Fresh from the conservator: 1861 sheriff's sale

J. Rock vs. His Creditors. Second District Court, Parish of Orleans, No. 18, 537. Sheriff's Sale! By John P. Walden, Sheriff of the Parish of Orleans. Will be sold at public auction, on the premises hereinafter designated, on Wednesday, December 4, 1861, at half-past 10 o'clock, A.M., for account of the creditors of said insolvent: The contents of a hat and cap store, situated at 105 St. Charles street, in the First District of this City, as per inventory on file. Seized in the above suit. Terms cash on the spot.

Printed on cheap acidic newsprint, this 1861 broadside had been folded in quarters for decades, causing it to break into several pieces along the folds. The acid in the paper had made it brittle, with the edges torn, friable, and missing paper along the periphery. It also suffered from attempts in the past to repair it with the bane of archives, Scotch tape.

The goal of conservation is not merely to repair a document, but also to make it stable and usable for researchers. In this case, that involved several procedures. The conservator, Bridget Broadley, cleaned the surface and performed solubility testing. She then removed the tape (both the carrier and the adhesive), deacidified it, humidified and flattened it, and then mended it.


Mending included piecing it back together and filling in missing paper with new paper color-matched to blend with the old. It is worth noting that all colored paper used for repair, aside from the pale brown/gold hues, is custom-tinted by hand to match exactly—it can’t be purchased and takes quite a bit of experience to obtain a match as close as the conservator did on this piece. Particularly observe the bottom edge (click the image to enlarge), where missing text indicates where she filled in gaps with new paper. 

Lastly, she lined the back of the paper to strengthen it. The broadside is now stable and can be used by researchers.

Select the images to enlarge. Special thanks to Sabrena Johnson, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library's conservation librarian.

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