Preservation at CHC

Recently, the staff here at the Commission performed some summer cleaning in our archives and library storage. After relocating a few boxes, our archives assistants assessed the physical states of some of the materials. Among the collections were a collection of Civil War memorabilia, photographs, an oversize atlas, documents, and an oversize volume of architectural plans.

Many of the items had already been stabilized and were properly housed. Others were in need of repairs or other types of preservation. Two items were in need of immediate preservation work: a volume of architectural plans and a photograph.

The architectural plans are bound in a volume measuring around 24 x 20 inches. This volume represents personal collection of plans of an engineer at the Cambridge Water Board, and the plans date ca. 1860s-1870s.

Our digitization assistant, Meta, dry-cleaned the area, and repaired the tear using Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste.



Before the tear is repaired


Wheat starch paste


Weighting the pasted tissue until dry


After the tissue has dried


Trimming the excess


The final product

The photograph, titled “Survivors of the First Company Raised in the United States for Suppression of the Rebellion” comes from the George H. Hastings Civil War Memorabilia Collection and was taken ca. 1880.

The photograph had been held to a mat frame with adhesive. Glues manufactured during this era were often made from animal products and rubber. These products are now known to congeal and harden over time.


Emily removing hardened adhesive from the back of a photograph

Our archives assistant, Emily, carefully removed the hardened glue from the verso of the photograph with a micro-spatula, thus protecting this photograph from any chemical or physical damage.

In the archives field, professionals and students are always working hard to provide access to our materials, both physically and digitally. Our work here at the Cambridge Historical Commission is no different.


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