From large manuscript maps to tiny scraps of note papers, there is a wide range of documents in the Chew Family Papers and a variety of conservation procedures for these papers.
One of the least invasive conservation methods for paper is dry cleaning or surface cleaning. Removing the dirt and dust off a document not only improves the appearance of the document, it keeps the hands of researchers clean. Eraser bits and vulcanized rubber sponges are the two products that are used to clean documents at HSP. Extreme care and patience is needed for this process due to the fragility of paper. Attention must be paid to any pencil markings or writing on documents so they are not removed.
The vulcanized rubber sponge is used to clean the linen backing of a manuscript map.
Paper documents are best stored flat. In the Chew collection, many items have been folded or rolled requiring humidification and flattening. Over time, fibers in paper can become stiff and brittle. Humidification helps the fibers in paper to relax. When a folded, crumpled, wrinkled, or rolled document is humidified, it can then be opened with ease and without damage to the paper.
The document is placed in a humidification chamber. The document is then unfolded or unrolled, placed between blotter papers and pellon, and put under weight.
A document is washed to de-acidify and clean the paper. Washing also reconditions the fibers making the paper pliable and malleable. Prior to washing a document, it is necessary to test to see if the ink is water soluble. The document is placed in a bath of deionized water. After twenty minutes, it is carefully removed and placed between blotters and pellons to dry.
Once papers have been cleaning, humidified and/or washed, they are ready for paper mending. HSP only uses wheat paste and Japanese papers for mending. Often the Japanese papers are dyed to match the color of the document using high quality acrylic paints. A thin coating of wheat paste is applied to a strip of Japanese paper. The glued-out strip is carefully placed on the tear, burnished into place and put under weight to dry flat.
Before and during mending. The excess Japanese paper will be trimmed.