leach into the back of the photo, eventurally spreading through and staining or fading the photo image on the front.

Much as Barb likes to keep photo albums intact whenever possible, she recommends removing the photos in this case.  Unfortunately, removing photos from these albums can be very challenging.  If the bond is strong, the photos can easily tear or crease.  But if you can safely manage the process of getting them out, you should.

If there’s anything special about the album (notes written on it or an especially artistic arrangement), Barb suggests digitizing the album pages to preserve a record of them.  But once you’ve finished the digitizing, rescue the photos and toss the album.  It’s done enough damage.

An Open Invitation:  Please feel free to share in our Comments section about your experiences with preserving your family collections or to ask preservation questions about items in your care.

© 2010 Lee Price

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Photo Album from the 1930s

It's photo album week at Preserving a Family Collection!

In our family collection, we have a wide range of photo albums.  One of my favorites is a traditional black-paper photo album in a post-binding, filled with pictures of my mother as a baby and young girl.  I imagine my grandparents bought and assembled the album in the mid- to late 1930s.  Bringing the album into the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, I assumed it was in poor shape because I knew much paper from that time was highly acidic and I could even see the black paper crumbling along the edges.

But my concerns were exaggerated, according to Barbara Lemmen, Senior Photograph Conservator at the Conservation Center.  The album's actually in pretty good shape.  The post-binding is too loose, and that has allowed pages to shift -- and it's these misaligned pages that have the damaged edges.  By and large, the paper itself isn't overly brittle.

Barb says the photographs are also in fairly good shape, variable in quality mainly because of their original processing rather than their storage conditions.  The ones that are washed-out and yellow were doomed by poor processing from the very start.  The photo album itself hasn't caused much damage.  (I don't share with Barb that it was my grandfather who developed these pictures in his home darkroom.  He meant well...  and many of the pictures are indeed processed just fine, still maintaining crisp black-and-white images.)

One thing that Barb particularly warns against is the crumbling and abrasive black dust common to this type of paper.  She says that it can easily spread throughout a collection.

There are many options for preserving photos in albums of this kind.  Barb likes to preserve the original album whenever possible.  In this case, the pages could be properly aligned and the post-binding retied for a tighter fit.  She recommends interleaving each page of the album with non-abrasive paper (or mylar) that has passed the Photographic Activity Test.*  And she suggests storing the album in an archival horizontal storage box which will keep the photo album from shedding its black dust throughout the rest of the collection.

* Photographic Activity Test:  Look for storage material and albums that advertise they have passed the PAT.

An Open Invitation:  Please feel free to share in our Comments section about your experiences with preserving your family collections or to ask preservation questions about items in your care.

© 2010 Lee Price

Sunday, October 10, 2010


(Cross-posted on the June and Art blog…)  June’s sudden hospitalization in 1949 scared everyone.  While she had been to see her doctor previously about her appendicitis symptoms, the doctor had encouraged the family to believe that June’s aches and pains were nothing serious.  He was wrong.  When June entered the hospital, her life was in danger.

About two weeks previous to this, Art had a scare himself.  He hit a deer while driving home at night from June’s on Flanders Road, a 10-minute stretch through a wooded area between Riverhead and Hampton Bays.  The large deer dashed across the road right in front of him and he was unable to brake in time.  The car was nearly totaled, and that’s the reason that his Nash is in the garage for repairs during that first exchange of letters.

You replay things like this in your head.  You wonder:  What might have happened?  The question never goes away, reemerging unexpectedly in the dark of night many years later.  You think how things may have turned out very different.

The letters could have ended here.

* * * * *

I find myself surrounded by fragility.  When I pack the family collection into the car and drive 550 miles back to New Jersey, I keep thinking that all these records are so vulnerable in this one car – one blow-out of a tractor trailer on the road, one drunk driver skidding over the line, and a century’s worth of family records could be lost in minutes.

Paper can be resilient.  As organic material, its eventual deterioration is inevitable, unstoppable, but these papers, artwork, and photographs have the capability of surviving for many decades.  It’s a lost cause to think they’ll survive forever, but it remains a good cause to at least attempt to pass them down to the next generation.  As Jimmy Stewart said in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies), lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for.

Preservation of a family collection is a lost cause worth fighting for.

People are resilient, too.  Sometimes, by miracle or chance, they pull through.  But even if you leave the hospital or get out of the totaled car in good condition, the experience remains a reminder of our extreme vulnerability.  Our lives, relationships, stories, and our family collections are fragile, beautiful, and worth preserving.

© 2010 Lee Price

Friday, October 8, 2010

First Step Toward an Inventory

Know what you have.  Inventory is the foundation of all good preservation care.  If you don’t know what you have, you won’t know the best way to proceed.

The downside is that inventory can be overwhelming.  That’s why it’s been necessary for me to approach this work in stages, each step progressively more detailed, ultimately leading toward a written inventory of the collection.

My first step with my 20 boxes of family stuff was to invent an organization system to bring some form of order out of the chaos.  I could have divided the collection by media:  boxes for photos, boxes for paper, boxes for books, etc.  But that wouldn’t have best served my purpose (which, first and foremost, was to be ready to launch the June and Art blog by a deadline of September 25).

I chose to do the first sort of items by family and time period.  I organized items into the following categories:

·        Items for possible use in the June and Art blog, covering their courtship, 1949-1951 (distributed on 1 set of metal shelves and a table)
·        My dad’s side of the family – the Price family history (2 boxes)
·        My mom’s side of the family – the Anderson family history (3 boxes)
·        June and Art’s early married life, loose material (2 boxes)
·        June and Art’s early married life, photo albums including coverage of the childhood and youth of my sister and me (1 box for photo albums)
·        June and Art’s retirement years (1 box)
·        50th anniversary memorabilia (1 box)
·        My sister Jamie’s stuff (1 box)
·        My stuff (1 box)

It was a start.  Just sorting through the items, one piece at a time, took three weeks – and for those three weeks it was a full-time job on top of my regular full-time job.  Exhausting… but rewarding.

Special thanks to preservation specialist Jill Rawnsley who is helping guide me through this process!

An Open Invitation:  Please feel free to share in our Comments section about your experiences with preserving your family collections or to ask preservation questions about items in your care.

© 2010 Lee Price

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Basements, Attics, and Garages

We weren’t prepared for 20 boxes filled with thousands of items.  Probably nobody ever is.  Most houses aren’t particularly good at expanding to create space for storage.  And that’s why – when I arrived back home in New Jersey – the boxes went straight from the car to the basement.

Basements, attics, and garages are both natural places for storage and also, usually, the worst possible places for storage.  Our garage has no climate control and our attic has very little climate control.  Our basement has some climate control but water is a serious potential problem down there – it’s flooded twice in the past 12 years.  Putting collections in a basement like ours is simply a BAD IDEA.

The following should be considered when finding an area to store a family collection, especially one that is primarily paper and photos:

Temperature:  A consistent, moderately cool temperature is best.  Different items store better at different temperatures, so there’s no one-temp-fits-all spec.  Really hot or really cold are bad, as are temperature fluctuations.

Humidity:  There’s a reason the Dead Sea scrolls survived 2,000+ years in the desert.  Levels of humidity that are uncomfortable for you are even worse for paper.  Low humidity is best.

Light:  Exposure to natural light will fade the paper.  It's best to keep the items in a non-acidic folder or box.

Fully realizing that basement storage was a bad idea, I resolved to move ahead with the first round of inventory as quickly as possible.  Frankly, I had no other place available to store twenty boxes and so compromise was necessary.

An Open Invitation:  Please feel free to share in our Comments section about your experiences with preserving your family collections or to ask preservation questions about items in your care.

© 2010 Lee Price

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Gift of Preservation

Out of the thousands of family collection items that I stuffed into the car, one single picture had received professional care and treatment.

Back in 2007, my wife and I
Framed and matted watercolor
fashion illustration by June Anderson.
brought one of my mother’s large watercolor fashion illustrations to the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts to have it surface cleaned, matted, and framed.  Jessica Makin, Manager of Housing and Framing, helped us select the right mat and frame to bring out its colors.  She placed the matted work in a sealed package to protect it from humidity and used a filtering acrylic glazing that blocks 98% of the ultraviolet light that causes fading.

We hung the picture in the small dining area in the Florida house.  My father loved it.  Near the end of his life, he always wanted to be surrounded by the good memories.

This framed watercolor was among the thousands of items that I wedged into the car to bring back to my home in New Jersey.  It now hangs above my daughter’s bed.


An Open Invitation:  Please feel free to share in our Comments section about your experiences with preserving your family collections or to ask preservation questions about items in your care.

© 2010 Lee Price

Friday, October 1, 2010

What is Preservation?

So... I’ve got these 20 boxes filled with thousands of items that I’m calling my family collection.  Now it’s time to ensure their long-term preservation.  But what exactly does that mean?

Here are some of the things that I hope to address over the next 11 months:

Inventory:  Knowing what you’ve got.

Cataloging:  Knowing where to find the things that you’ve got.

Kim monitoring environment
Monitoring the environment.
Photo courtesy of the Conservation Center
for Art and Historic Artifacts.
Environment:  The importance of storing items in areas with appropriate temperature, humidity, and light levels.

Conservation Treatment:  Stabilizing historic items in an effort to slow down deterioration.

Rehousing:  Moving historic items into appropriate storage equipment or folders.

Digitization:  Reformatting for the digital age, with the possibility of nifty restoration.

There’s more (lots more!), but I think this covers the basic essentials of preservation for the family collection.  I hope to discuss most of these subjects here as I go about addressing the needs of my own collection.

An Open Invitation:  Please feel free to share in our Comments section about your experiences with preserving your family collections.  Let’s learn from each other!