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Meticulous work preserves 18th century deed

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Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 8:58 pm

Mary Broadway, a conservation technician and National Endowment for the Arts fellow, said the preservation of a 1761 deed was an involved process that enabled the conservators to return the document to Atlantic County in as pristine a condition as possible:

1. The document was first placed in a humidity chamber to allow conservators to unroll it without causing any further damage. It was then placed between two sheets of a polyester material that allows moisture to penetrate while providing a smooth, non-stick surface.

2. Vinyl eraser crumbs were used to remove surface dirt. "You sprinkle these on like snow and then you rub very carefully," Broadway said. The crumbs remove dirt particles, but do not affect the ink and other markings embedded in the paper.

3. After testing the ink — which is insoluble — the document was placed in a bath of ionized water. The purified water removes some of the discoloration caused by exposure to light and changes in humidity and temperature over three centuries. "It's kind of cool because you can see the water turn a yellowish orange color" as it removes degredation, she said.

4. The document is then dried between felt blotters that protect any raised textures.

5. Tears were repaired using Japanese tissue or Korean paper, which are thin, strong papers made of mulberry fiber. The new paper is toned using acrylic paints to match the color of the document and adhered to the existing paper using wheat starch. Because the wheat starch is water soluble, any of the repair work can be reversed in the future.

6. Because the writing continued to the right edge of the paper, conservators adhered a strip of new paper along the edge of the document to allow the full surface area to be displayed in a frame.

7. Finally, the document was housed behind UV filtering, anti-static plexiglass in a frame sealed with heat-activated Marvel Seal. The frame provides the document with a "micro-climate" to minimize the impact of light, moisture and temperature. "Once it's in there, the idea is, should a sprinkler go off, it will be protected," Broadway said.

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