For the sake of time, (I’m busy lately!) – I am going to start sharing some of my Instagram posts in lieu of a full blog post. I hope to return to some and add more detail as needed!

Queen Victoria Letter

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!

Reba McMinn

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.


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.


Humidity for Geography volumes

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.

Damnation, Excommunication, and Deposition of Queen Elizabeth

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!