Our graduate intern, Emilie Duncan, has taken on the task of wrangling a "map stash" in our Special Collections Library. The stash had accumulated over the years, and consisted of many, many maps and broadsides that were too fragile or damaged to be sent to the flat file drawers with the rest of the collection.
Thanks to all sorts of progress with technology we have GPS in our phones or car and these devices can talk us through the miles to our destination. But way back when, people relied on printed maps to get them from point A to point B. Travel maps had to be comprehensive enough so that travelers had the information they needed, but also small and light enough to be convenient to carry. Travel maps might come with a pamphlet (like this one) explaining features along the way or be just a single sheet of paper. In either case, the folding and re-folding of a map can take a significant toll, causing tears and necessitating conservation intervention before a map can be sent back to its home in the stacks.
This map and pamphlet, Lloyd's Official Map of the State of Virginia was published in 1872, although the map itself was first published in 1861. We have two other copies of this map without the pamphlet, so in consultation with the curator of Virginiana, we decided to keep the map with the pamphlet and work on getting the map back into a condition where it could be easily folded.
A standard approach is to begin with overall humidification and flattening of a document so that the tears can be mended flat. The overall treatment did result in a lot of progress for this map, but there were still some stubborn creases that required additional humidification and flattening.
For local treatment, we use pieces of Gortex, layered with damp blotter to provide just enough humidification to soften paper in the area around the crease and then drying under weights so that everything dries flat.
Best practice is to start in the middle where the creases are often most stubborn and then work out toward the edges. Once the piece is flat, you can re-assess the tears and start lining up the roads, rivers and mountains that are out of kilter.
It can be tremendously satisfying to see something that was torn and wrinkled become smooth and legible. That said, we are now facing the task of re-folding the map to make it fit the format of the pamphlet that it was published with. It may seem counter-intuitive, but we do want the next reader who uses the
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