Mold on Books and Paper

The snow storm in February 2021 caught central Texas by surprise and created a lot of hardship. Burst pipes were among the many challenges. I received a number of inquiries from people dealing with paper materials that got wet in their homes. I’d like to offer some basic information about what you can do with wet or moldy books and documents and when you should contact a professional to help.

Mold can grow on almost any material, but we will focus here on paper-based items: books, documents, and photographs. When paper materials become wet, from a weather-related incident or leaky pipes, mold growth begins fairly quickly, within 2 to 3 days. It’s important to address the wet items as soon as possible. Quick intervention to dry the materials will prevent serious damage. Note that mold growth is not limited to floods and leak events. Materials stored in even slightly damp environments, such as basements and garages, are in danger of mold growth. 

Handling paper materials after a flood or leak

If you find your papers damp or sitting in water, you first need to determine what kind of water it is. If it is “black water,” meaning toxic water, you should not handle the materials. A salvage professional should help with the cleanup, in this case. If you know the water to be safe and relatively clean, you can take the following steps to save your books and documents.

Sheets of wet paper spread out to dry. Photo by Sarah Norris

Sheets of wet paper spread out to dry. Photo by Sarah Norris.

Damp papers and photos: Gently separate stacked sheets while they are still wet, and lay them out to dry in a single layer. Remember that paper is easily torn when wet. Place them on butcher paper, towels, or paper towels. Exchange the towels frequently to aide in drying. Don’t lay towels on the image side of photographs, as it will likely stick. If the papers and photos do not separate from each other easily, don’t tug them apart, that will either tear the paper or damage the media. If the sheets are stuck together, take a deep breath, and let them dry. Once dry, they can likely be separated safely by a professional.

Photographs hung up to dry.

Another way to dry your photos is to hang them on a line with a wooden clothespin. Be sure the clothespin stays at the edge of the photo, not on the fragile image. Photo by Sarah Norris.

A book splayed open for drying, with paper towels inserted.

Damp books: For wet books, stand them up on their bottom edge, using supports if needed. Don’t use supports that will trap the water or prevent drying. Fan the pages open as best you can to allow the inside of the book to dry. Insert butcher paper or paper towels between numerous pages. Then change out the towels and shift the inserts to different openings as the book dries. Again, don’t tug apart stuck pages or they might tear.

Place a fan nearby your drying materials, but be careful that the fan isn’t tearing the papers or blowing them across the room.

If mold has already begun to grow, you will need the assistance of a paper conservator or mold remediation expert familiar with paper-based materials. Breathing mold can cause health problems, so do not handle moldy items or try to clean them without assistance. Do not use chemical agents to kill mold on paper. They are not designed for this use and the paper and media cannot tolerate them. A professional has methods for removing mold from paper without causing further damage and without breathing the mold.

Prevention!

Mold remediation can be difficult and time-consuming. Once paper has mold growth, it may never be entirely free of mold. Paper is a web of fibers, and mold grows both on the surface and into the fiber web. We can remove some of the mold, but tiny spores, trapped between fibers, may not be accessible. Paper-based materials that have been treated for mold should be stored in conditions where mold cannot grow. An item that had mold in the past should not be stored in potentially damp areas for any period of time, because the remaining spores can be quickly reactivated.

So, prevention is the priority when it comes to protecting books, documents, and photos from mold. In libraries and archives, we store collections according to strict standards: Temperatures are kept below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity is kept at 55% +/- 5%. These conditions are ideal, but may not be realistic in a Texas home. I usually tell people that paper items are comfortable in the same conditions that make you comfortable inside your house or apartment. Keep your important items in the climatized parts of your home. Don’t store them in a garage, attic, or basement, not even temporarily. Storage boxes of papers should be raised off the floor. The most common mold damage I have seen is when papers were stored in a cardboard box, directly on a garage floor. Even a small amount of water can seep into the bottom of the box and dampen the items inside. A bedroom closet shelf works well for storage.

Be aware that perimeter walls in a home can be damp. Items stored next to a perimeter wall can be vulnerable. When I was in college, I lived in a finished basement apartment in Massachusetts. My books were on open-backed shelves along the wall. Many of the books grew mold on their fore-edge and I didn’t even know it. I occasionally get calls from people in Galveston and other high-humidity cities, reporting mold on the back of framed artworks that were hanging on a wall. Dampness is not always obvious.

Know your valuable items

You can make a list of the valuable paper-based materials you are storing in your home. Once a year, pull these items out of storage and check the condition. Are they clean and dry? Is the storage location still the best option for these papers?

If you need to speak with a conservator about storage options or other conservation needs, the American Institute for Conservation provides a search tool to locate conservators in your area. https://www.culturalheritage.org/

Preservation information provided by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission is intended only as a general guideline for collections care. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is not responsible for any damage that might occur in the specific application of this information.

Preservation of the Battleship Texas Schematic Prints

by Heather Hamilton, Conservator for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

The Battleship Texas (USS Texas BB35) was built in 1911 by Newport News Shipbuilding and commissioned in 1914. The battleship was active in both world wars, finishing her duties in 1945 with transport runs to Pearl Harbor, to return service members home. In 1948, she was brought to Texas and placed out of commission at San Jacinto Battleground. USS Texas is now a state historic site and is undergoing restoration.

TSLAC holds more than 3,000 schematic prints of the Battleship Texas and its mechanical systems. The prints have various creation dates, including 1911, 1914, 1927, and 1931, indicating the schematics were made for the original ship designs as well as for several modernizations the ship underwent.

The Battleship Texas print collection consists of a number of photoreproduction processes in use for schematics at the time the battleship was built and modernized, including blueprints, diazo prints, and VanDyke prints. VanDykes are similar to blueprints, but the process creates a brown, rather than blue, image. VanDykes were most often produced as an interim printing step, allowing a negative image to be reversed to a positive, and they were often disposed of after the positive was created. However, TSLAC archivists have not found evidence of positives made from the Battleship Texas VanDyke negative prints.

Within the collection are 20 oversized prints. Each is around 2 ½ x 6 feet, but the largest is 10 feet long. Most of these large prints are VanDykes, though a few are blueprints. The chemistry used in the printing process leaves VanDykes vulnerable to deterioration and damage. The paper and fabric supports become brittle and they tear and crack easily. Contact with other schematics produced through different chemical processes, or contact with some housing materials, can discolor the brown prints. The very large size of these items exacerbates the challenges, so that it is extremely difficult to handle the prints safely.

The 20 large battleship prints were brought to the Summerlee Conservation Lab with extensive damages. They had been stored folded into boxes and were brittle and torn with many losses. Tears in the prints were repaired in the past with a commercially available pressure-sensitive tape (peel-and-stick tape). This is not the familiar “Scotch” tape, but an archival paper tape, which is more stable than Scotch tape, since it does not discolor or desiccate as Scotch tapes can.

Past mends made with mending tapes

Still, pressure-sesitive tapes are not preferred for the conservation of historic documents. They are too strong for brittle papers, which are prone to breaking along the edge of heavy mends. The commercial tapes are also too wide, in most cases, producing an unnecessarily large repair. Tapes are also difficult to reverse once they are stuck in place. Removing them is time-consuming and can cause more tears. Because of this risk, we did not to remove the many archival mending tapes, but opted, instead, to support the prints in Mylar sleeves, which will limit future damage.

An example of the older mending tapes (the wider tapes seen here) and the more narrow tissue mends

Many more tears had also occurred since the tape mends were applied. We repaired these more recent tears with a thin mending tissue. The tissue is thinner than the print paper and can flex without stressing it. Once the large prints were repaired, they were placed on a paper support and into Mylar sleeves. The sleeves make handling the prints much safer, since the fragile paper is supported overall. The long, narrow prints were then rolled onto tubes for storage in the TSLAC stacks.

Two prints rolled for storage

The next step for the oversized Battleship Texas blueprints and VanDykes will be imaging in the TSLAC imaging lab. Reformatting will allow for viewing the schematics without needing to access the original prints. But when the prints are needed, we can access them with much less risk of damage.

Handling Guidelines for Works on Paper

by Heather Hamilton, Conservator for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

TSLAC staff members handle so many different archival and library materials, from fragile handwritten documents, to historic leather bindings, to oversized contemporary maps. Staff attend trainings in order to practice safe handling of collections. Normally, we would gather together as a team to discuss the challenges and receive training in a workshop format. During COVID-19, we are practicing social distancing at TSLAC, so for our 2021 trainings, we have prepared videos that staff can view at their convenience. The silver lining is that we can share these training materials with the public.

We will post a series of videos demonstrating the ways that collection materials can be handled to minimize risk of damage. I feel sure that you will find some useful information here that can help you care for your own family documents, artworks, and other fragile papers and books you may be caring for.

In this first series of videos, I’ll demonstrate handling oversized papers. Here, you’ll see me moving large materials by myself. With the right tools and some preparation, you can handle large items alone… up to a limit. Papers bigger than the ones you see here require help from a second person.

Handling Oversized Works on Paper: 4 Training Videos

Video 1: Flipping a large sheet without supports.

Remove any hanging jewelry or lanyards. Secure bulky clothes that could catch on the paper. Be sure you have a clear, clean space to turn the sheet. Lift the paper gently at the edge closest to you. Use both hands, placing your fingers on top of the sheet and thumbs underneath for a broad, secure hold. Lift the sheet until it just comes off the table and lean forward to lay it on its face. This should be done in one smooth motion. This is for stable papers. Fragile items require other methods.

Video 2: Lifting and moving an oversized sheet

This method requires that the sheet is strong and able to drape in a curved shape. It is not appropriate for fragile items. Arrange the area receiving the sheet. Be sure it is clean and clear of other items. Place all fingers under two opposite corners, with thumbs on top, for a broad, secure hold. Lift the sheet carefully, allowing the middle to drape gently down. Lift the sheet high enough not to drag on the table. Carry it to the receiving area and lay it down slowly. If the sheet will not drape, but buckles in any way when you lift it, lay the sheet back down, because this method will not be correct for this item.

Video 3: Moving unwieldy materials

The item here is a very large fragile print wrapped in plastic. Don’t be tempted to move fragile items from place to place without a support, even when you are pressed for time. Place the item carefully on a support board, one that doesn’t flex. Corrugated boards work well. In a library or archives setting, have boards like this available and easy to find. You can label them as “Support Boards for Moving Large Items” to make sure they do not wander off or get used for something else.

Video 4: Turning an artifact using two rigid boards

This method uses two rigid support boards to turn a sheet over. Again, corrugated boards are good for this, because they do not flex very much. The boards should be somewhat larger than the sheet to be turned. Place the sheet on a clean board. Gently lay the second board on the top by aligning the long edge and guiding the board down. This should be done slowly to prevent creating a draft that could make the artifact move. I’ve seen this happen and it is scary. If you need to align the top board, lift it a small amount to shift it, rather than scooting it across the artifact. Use binder’s clips to secure one long edge of the boards. These clips must not cinch the artifact itself but be a few inches away. Arrange the area that will receive the item. Place one hand under the center of the bottom board. Place the other hand on the top board, directly above your bottom hand. Turn the whole unit over in one smooth motion. Unclip the boards. Lift the top board slowly, being sure to check that the artifact is not lifting as you do so.

Future videos will show how you can handle fragile leather bindings and turn acidic pages.

Health and Collections Care During COVID-19

Health and Collections Care During COVID19

My name is Heather Hamilton, and I am the new conservator for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. I am so pleased to have joined the staff at TSLAC. My position began on May 1st, right in the middle of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, so many of my coworkers on the Archives and Information Services team are working from home, and I am getting to know them through online meetings. Working in the Summerlee Conservation Lab does not require me to have close contact with other staff, so I am able to work at the Lorenzo de Zavala building most days. TSLAC continues to be open to researchers, so a small number of staff are here to provide those services. Those of us working in the building wear face coverings and practice social distancing. Needless to say, my first weeks on the job have been memorable.

One of my first assignments at TSLAC was to research handling recommendations for library and archives materials during the pandemic and to write a set of guidelines for our staff. My research led me to a wealth of information compiled by organizations whose goal it is to help libraries and museums fulfill their missions. The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology (NCPTT), and the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) are just three that have gathered information and interviewed scientists about how best to handle heritage collections and to share them with patrons safely.

The most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that the primary source of coronavirus spread is through person-to-person contact. We are taking precautions at TSLAC to minimize the risk of this type of transmission. In an abundance of caution, we are also using an isolation period for collections that could have been contaminated. I’m sharing our guidelines with you here. Because the situation is fluid, we will update our practices as needed and keep up with the best information we can find.

Handling Collection Materials During the Coronavirus Outbreak
By Heather Hamilton, Conservator, ARIS, TSLAC / May 7, 2020

 As employees, we are all concerned about the ways we might be exposed to coronavirus in the workplace. Centers for Disease Control guidelines for understanding the spread of the virus focus on two methods of transmission:

  • respiratory transmission through water droplets expelled when coughing or talking
  • touching high-contact surfaces that have been contaminated, then touching the face

Most of us are now aware of the CDC recommendations to prevent transmission:

  • Wear a face covering in public spaces.
  • Keep a minimum distance of six feet from others.
  • Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cough into your bent elbow or into a tissue. Dispose of the tissue in a trash can and then wash your hands.
  • Disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as shared office equipment, with a 70% alcohol solution.

Working at TSLAC, we have added concerns about handling collection materials that may have been contaminated. How long can coronavirus survive on collections? The following periods of virus viability have been published.

New England Journal of Medicine 3/17/20: Plastics: 72 hours; Stainless steel: 48 hours; Paper: 24 hours

Journal of Hospital Infection 2/6/20: Plastics: 6 to 9 days; Metals: 5 days; Paper: 4 to 5 days

Because research on the virus is ongoing, we aren’t surprised to read differing results from studies. However, collecting institutions like ours need to apply the findings to our day-to-day operations. On March 30, 2020, the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) hosted a webinar to help libraries, archives, and museums interpret the science and apply it to the re-opening of their facilities.

https://www.imls.gov/webinars/mitigating-covid-19-when-managing-paper-based-circulating-and-other-types-collections

Dr. David Berendes, epidemiologist with the CDC, answered questions from IMLS staff. He explained that, under lab conditions, the virus can live up to 24 hours on paper. However, paper’s porous surface tends to trap the virus so that it cannot easily infect a person who handles it. Dr. Berendes stated that a 24-hour quarantine for paper-based materials would be a cautious approach when dealing with paper items that could have been contaminated.

Of course, not all the materials we handle have a porous paper surface. We need to be aware of non-paper materials in our collections. This would include items such as:

  • Mylar sleeves and covers
  • Coated paper dust jackets and storage boxes
  • Plastic storage cases
  • Non-cardboard shipping containers
  • Digital media and electronic devices

The virus can survive longer on these materials. A box of mixed library materials containing books, papers, and plastics should, therefore, have a longer quarantine than a box of papers alone. The Northeast Document Conservation Center is a resource for collecting institutions, offering training and guidelines for preserving cultural heritage materials. Their guidance is to use a 24-hour quarantine for paper-based materials that may have been contaminated and a 7-day quarantine for mixed materials that include plastics.

https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/3.-emergency-management/3.5-disinfecting-books

As of now, a 24-hour quarantine for paper and 7-day quarantine for plastics seems cautious, and that is the standard TSLAC will use unless recommendations change.

So, what does this mean for day-to-day handling of collections at TSLAC?

Paper-based materials are not very effective carriers of the virus, so we don’t need to be fearful of handling our books and paper. However, we do need to stop and think about materials that come to us in the course of our work. When faced with a collection that has not been in our care over the past days, we can ask ourselves the following questions. This will guide us in following the recommendations that are available.

  • Where was this material over the past week?
  • Are these materials paper-based and porous? Are there non-porous materials included?
  • Do I need to handle these items today or can I set them aside for a period?
  • The safest course of action would be to isolate the materials. After items have been quarantined, we are safe to handle them.

Additional topics for handling collections:

Gloves: The wearing of gloves is helpful during this time, but we need to use them cautiously. While wearing gloves will keep the virus off our hands, we should be sure not to touch the gloves to our faces. Keep in mind the guidelines for glove-wearing that we practiced before the outbreak. Gloves reduce our tactile sense, so we should not use them to turn pages in a book or to leaf through individual paper sheets. This detail work is better done with clean hands after a quarantine has been completed. As always, certain photographic materials and digital media require gloves to protect sensitive surfaces from grease on our hands.

Disinfecting: The coronavirus can be killed with standard household disinfectants like alcohol and diluted bleach solutions. However, most collection materials cannot tolerate disinfectants, so a quarantine period is a better option.

References:

Institute of Museum and Library Services. (2020, March 30) Mitigating COVID-19 When Managing Paper-Based, Circulating, and Other Types of Collections. https://www.imls.gov/webinars/mitigating-covid-19-when-managing-paper-based-circulating-and-other-types-collections [Webinar]

Kampf, D. Todt, S. Pfaender, and E. Steinmann. “Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents,” Journal of Hospital Infection 104 (2020) 246-251. https://www.journalofhospitalinfection.com/article/S0195-6701(20)30046-3/fulltext March 20, 2020.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. (2020, March 25) Covid-19 Basics: Disinfecting Cultural Resources. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkkDGUSPe54 [Recording of Facebook Live event]

 

Northeast Document Conservation Center. (2020, March 26) Disinfecting Books and Other Collections.

https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/3.-emergency-management/3.5-disinfecting-books

Sewing a Book

When visitors at TSLAC’s Summerlee Conservation Lab learn about conservation treatment, they often ask questions about sewing books.  Does sewing really hold a book together?  (Yes!)  Do you actually sew books by hand?  (Yes!)  The following is a quick introduction to sewing a book in a conservation treatment.

In many of the 19th- and 20th-century books at TSLAC, sewing is the primary way the pages are bound.  When the book was originally made, large paper sheets were folded and trimmed into pages.  The pages usually nest together in bundles, which bookbinders call sections.  The bookbinder used a needle and thread to sew through the folds in the sections, securing all the pages together in the right order.  After sewing, linings of paper, textile, or leather were adhered over the sewing to further strengthen the book’s spine.

Sewing is fundamental to a book, so today’s conservators leave it in place whenever possible.  But sometimes, a book is so damaged that it must be re-sewn.  When this happens, the first step is to remove the original sewing to separate the leaves.

Removing sewing thread from a book.
Removing sewing thread from a book.

It’s likely that some of the paper folds are damaged, so the conservator mends them with thin, flexible Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste.

Japanese tissue was adhered outside every fold to prepare this book for sewing.
Japanese tissue was adhered outside every fold to prepare this book for sewing.

Then, the conservator follows the original sewing pattern to re-sew the volume.  In the 19th century, binders began taking shortcuts to reduce time and materials in their work.  Today’s conservator will follow those original shortcuts, often sewing two or three sections at a time. 

Sewing a book.
Sewing a book.

Conservators use thread and other components that have a similar weight and thickness as the original sewing.  This helps the repaired volume to flex and move as intended.  It also helps the repaired volume to fit back into its original cover.

After lining, spine shaping, and covering, this book is ready to read.

After treatment.
After treatment.

P.S. – It’s been a wonderful 10 years writing this blog.  As I transition to a new position at the University of Texas School of Information, I look forward to reading new posts here in the future.  Stay tuned!

#AskAConservator Day: 11/4

November 4th is #AskAConservator day! TSLAC Conservator Sarah Norris will be available to answer your conservation and collections care questions.  Tweet us @TSLAC to learn more about conservation and how to care for your family history.

November 4 commemorates the catastrophic 1966 flood in Florence, Italy that damaged priceless cultural heritage.  The international response to this disaster marked the beginning of the modern era in conservation practice.

Have questions about preserving family photos?  Worried about newspaper clippings?  Curious about how we save books and documents here at TSLAC?  Tweet us @TSLAC #AskAConservator on 11/4 for answers!

Our Summer Intern at Work!

As summer closes, we say farewell to conservation intern Fenna Engelke.  Fenna has returned to the University of Amsterdam to continue her conservation studies.  She worked on some great projects at TSLAC.

Fenna at work in the lab.
Fenna at work in the lab.

Serial Set 461 offered a challenge in oversize paper treatment.  The fold-out map inside the volume had been previously re-folded incorrectly.  This was causing the book to bulge out of square, placing unnecessary stress on the sewing and joints.  The treatment goal was to mend the map and return the book to square. 

Before treatment, the book shows a large gap where the map was inserted.
Before treatment, the book shows a large gap where the map was inserted.

We had initially hoped we might separate the map and store it flat.  However, we soon learned that the map was too large for even our largest oversize drawers.  This meant the best plan was to re-fold the map and continue to store it in the book.  Fenna completed robust mends to withstand folded storage.  She showed flexibility in her treatment approach given changing parameters and real-world project constraints.

Reattaching the map in the book with the portable light table.
Reattaching the map in the book with the portable light table.

Fenna also worked on Civil War-era family correspondence from TSLAC’s Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, TX.  The letters were severely mold- and water-damaged.  They required spot mends for stabilization and rehousing in Mylar sleeves to improve handling. 

During treatment, mold-damaged leaves are carefully separated.
During treatment, mold-damaged leaves are carefully separated.

Fenna worked very carefully with the soft, damaged paper, separating leaves that had long been stuck together.  While no treatment can undo the damage left by the mold, these leaves are now stabilized and accessible to researchers for the first time in many years.

We thank Fenna for her great work over the summer and wish her the best in the new school year!

Welcome to Conservation Intern, Fenna Engelke

In July, TSLAC is excited to welcome our first summer conservation intern, Fenna Engelke.  Fenna is pursuing her master’s degree in conservation at the University of Amsterdam, and she brings to TSLAC her previous experience at the Harry Ransom Center and the Bullock Texas State History Museum.  Fenna has jumped right into our conservation workflow, mending torn leaves in an 1874 Texas Adjutant General’s report; and repairing an oversize map from an 1844 Congressional Serial Set volume.  Fenna will also be conducting a preservation survey on scrapbooks to help us better understand the condition of this challenging part of our collection.  Welcome, Fenna!

Fenna spot-tests media for water solubility on TSLAC’s Frontier Battalion muster rolls.
Fenna spot-tests media for water solubility on TSLAC’s Frontier Battalion muster rolls.

Delaminating a Sam Houston Letter

TSLAC recently received a donation of an original letter Gov. Sam Houston sent in 1860 to state senator and Texas Ranger Henry Clay Davis.  The letter was laminated and hinged to a scrapbook album page.  Lamination poses a number of challenges: it can cause splitting and tearing; it can increase acidity in paper; and, in this case, it blocked access to original materials.  Our goal was to remove the lamination so we could stabilize the paper and ink.

Before treatment: the laminated letter was hinged to a scrapbook page.
Before treatment: the laminated letter was hinged to a scrapbook page.

First, the laminated packet was removed from the album page and examined.  The waxy feel of the lamination indicated polyethylene plastic.  Though lamination typically presses paper flat, this paper was rippled, and adhered to the plastic only in spots.  Accordingly, small amounts of ethyl acetate were used to release the lamination from the front of the letter.  It then became clear that multiple leaves had been adhered together inside the laminated packet.  The adhesive was water-soluble, so the leaves were released in a water bath.  Three leaves with matching folds (one manuscript leaf and two blanks) were retained as original material.

During treatment: lamination has been removed from the upper right corner.
During treatment: lamination has been removed from the upper right corner.

After washing, the letter was treated with calcium phytate to stabilize deteriorating iron gall ink.  All three original leaves were then deacidified and re-sized with gelatin.  The letter was mended with heat-set tissue to minimize the ink’s exposure to water after treatment.

After treatment: the lamination is removed, and the paper and ink are stabilized.
After treatment: the lamination is removed, and the paper and ink are stabilized.

This letter is now de-laminated and stabilized much closer to its original form.  TSLAC is pleased to add this document to our collections and to prolong its lifetime for public access.  Additional background on this letter and on Henry Clay Davis can be found in the Handbook of Texas online.

Conservation of Confederate Muster Rolls

In February, TSLAC Conservation observed a significant milestone: the completion of our long-running treatment project on our oversize Confederate Muster Rolls.

TSLAC’s Confederate Muster Roll collection documents vital information about Texans who enlisted to serve in the Civil War.  These documents hold great research interest for historians and genealogists.  They state the soldiers’ name, age, rank, and place of origin; sometimes they list items the soldiers brought into service, like guns and horses; and sometimes they include payroll information. 

At some time in the early-to-mid 20th century, these documents underwent a popular treatment called “silking.”  A thin piece of silk was adhered to both sides of each sheet to hold brittle, fragile pieces together.  Unfortunately, we now know that silk is acidic, and acid causes paper to turn even more brittle and brown than it might have originally.

Starting in 2010, we have taken approximately 15 muster roll sheets per month into the lab to remove the silking and deacidify the paper.  We also stabilize iron gall ink with a calcium phytate treatment.  Tears are mended and the sheets are sleeved for storage and handling.  This treatment prepares the documents for scanning and enables in-person access in the reading room, which was previously restricted due to the documents’ fragile condition.

As we move on to work on other materials, we commemorate the close of this major project!

A de-silked muster roll awaits mending.
A de-silked muster roll awaits mending.