November 13, 2009

Please join us at Fondly, Pennsylvania

While our work on the Chew project has been completed for some time now, we at HSP continue to work hard on many other archives and conservation projects to make our collections accessible and available to the public.

You can read more about our work on collections like the Friends of the Benjamin Franklin House, the Allen Family Papers, A.A. Humphreys, George Meade, and many others at our new blog Fondly, Pennsylvania: Notes from Archives and Conservation. Please join us!

September 25, 2009

A Chew Celebration

Please Join Us for "A Chew Celebration" at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107.

6 p.m. Wednesday, October 14

Join HSP as we celebrate the completion of the Chew Family Papers project, a two-year project to process and preserve one of the society’s most significant collections. The papers span 300 years and provide a rare insight into this elite Philadelphia family as well as into the lives of workers, slaves, servants, and women from early America. This project was made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and individual donations. Project Archivist Cathleen Miller will discuss the highlights of the collection and original documents will be on display. Refreshments will be served. FREE

To register for this event, please visit the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's website

July 31, 2009

The Long-Awaited Finding Aid

Today is the last day of the Chew processing project, and I am proud to announce that the finding aid is now live and available on the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's website for your reading pleasure.

Finding Aids: (Scroll down to "C"), and there you will find the xml and pdf versions. The xml file does not include the inventories, but it is all there in the pdf files. Total page count: 650.

July 30, 2009

Pennsylvania Lands: A guest post by project intern Dean Williams

Likely obvious to anyone who has read previous entries to this blog, the Chew Family Papers contain a great deal of information about the family’s land holdings. Primarily through the speculative efforts of Benjamin Chew and his son Benjamin Jr., the Chews owned thousands of acres of land throughout Pennsylvania, as well as substantial tracts in Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey. Their land acquisition, spread out over the course of nearly a century, created a huge volume of paperwork. Many months of this project were spent sorting through and organizing the land papers. Within the collection, five series, containing approximately 30 linear feet of maps, surveys, and manuscript material, are devoted exclusively to land matters. As we come to the conclusion of this project, it seems appropriate to “speculate” on the various ways in which papers from these land series might be used.

The first use that comes to mind, and probably the one that is most self-evident, is how the Chew family itself affected, and was affected by, their extensive land holdings. In this regard, perhaps the most striking impressions one obtains from the land series documents is a sense of the family’s increasing financial difficulties over time. The question might be asked; “Did the ownership of such a large landed estate serve them well, or was it in some sense a hindrance?” While their properties made up a sizeable portion of the family estate, as their financial fortunes dwindled, one can note the increasing urgency in correspondence about the need to find buyers willing to pay the asking price. The family’s pecuniary needs, combined with the ever-increasing cost of maintaining their lands, in the form of taxes and other administrative costs, contributed to a financial squeeze. By the mid-nineteenth century, family members in charge of administering the land were emphatic with their agents about the need to sell the land. Turning to the question of what effect the Chew’s ownership had on the land itself, one might look to the papers for evidence on land settlement and development. A study of this type could also be extended to examine how late eighteenth-century land speculation played out over time, at least for one family. In this scenario, documents within the collection could be mined to help make a case for whether the family’s extended tenure over such large tracts of land had positive or negative repercussions.

Additionally, the land papers also provide numerous insights into family dynamics, such as the discrepancy between Benjamin III and his siblings over the settling of their father’s estate or the relationship between Henry B. Chew and his son Benjamin. Thus, the land papers might be used to supplement other information in the collection concerning inter-family relations. For example, papers from the land series help to complete the picture of how Benjamin III was replaced as chief executor by his brothers, Henry B. and William White, in addition to James M. Mason. In the case of the relationship between Henry B. Chew and his son Benjamin, personal correspondence between father and son provide the image of a demanding taskmaster, never quite satisfied with Benjamin’s efforts or behavior.

One further use of the land papers as they relate directly to the Chews is the examination of their land speculation. Like most speculative ventures, Benjamin Chew and his son invested a great deal of money into purchasing property with the hopes of making still larger sums. Considering the context of the times, when a large part of the Pennsylvania lands were purchased in the 1790s, and the financial collapse that so many other land speculators of the times suffered, the land papers might be used to unearth how one family was not swallowed by the economic forces that bankrupted some and sent many others to jail.

Expanding the focus beyond simply the immediate family, the land papers also provide a great deal of insight into people the Chews had contact with. With this in mind, the manuscripts might be searched for evidence documenting how the family dealt with those they did business with. For instance, one might examine the relationships between a well-to-do land owning dynasty and the many agents who administered their lands over time. The documents also provide a fair amount of information about numerous major and minor players involved in land speculation over the course of nearly a century. Related to this, the plethora of surveys and lists of land owners and renters lend themselves to a study of the patterns of land ownership and land conveyance.

Brainstorming on a still broader scale, and going beyond the Chews, one could envision using the land papers from this collection to act as a case study for various elements of land owning--with subjects ranging from wider inquiries into land speculation, to generalized patterns of settlement and land use. Potentially fruitful topics of study that would benefit from an examination of these papers include the subjects of land use over time, spurs and detriments to backland migration during the nineteenth century, and localized settlement of particular counties. This last usage of the papers extends, in particular, to the settling of many counties in Western Pennsylvania that were formerly dubbed “Depreciation” or “Donation” lands. For those interested in how the land itself was changed over time, the papers include numerous references to clear-cutting tree growth, agricultural development, and mineral discoveries occurring on, or near, the Chew property holdings. Because there is also a great deal of documentation concerning the difficulty of resolving and obtaining clear land title, these circumstances suggest an evaluation of land transference procedures. As a further possible use, the extensive account records available with the collection could be used for quantitative studies of land prices and rents over time.

These are just a few of the myriad of possible uses of the land papers within the Chew Family Papers.

July 14, 2009

Coming to a Close

We have been hard at work here in the 4th floor processing room, tidying up our finding aid, working on EAD tagging, labeling boxes, and just generally tying up loose ends. There are just 13 work days left in the project, and we are simply thrilled that we have managed to make this formidable collection much more accessible to researchers.

one of the many surveys in the collection

Here is a sneak-peak at some of the subjects that this collection touches upon: agriculture, architecture, child-rearing, family relationships, city planning, colonial life and culture, the Revolutionary and Civil wars, slavery, economic development, industrialization, shipping, relations with the Delaware Indians, politics, international relations, diplomacy, legal history, real estate, health, early medical care, women's history, cartography, land speculation, class, and the history of Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware.

These topics are only the beginning. The Chews were involved in nearly every major happening in Philadelphia, and kept the records of their activities for nearly 300 years. The finding aid should be available online in August.

I hope to complete some subject-specific posts in the next few weeks to help guide researchers in their search through our very-lengthy finding aid. Stay tuned.

June 17, 2009

The Concept of Property

Since the completion of processing last week, I have had the chance to go back through previously processed series to tweak the finding aid description. This has also included the exciting task of numbering each folder, now that we are sure there are no more documents lurking around to be added.

I started looking at Series 3, Samuel Chew (1737-1809), beginning with his account records. Throughout those files, I found many receipts that mentioned slaves from his plantations in Maryland. He owned five plantations, from all the accounts I have seen: Frisby's Meadows, the Great Plantation, Rich Neck, Swan Point, and Veazey Farm. All of them seem to have been located in Cecil County, Maryland, and there appear to have been 100+ slaves who lived on these farms. In the account records, there are bills from doctors who attended to "the people," as they are often called in the papers. There are many mentions of midwives, and lists of various medical treatments provided (usually the Latin names for herbs and compounds made into tinctures, pastes, and other preparations).

Some of the most detailed records about the enslaved people on Samuel Chew's farms are from the inventories of his estate after his death in 1809. Every time I look at these kinds of records, I am struck by the fact that people's lives were given monetary value, based on their age, their physical ability, and other factors. There is something about seeing these lists of property that really drives home the view of slaveholders, making it clear how they could continue to own other human lives and profit from their trade.

These pages are from an inventory registered in 1812. It lists all of the slaves who belonged to Samuel Chew's estate. They are listed by name, with the name of the person to whom they were sold and the price for which they were purchased.

These inventories provide extensive details about how the Chews lived. For instance, in one inventory, the total value of the estate is listed as $42800.10, which in today's dollars would be over 3/4 of a million dollars. There are lines in these inventories that detail all types of property, including meat, sugar, fabric, and other common items.

In the inventory below, Benjamin Chew Jr., who serves as the executor of Samuel's estate, lists "Eight single rose blankets, which as the black people on the Farms in Cecil were in want of bed clothing have been delivered unto those who needed it. (value: $16.00)"; and later, "1460 lbs. Bacon Sent from Chester Town to the Farms in Cecil where the black people were out of meat except what was reserved for the use of the family remaining at Chester Town + Except 25 hams sent to the residuary legatees in Philadelphia. (value: $183.50)

On the second page shown here, Benjamin describes some of the slaves: "For the Negro man named Dick, who being very sickly has been permitted under the discretion given to the Executor in the Will, to go at large, hiring himself when he is able to work & liable to be maintained out of the Estate when he shall be too infirm to take care of himself appraised at $75.00." The next entry is even more wrenching: "For a child Called Harriett who died $5 a grey horse that died early in Summer 70$"

This collection is full of documents like these, and I imagine that these documents could open up a lot of doors for African-American genealogists, as well as scholars who are interested in the history of slavery in the Mid-Atlantic region.

June 11, 2009


We have gone from This!

I never thought I would be able to say this, but today, we are done with processing! Every document has a home in a neatly-labeled folder--all the horror of the unexpected 50 linear feet of material in the stacks has abated, and now we get down to the nitty-gritty work of polishing our finding aid, numbering all the folders, making labels, marking up the finding aid, creating catalog records, writing our reports to NEH, and cleaning up data. Of course, there is still much to be done, but today feels like a very good day.

Leah and Jessica rolled up the last of the oversize maps today, and now there are a few lingering oversize folders to deal with, but all of this feels so much more manageable. I am buoyed by these accomplishments, and feel readier than ever to face the last month and a half of the project with energy and a clear head.

Just wanted to share this day with you all!
(Even the water leaking from the ceiling can't upset me today!)

May 28, 2009

We're on a Roll...

Avid blog followers may remember this post from back in August of 2008... Those oversized maps and documents that we unrolled for the first time so many months ago are finally receiving conservation treatment!
The rolled documents arrived to HSP housed in long plastic bags, tied at both ends with cotton tape.

Each document is removed from the bag, slowly unrolled and weights are used to hold the document open.

Most of the maps are covered with a layer of dust, soot, and dirt that is removed with vulcanized rubber erasers and Nilfisk vaccuum.

The documents are rolled around 4" diameter acid-free, lignen-free archival tubes with a layer of Microchamber paper and an outer layer of Tyvek. The tube is cut to size for each document using a hacksaw and then sanded smooth.

Cotton tape is used to secure the Tyvek around the rolled document. The newly-housed documents will be labeled and stored on shelves.

May 14, 2009

I will explain about the "heavy religious messages"

One of the good things about the latest find of material has been the addition of information about later generations of the Chew family. The boxes we are in the process of adding contain materials related to the children of Samuel Chew (d. 1887). In addition to all of the office files that document the management of the family's estates and property, there are personal letters from Elizabeth B. Chew, Anne S.P. (Chew) Alston, Oswald Chew, Samuel Chew Jr. and others. In one envelope, there were a series of "messages" that looked like correspondence. I put them into the batch to be processed with Samuel Chew Jr.'s papers.

Last week, I was looking through the collection folders to try to find the original deed of gift, and I came across a bunch of inventories that proved to be very informative. In one of these inventories, there was a note about a group of messages from Samuel Chew Jr. that were written through the aid of a medium. When I asked Willhem if he had run across them, he said "Oh, that's what those were!" He had put them aside to see if they made sense in the context of the rest of Samuel's materials.

In a series of messages from 1920-1924, the Chew siblings attempted to contact their deceased brother Samuel Chew Jr. through a medium named Mrs. Duane. There are eight total communications, some of which read as sermons; others are more like question and answer sessions. In the first message, Samuel Chew addresses his friend John Ingram.

"Well, old man, here I am in the world of spirits + quite alive + able to sit up + take notice, + believe me, dear John, there is something to see. I am not very high up in heaven being, as you know, quite an old sinner on earth, but still I am not in the very lowest place as I had a few virtues, among them that of Loving not wisely but too well." He goes on to talk about his regrets and all of the things he has learned since his passage to the world of spirits. He also conveys pithy advice to his friend: "...use all the rest of your earth life for the good of mankind, forget yourself, your feelings, your loves, your hates in universal service for that is the only thing that Counts over here." (May 20, 1920)

In a later (undated) message, Samuel speaks directly to Oswald (who transmits the message to his sister Anne in the form of a letter). The messages have a pretty weighty tone to them, infused with the humor that Samuel Chew exhibited in his letters while he was alive.

The message to Oswald reads as instruction: "Oswald, old man, buck up about everything. I am the most alive of all of you, though so very well buried....You are really the pick of our bunch, though you thought I was. You are still young, as the world goes for a man, and I am proud of you, especially your war work. Now is your chance however to carry on, for never in the history of the world was there such a need of men. You have a lot more in you than you know and I am going to help bring it out.... I am ashamed that our generation of Chews should go down so unhonored, when the world needs us so much, and having made rather a mess of it myself, I am all the more anxious to see you make good....go slow, be sure where you go, and go straight."
Oswald closes the letter to Anne by saying that he read the message to their mother, who seemed glad to have seen it, but didn't believe in such things. He also notes that he will "explain about the heavy religious messages."

All of the messages attempt to relay to their recipients how important it is for them to do good things on earth, and explaining the way of things in the spirit world. In the third or fourth message, dated June 13, 1922, Samuel speaks once again to his brother Oswald. He gets deeper into explanations about "life everlasting, as we call it here...."

"It did not take me long to see I had made a lot of mistakes + no end of a mess of things on earth. I cannot very well go into details, but I want to say this, --that no one who does anything they know is wrong gets away with it here. One pays always.
Well, in some ways being a decent sort, I was not obliged to herd with the greatest sinners, but they were not as picked a group as the Philadelphia Club thinks it is. By the way, that is no criterion over here. Nothing counts but character--what you are....
I woke up here to my real self, I was a little upset + my first idea was 'Help me to keep others from these pitfalls," + that saved me. The desire to save others literally saved my life from depths I don't like to think about. So they keep me busy + I am right on the job. Day after day I help bring people out of Hell."

These messages are really interesting examples of spiritualism in the United States, and show a more personal side of the children of Samuel Chew.

May 6, 2009

"It's funny how things never turn out the way you had them planned..."*

A few weeks ago now, I was feeling pretty good about the progress of the Chew Papers processing project. We had just reported to NEH that we had only 8-10 linear feet to process, and I was finally able to really imagine the project being finished. I was nearly finished with the last large series of papers, and expecting processing to be completed by early May. And then, everything changed. (Okay, so I'm being quite dramatic here, but that is definitely how it felt.)

Matthew walked into the processing room and told me that they had found some Chew materials in the stacks while surveying, and wanted to show them to me. He kept an optimistic tone, but I just knew that it wasn't good. He showed me these stacks (three full shelf sections, floor to ceiling), and my heart sunk. How did I overlook these materials??

Now, nearly empty... two weeks ago, full

I had never laid eyes on these boxes, despite the fact that they were only two rows away from the rest of the collection. Though it doesn't matter much now how they didn't make it into my original processing plan, they weren't in it, and so I felt pretty overwhelmed by the idea that they somehow all needed to get processed in the next month and half. After a lot of tears and an afternoon of personal reflection on my skills as a project manager, I dove in and figured out what needed to go where and considered how it might get done and by whom. Luckily, we've got a wonderful team here, and pretty much everyone in the archives division is now working on processing the last few series. Most of the material is related to the Chew Estate Office, which operated (from approximately the 1890s-1960s) to manage the finances, legal matters, and property transactions of various members of the Chew and Brown families. The papers cover the management of the family's many properties and the settlement of estates, primarily, but also document the donation of the Chew Family Papers to the Historical Society, among other topics.

There are some items in this new group of materials that have made the entire find worth it--like the handwritten list in the back of a volume related to the proceedings of the Benjamin Chew estate, which details how all of the records at Cliveden were stored. I called Matthew and told him that it felt like I had found the Rosetta Stone of the Chew collection. It lists the location of each group of materials, and offers a brief inventory of the contents of each packet. In many ways, this list is the archivists' dream...offering an actual glimpse into how the papers were stored and used.

Series X. Samuel Chew, Estates; Court Proceedings in the Estate of B. Chew (1844-1863)

It reminded me, too, that there are many other detailed inventories done by various family members over the years in our collection files. All of these items provide a real wealth of information for writing up the background and processing notes. The fact that so many people--family members, lawyers, archivists, and others--have sorted through these papers makes them incredibly interesting as a group, as well as sometimes quite frustrating. There are papers that clearly are part of the same group scattered all over the collection, but it has not always been obvious until we've gone through about 10 series!

After two weeks of working hard on this new group of papers, I am left with one cart of material that needs to be integrated into previous series, and a bunch of miscellaneous groups of documents that will likely fall into the "Other Family Members" series.

What's left to integrate into existing series

Today, while talking to some visitors from another institution, I found myself laughing at the absurdity of it all. Somehow, with the help of a lot of supportive colleagues, we are getting through this seeming-crisis. I hope that we will emerge at the end of July with a collection that is well-described, accessible to researchers, and easily searchable online. As I have been constantly reminded, the papers are much more accessible now than they were. We have actually done a pretty good job of reconstructing the ways that these papers were grouped considering the circumstances and the unwieldy nature of a 400 linear foot collection.

Dear researchers, soon there will be a finding aid online, I promise!

*The title to this post is a quote from Bob Dylan's epic song "Brownsville Girl," a fitting summary of this processing project if I ever heard one!

April 29, 2009

For the Foodies

Elizabeth J.J. Brown's cook book (ca. 1860) has come into the lab for repairs. And what a sweet little thing it is, especially the title page:
The Historical Society also owns Martha Washington's Cook Book. Last June we had a Solstice Potluck with staff and interns using the recipes from Mrs. Washington's book. It was quite successful and we've been anticipating the second annual potluck all winter. But perhaps the format will need to change in honor of the Chews the year?
The cookbooks are interesting to compare. Both are written by one writer and were started at both ends. Each has interesting instructions and measurements. For example, Elizabeth has a recipe for Morning Rolls, which calls for "a piece of butter the size of an egg and a 1/2." However, Mrs. Washington's book was clearly written before foods of the new world became part of the diet. There is no mention of tomatoes, potatoes, or squash. Her book is also organized into two sections; one of "cookery" and one of "sweetmeats." Elizabeth's book is full of food from the new world including recipes for catsup of tomatoes and of mushrooms, and references for straining things "as you would for squash." There does not seem to be a logical organization of Elizabeth's book.
Some of the more fun recipes include the "Kisses" above, and the Plumb Gingerbread. Although we have yet to find the plumbs in the gingerbread.
There are interesting recipes for Pickled Walnuts, and sevreal recipes for oysters, (boiled, fried, baked, or as a pie). A few of the eyebrow-raising items include: "Oily Mixture" and one "To Turtle Calves Head."
Along with recipes written down, there are a few dozen given to her by others, hastily written on scraps of paper or cut from the newspaper. She has several for Summer Complaint; this one sounds the yummiest - while others call for Gum Arabic and Laudanum.
And finally, one of the more interesting recipes to compare directly with Mrs. Washington's book is for Tomato Tart.
Without a doubt, the favorite surprise success recipe at last year's potluck was Mrs. Washington's Lettuce Pie. While the recipe sounded easy none of us trusted it to be any good. But Annie put it together it was the hit of the day. I suspect this one could be quite tasty with homegrown tomatoes completely ripened. I also suspect that it could inspire a very nice savory tart as well.

April 24, 2009

Fashion Tips from the Collection

These photographs from Elizabeth Brown Chew's scrapbook are perfect for a Friday afternoon chuckle. Enjoy!

April 16, 2009

David Sands Brown and Camden County

I finished processing the David Sands Brown and Company series and found it to be a good example of the entrepreneurial spirit associated with the economic development of the United States, especially if looked at from a micro-history-based point of view. After taking American History classes that only covered the major aspects and events of the United States past, looking at the papers in this part of the Chew collection gave me a new perspective on how just one individual took a neglected town and propelled it to progress through sheer will power and financial savvy.

Between the 1840’s and his death in 1877, David Sands Brown was a determining figure in the development and industrialization of Camden County in New Jersey, particularly Gloucester City. After working at his brother’s firm, he established his own dry goods enterprise and went on to become a successful and influential textile merchant in the South Jersey-Philadelphia area. He also served as Director of Girard Bank from 1840 to 1843 and founded, among others, the Washington Manufacturing, Washington Mills and the Gloucester Manufacturing companies.

According to Jeffery M. Dorwart, author of Camden County, New Jersey: the making of a metropolitan community, 1626-2000, Brown contributed to the development of urban neighborhoods through two other corporations he initiated: Gloucester Land Company (which provided housing to workers employed at his factories), and the Gloucester Saving Fund and Building Association that assisted workers in buying their own houses. He also bought Gloucester Iron Works and played a key role in planning and building the Camden, Gloucester, and Mt. Ephraim Railroad.

The papers that I processed are rich in details and descriptions of the daily operations of Brown’s enterprises and show different aspects of the development of Gloucester City. They are also rich in their variety. Besides business correspondence, accounts, financial reports and deeds, this part of the Chew collection features fabric samples, maps, broadsides and business cards, and even printed texts of songs about his companies. These songs are interesting in that they show a differing perspective on David Sands Brown so-called good business intentions. There is also a large group of maps, blueprints, and ground plans offering a visual description of the industrial and urban development of Camden County.

In these papers we can also see a chronicle of David Sands Brown relationship with the Chew family. His daughter Mary Johnson Brown married Samuel Chew (1832-1887), who became Brown’s business associate and treasurer and took charge of his estate after his death in 1877. Papers that document both the personal and professional relationships of the Chews and the Browns can be reviewed in Series X-Samuel Chew (1832-1887), Series XI-Brown and Johnson Families, and the papers pertaining to Mary Johnson Brown in Series XVI-Cliveden.

Papers related to all the companies Brown established can be found in this series of the Chew Family Papers and in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s Manuscript Collection 1586, David S. Brown & Co. Records, 1828-1910.

March 30, 2009

Greenwich Island Meadows surveys

Over the past few weeks, I have been working on the papers of the Brown and Johnson families that are included in the Chew Papers. Mary Johnson Brown Chew's family and ancestors owned large sections of what is now the First Ward of Philadelphia, Southwark, Passyunk, the Navy Yard, and Tinicum. David Sands Brown, among others, developed land along the Delaware River to accommodate his growing manufacturing businesses, which were headquartered in Gloucester City, New Jersey.

This survey shows William Jones' Meadow, which is part
of Greenwich Island (Surveyed by John Lukens, 1770)

This land passed down through the Johnson family from William Jones (a grazier in Kingsessing Township) to his daughters Mary (Morris, Pancoast) and Elizabeth (Garrett), then to Martha Morris, who married Joseph Johnson, a ship chandler. Johnson ran a booming business from his wharves in South Philadelphia during the late-18th century into the mid-19th century, and his descendants further developed the land as industrialization allowed for more manufactured goods to be moved from place to place. (Stay tuned for an upcoming post on the companies associated with David Sands Brown and the development of Gloucester City.)

As I was sorting through the various deeds that make up a large portion of the material in this series, I was trying to create a mental image of how all of these plots of land fit together. One day, I found a series of maps and surveys that helped me to create a picture of the area the deeds described, and I realized how vastly different the land is today. Aside from the Tinicum Wildlife Refuge, this land has given way to industrial development. Here are a few representations of William Jones' meadows as they were in the mid-1700s.

The first survey was done by John Lukens in 1768.
The second is the original survey done by Nicholas Scull in 1759.

Last night, as I was returning from the New England Archivists' Conference, my flight passed over the area that these surveys portray. I looked out the window and imagined what these waterways and marsh lands would look like without the grid of roads, parking lots, and buildings. I tried to conjure the land as the Swedes found it, before they drained marsh land for grazing. I perform these kind of thought experiments a lot as I sift through documents that shift my relationship to the land that I walk on every day, navigating the grid of Philadelphia's streets, or hanging in the air above this place that is at once so familiar, and so surprisingly new.

This lithographic plan shows the emergence of the South Philadelphia
that we know today. This "Plan of proposed Wharves & Docks with
Railroad Connections in the First Ward" was made for Titus S. Emery
by L.N. Rosenthal's Lithographic shop in 1867.

March 17, 2009

Conserving the Chew Papers: Mold Removal

This is the third in a series of blog posts devoted to the conservation being performed on the documents, books and manuscript materials in the Chew Family Papers Collection. See the first post on enclosures, here, and the second on paper conservation, here.

From the basement to the attic to the stables, most of the Chew Family Papers were stored for many years in unstable environments. As a result, portions of the collection arrived to the Historical Society with significant amounts of mold. In order for the material to be processed (remember this post from May 2007?), these documents had to be treated by our mold technicians.

HSP has a designated mold removal facility with its own ventilation and air filtration system. The technicians wear Tyvek suits, nitrile gloves and respirator masks. Mold removal entails vacuuming with a HEPA-filtered vacuum and wiping book covers with alcohol.

Preservation Technicians Anni Altshuler and Watsuki Harrington vacuuming moldy documents.

For the safety of researchers, items that have been cleaned for mold are clearly labeled, as seen in the image at the top of this post.