September 11th

Recently I have been working with a letter from Queen Victoria regarding previous correspondence with William Dudley dated January 6, 1855. To start, it needed to be  transferred from the plastic envelope into something else. Plastic can off-gas and be damaging to the item. The next thought was to put it in a Mylar envelope, but it was pointed out that Mylar can be very static, which can pull the friable ink off of a document, so Mylar was out of the question. Glassine was used instead for added protection – this is a semi-transparent archival paper that does not have the static problem Mylar has.

At this point, I put in a call to Sarah Norris at the Texas State Library and Archives. I told her what I was thinking about this letter, and asked for her feedback. Here are some issues we spoke about.

First, it was taped into the plastic sleeve. I tested the tape to see if the glue was water soluble. It was not. Because we do not have solvents to remove tape, I cut off what I could to allow it to be housed properly, and then left the rest for another day!


Next, there is the question of the ink. It is likely that the ink is an oak gall ink or a printer’s ink, but a test is needed to determine whether it is sensitive to water so that tissue mends can be made on it. To test the paper, a damp swab is used and held for a few seconds and then checked for transfer of ink on the swab. The test doesn’t end there if it comes off clean – the swab is held again on that spot for about 10 seconds and checked, then again for 20 and 30 seconds. If no ink transfers, then making a tissue mend on it would be safe.

The next concern would be toning the tissue used to make the mend. As you can see in the picture, both the front and the back of the letter has the black border. Queen Victoria was in mourning, and it was custom to have a black border around stationary. The border is on both the front and back.


Because the damp swab showed a little transfer of the ink boarder, I decided to only put very small mends in only the white area of the letter with the purpose of keeping it from separating further. A nice case was made to keep it flat. The case was made with a flap that folds out on one side, so that the letter can be slid out.

20150918_160441More on this later.

Also – I again want to encourage anyone who wants to chat about this or see it in person to come by Special Collections on Friday afternoons after 3!

August 14th, 2015

Recently I’ve been asked to speak at the Georgetown Heritage Society on a topic that is very dear to me – about first-year Southwestern University student in 1913, Ms. Reba McMinn. Here is a yearbook picture of her – isn’t she lovely?

Reba McMinn KappaDelta


Reba McMinn’s best friend, Becky, donated Reba’s letters written to her while Reba was a first-year student at Southwestern. The collection, donated to Special Collections in 1988, is unique in that it is very complete – Reba wrote to Becky nearly every week. The letters are timeless – she talks about the food, the boys and the teachers and classes. She even draws a diagram of how she decorated her dorm room.

Reba's Dorm Room

About 100 years later, in 2012, Special Collections started a Facebook page for Reba McMinn. Current first-year students were able to follow along with Reba’s first-year experience. You can still read bits of her first-year letters here on her Facebook page.

Today I am sifting through an exhibit SU Special Collections did about her and her time at SU. I’m laying out photos and text cards to see what I have and to see what might be appropriate to take with me to place in the lobby of the Heritage Society venue. Here is a bit of my layout:

McMinn Exhibit Layout


Here is a blurb about my presentation:

“Reba McMinn:  first-year Southwestern University student 100 years ago.
Using letters donated to Southwestern University’s Special Collections paired with photographs from the SU archives, this presentation will provide a window into the life of student Reba McMinn in the early 1900s. Details in these timeless letters written to her childhood best friend include what went on in town, on campus and in the mind of this charming female student, in a time when women were seeking the vote, driving automobiles and WWI was on the horizon. Presenter Anne M. Veerkamp worked in the Southwestern University Special Collections on the Reba McMinn project in 2012-13.”

This Georgetown Heritage Society event will take place at the Grace Heritage Center on Thursday, September 10th.

April 24th, 2015

Today I am working on a document that came to me in four pieces (well, really more than four, but they were the largest!) Here is what it looked like after I gave it a gentle bath. There were small shards of paper that needed to be matched back up and secured back together.


Here is what it looks like now that it has many tissue mends and pieces returned to their proper place! Still a few more mends to make but it’s getting close to being finished.


In the lower corner of this diploma, it has the words “Please Hang this up.” :) I guess they didn’t want the recipient to just shove it in a drawer – but maybe they would never guess that it would be receiving such care and being pieced back together after many years.


April 10th, 2015

So it’s been a while since I’ve blogged – Christmas came and went and life got crazy with a move and some much needed time off! During this time I also have been continuing my volunteering at the Texas State Archives and learning a lot to apply to my work at Southwestern. Today I am applying several things from that learning!

My work with the Geography volumes has been ongoing. This has involved a lot of repair of foldout maps I’ve spoken about in several previous posts. To flaten these maps, I had been spritzing the maps with distilled water. It worked very well and the maps were nice and flat BUT I noticed some tide lines. Tide lines occur when contaminants in the water (and possible residue of dirt or inks etc on the paper itself) are wicked along the fibers of the paper – leaving a wavy line where the water finally evaporates. This is especially likely to happen when putting water directly onto paper. At the State Archives, we have a fabric called GorTex – you may have heard of this when buying a nice raincoat at REI or other outdoor stores. GorTex is a fabric membrane that water in it’s liquid state cannot penetrate it, but vapor can easily move through it. At the State Archives, I use a small strip of GorTex and a damp piece of blotter placed over a small amount of glue I want to soften, and it will humidify that very small area without putting water directly on the paper. GorTex is very expensive – almost $200 a yard! Click here to see it at University Products.

Southwestern doesn’t have any GorTex yet, so I needed to figure out a way to NOT put water directly on these foldouts but make a small humidity chamber about the area I want to flatten. I placed a small Sterilite container over the area to flatten and then left a receptical of distilled water in with it. Since this is my first trial, I am not sure there is enough water inside to do the trick, but I’ll let you know how it works out.

December 5th

When I arrived at the lab at Southwestern, a book was waiting on the counter to have a new box made for it. It looked so interesting I had to check it out. Here is the title page and beginning:



In addition to looking a bit at the book above, I spent some time flipping through the first volume of the Universal Geography books I’ve been working on. I look for mends that need to be made and then mark them with acid free paper. This way I have many small mends to do when I make up a batch of wheat paste.

When I reached the back of the book, I came across the section of the book that shows the binder where to include the various maps and foldouts. I thought this was an interesting insight into how books were put together long ago.


I received word that I might be starting to volunteer in the spring at the Harry Ransom Center books lab, in addition to my volunteer work here at Southwestern. I am so excited about this! My hope is to learn more about conservation and apply it to Southwestern’s collections. And if I had questions, I most certainly would have someone very experienced to ask!

Hope everyone is having a happy winter season – and ready to hopefully enjoy some time off!


November 21st

Today I am working on the foldout from the geography book I mentioned in my previous post. As you can see in the following picture, the page I am mending is separated in half (the crack near the olives).


Here is a detail of the heading and the lovely rich color of the pigment on this foldout.


I had placed small tissue “dots” on the reverse side of the break to hold the two in place while I placed the larger tissue pieces. This is a good method – however, the pages seldom match back up perfectly. This can be due to the paper crumbling away at the edges of the break. Here is the reverse side of the page with the completed mend.


Last but not least, an interesting website I’ve found thanks to friends at HRC:

The Deliberatly Concealed Garments Project

November 14th

I’m back from my travels, visiting my sister, and from helping my dad with Texas Clay Festival. I had a good bit of fun!

Today I worked on the very thin foldout in a facsimile of “Original Narratives of Texas History and Adventure: Texas”. The foldout is in the first few pages of the book, and it is very difficult to unfurl the map without it tearing. I made a decision to extend the what looks to be the weakest part. The picture below shows this extension. I am not certain this mend will be the best solution, but luckily I can try it and see if it will help. This is made possible by adhering to the rule that everything a conservator (or in my case, a volunteer student of conservation!) does must do no damage and be reversible.

Onion skin map

I also am working on a foldout in the Geography books I have been working on for many months – a page torn in half this time. I have taken small bits of Japanese tissue and placed it along the mend first. This allows me to line things up exactly how I want them – and then I’ll go back and do a longer strip of tissue for the final mend.

Temporary tissue mends

That’s it for today!

August 29th

Today I am again working on the Laura Dewey Bridgman book. So far I have reattached the shards that had broken off, and now I am reattaching the other half of the page. I had to do the mend in two parts because the page was broken off very close to the margin, and as a result, it wouldn’t lay down flat enough to do the mend. I ended up putting small weights on one half, and mending the other. Here is a picture of the book as we wait for the wheat paste to dry.

There are many weights that could be used for any given project – here is a picture of a few:

The weights beginning from top left and continuing clockwise are:

  • Fabric covered flat weights – covered in non-treated muslin, and used to put light weight to keep the pages of small books, pamphlets, brochures etc.
  • Glass weights – used in the reading room to hold book pages open so the patron doesn’t use fingers or hand to put pressure on fragile paper. Can also be used to put under another weight, to distribute weight across a larger area, as seen in first picture.
  • String weights – a string of small, cylindrical weights in woven nylon. Used for even lighter pressure than the fabric covered weights. Can be used in small places and can assume different shapes as needed.
  • Lead weights – covered in felt and very heavy and are used mostly to weight mends or to put a significant amount of pressure on things being glued together or pressed. Lead is no longer used to make these weights – they are now made of brass or other flat, cast-iron weights are used.

I just took the weights off of the Bridgman page and here is a closeup of the results.

I’ve also begun a new mend – this one being a severely deteriorated edge of a tear with the rest of the page missing. This is how it looks from the back before I attempt to reinforce it with tissue.

I want to thank the student who came in to have a look at what I was doing – I forgot to ask a name! Remember that I’m there in the preservation lab almost every Friday afternoon, so anyone should feel free to pop in and say hi and see what I’m doing. I enjoy the company and love to talk about my projects!

August 8th

Today I am working on a book published in 1899 titled Life and Education of Laura Dewey Bridgman, The Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Girl by Mary Swift Lamson. Laura Bridgman’s story is similar to Helen Keller’s, although Laura predates her. Below are pictures of the title page and facing page with Laura’s picture.



If you want to know more about Laura Dewey Bridgman, come by SU’s Special Collections and browse through it – it really is facinating! Also, here is a collection at the Perkins School for the Blind Archive, which has many personal artifacts including letters she wrote, things she made etc. Click here to see a collection of photos of those artifacts.

The mend I’m doing is on a brittle page the was weakened by a foldout that was included in the binding of the book. Below you can see that due to the pressure of the folded paper, the previous page has crumbled.


One challenge of this mend is that when the page crumbled, many small pieces broke off and matching them back up is a task!


I’m working slowly on the tiny shards, and it’s coming along nicely.