The Archive Lady: Should I Repair a Book Binding?
Lauri in Colorado asks “My great grandmother attended the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. She had an original World’s Fair book that she gave to my Uncle David. I got to hold and view that fabulous book in September. My husband hunted high and low to find a copy for me. He found one on E-bay and purchased it for me for Christmas. What a fabulous surprise! The person who shipped it put it in a plastic bubble envelope and shipped it media rate. The binding has some issues and I realize that it is 114 years old. I’m sure mailing it that way didn’t help it any. My question is: Do I leave it alone, or do I have the binding repaired?
Lauri has asked a great question about a fabulous family artifact. The fact that her great-grandmother attended the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair is part of her ancestor’s life experience. As genealogists, we try to document our ancestor’s dates and places, but we should also be documenting their experiences as much as possible.
The 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair was also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and was an international exposition held in St. Louis, Missouri from April 30, 1904 to December 1, 1904. This event celebrated the centennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. More than 60 countries and 43 of the 45 American states maintained exhibit booths at the fair. Some of the more interesting exhibits on display for the very first time were the wireless telephone, an early fax machine, an infant incubator and an x-ray machine.
I am so glad that Lauri found a copy of this wonderful resource to include with her family memorabilia. The issues with the binding of this book are typical of old books that have been read over and over and enjoyed. Lauri has some options in dealing with the binding.
Doing less to a family heirloom is sometimes the best. Being careful to not do additional damage during the preservation process is the goal. Here are my suggestions for Lauri and her 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair book:
- Wrap the book in archival tissue paper.
- Place the wrapped book into an archival box. Be sure the book is not moving around in the box. If it is, crumple up archival tissue paper and place around the book to keep it stable.
- Store the book laying down and flat. Store in a cool, dark and dry place where the humidity is low and the temperatures do not fluctuate.
Another option for Lauri is to get the book binding repaired. I would suggest she contact a book conservator. When genealogists and home archivist need to find a conservator, the first place to look is no further than your state archives office. All 50 U.S. states have a state archives and most of them have a conservator on staff. Contacting the staff conservator at the state archives and consulting with them to see if they can be of help is always a great first step.
Another avenue to locate a conservator is the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (http://www.conservation-us.org/). This is an organization of conservators from around the world with a mission of records preservation. The directory at their website will help you find a conservator in your area that can be of help with your preservation needs. When employing a conservator, it will cost to have the item repaired and that is something that will need to be considered.
Our ancestors left more than documents and photographs; they also left us with their life experiences. Lauri’s great-grandmother’s experience at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair is priceless and one that will be treasured by Lauri and her descendants.
Archival Material Websites
Here is a listing of online archival materials stores. Archival tissue paper and boxes can be purchased at any of the following online archival stores. They all have online catalogs and paper catalogs that can be sent to your home. Also, be sure to sign up for email notifications because they periodically have sales and will send out email notifications.
- Gaylord Archival
- Hollinger Metal Edge
- University Products
- Archival Products
- Light Impressions
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Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation.
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