Today’s post was written by Amanda Landis and Ken Roussey, Archives Technicians in Textual Accessioning at the National Archives at College Park.
In the fall of 2016, the Textual Accessioning Branch at National Archives, College Park transferred the Treasury Department Collection of Confederate Records (RG 365) and the Civil War Special Agencies of the Treasury Department (RG 366) to National Archives, Washington DC, reuniting them with related Civil War records in our collection.
The records, totaling 1800 assets, consisted of various ledgers, minute books, correspondence, inventories of seized property, and cancelled checks. While some of the records were contained in archival Hollinger boxes, the majority were leather-bound volumes from the mid-to-late 1800s.
The volumes varied in height and width and many of them, particularly the large ledgers, had elaborate covers and spines as well as multicolored marbling along the edges of the pages. Understandably, the antique volumes showed signs of deterioration: the leather had obvious red rot, and was leaving residue on the shelves and floors; spines and covers were breaking free of their bindings; and a handful of volumes had pages cut out of them, putting pressure on the spines and remaining pages.
Under the direction of Vicki Lee, A2 Senior Book Conservator, Archives Technicians Amanda Landis, Jesse Padron, and Kenneth Roussey, performed the necessary preservation efforts to over 200 bound volumes in order to prevent further damage to the records during the physical shipment to A1 and after.
All of the volumes had to be wrapped in polyester sheets; this not only prevented the red rot from sloughing off, but also stabilized the volumes by keeping the pieces together. With the polyester sheets covering the volumes, they would be much easier to handle and transport without additional damage occurring.
The sheets, provided by the Preservation Department, were measured and cut to completely envelop the volumes. After selecting the proper-sized sheet, we carefully wrapped the volume, gently creasing the stiff polyester along the edges and trimming the excess.
We then used a bone folder to emphasize the crease, allowing a snug fit around the binding.
Once the volume was wrapped, we secured the volume with cotton twill tape.
Volumes with weak or broken bindings were sandwiched with acid-free cardboard before being wrapped with polyester and tied.
The small number of volumes that were missing pages received extra treatment. Vicki provided us with acid-free cardboard wedges, which we placed inside the volumes, ensuring that they were flush with the binding and no longer causing slumping and folding of the remaining pages.
Once the wedges were inserted, we followed the same procedure of wrapping and tying the volume.
These preservation actions not only protected the delicate volumes from potential further damage in the move, but also ensured that they would be available for future researchers’ use. In November 2016, the records were effectively prepared and moved from A2 to A1 where they can continue to be requested by researchers.