Conservation Lab at the National Archives

Uploaded by usnationalarchives on 03.02.2011

One of the goals in conservation is to make sure that everything you add to a document
is reversible. If down the line a conservator thinks there’s a better way to repair this.
Hi, I’m Annie Wilker, I’m a paper conservator at the National Archives in College Park.
Here in the Conservation Lab I repair documents in preparation for exhibit. The illustrated
family records are probably some of my favorite documents. They were often made by professional
artists or by pastors living in the town. This is an illustrated family record from
Virginia that was created in the late 1700s. It records the marriage of John and Jane Tomlin
in 1784 and the birth of their five children. This illustrated family record is unusual.
The tear that goes through the entire booklet. At some point in its history someone came
along and decided to repair that tear using thread. So we loosened all of these threads
and realigned the top and bottom half of the page. And then reinforced the tear along here.
So this is a document that’s a mock-up. I’m gonna demonstrate how I fill this loss.
So I would start with a piece of Japanese paper like this. Conservators like this paper
a lot just because of the long fibers it has, you can see them here. So I’ll start out
by tracing the shape of the loss onto this sheet of mylar. I could use lots of different
tools for this, but I like this because of the point on it. So now I’ve cut out this
piece of Japanese paper to match the shape of the loss. And I’ll adhere this over the
mend with wheat-starch paste. The Archives has about a hundred family records like this.
A lot came following the Revolutionary War. Many women after the war became widowed and
the government offered pensions to widows who could prove their relationship. Jane Tomlin
turned over her family record to the United States government in order to receive an $80
a year pension. But unfortunately that record was not returned to her family. We’ve done
this fill here, but if this piece were for exhibit it would be more important that the
color matched better. I’m gonna tone a little bit of paper now just to demonstrate. I try
to mix up the color as close as I can to the original document, it’s just sort of trial
and error. When something goes on exhibit we prefer that nothing catches the eye except
the text and the original content and intention of the creator of the document, not the tears
and way it’s deteriorated over time. Yeah, my work requires a lot of patience but I really
enjoy my job.