OSWEGO, NY – Dozens gathered recently at the invitation-only unveiling of a historic map of Oswego restored after 160 years.
Sometime in the 1900s this map found its way into the director’s office at the Oswego Public Library where it hung until the library was renovated in 2005.
Through the Tru Vue Optium Conservation Grant from the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation, the money was supplied to have West Lake Conservators painstakingly clean, balance, fill, and restore this artifact.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent greetings and was “truly grateful to individuals like you who have dedicated your lives to improving the quality of life for the residents” of Oswego.
Representatives from the offices of Congressman Dan Maffei and State Senator Patty Ritchie attended and shared congratulations from Dan and Patty for our work and our new map now hanging to the right of the elevator on the Main Floor.
The Oxford Dictionary defines conservation as “preservation, repair, and prevention of deterioration of archaeological, historical, and cultural sites and artifacts.”
It has been a time-consuming labor of love for the Oswego Public Library this millennium with the complete reworking of our historic building and the stabilization and rebinding of our original patron ledgers.
While everyone can enjoy this great building, our castle on the hill, the 1851 Oswego map conservation will be the first restored artifact for all to use.
Many environmental and internal factors can degrade paper over time.
Insects and related pests used to be a major problem.
Poor climate where items are stored, from too little to too much moisture, and direct light on a piece can wreak havoc.
Air conditioning has done much to balance moisture throughout the year and storage and hanging of important works is never done where direct sunlight can reach them.
Careless handling and contact with chemicals including cleaners and detergents can break away important writing or entire pieces.
Limiting who has access to an item is the best way to preserve it, thus the prevalence of microfilmed and digital copies.
Paper made from trees contains acids – lignins – internally and many processes to make paper added additional acid to break down the matter before pressing it into sheets.
Modern processes are more environmentally friendly and alkaline, often enough to balance out the natural acid of lignins.
Modern books, with careful use and proper storage, can last a thousand years and we have many paper pieces from ancient times that are still readable today.
West Lake Conservators cleaned the map surface using soft brushes and eraser compounds, before washing it to remove the varnish that had darkened on the surface of the map.
During the washing, the pH was gradually raised to impart an alkaline buffer into the object, reducing future deterioration caused by inherent paper acidity.
The linen backing and excess adhesive were removed and the map was re-lined using a stable adhesive onto a strong, thick Japanese paper that will provide stability.
Areas of loss, particularly along the top edge, were filled with a similar colored paper to minimize visual distraction and reintroduce visual continuity to the object.
Minute areas of ink loss were inpainted.
The map was framed in a new frame according to preservation standards using UV filtering 3mm True Vue Optium Museum plexi glass, moisture impermeable backing board and appropriately weighted hanging hardware.
The archival framing will assist in the long-term preservation of the object.
A fascinating and much more demanding project is documented online at Americanhistory.si.edu/JeffersonBible/conservation/