Monday, 21 July 2014

Time Capsule Contents (Continued) - July 19, 2014

July 19, 2014

Handwritten Page 1 - enhanced
Perhaps the most important artifact in the Time Capsule from June 19, 1929 is the seven handwritten pages discussing the Kings County school at the time.  The title on the first page is Kentville Schools and there is no signature at the end which likely signifies it is a short history of the school rather than a personal account.  From the first paragraph mentioning a report from 1888 it captures our attention considering it may hold information from that time until 1929.  I have a photograph of the first page which will help to set the tone for future transcription and exhibit.  Our intent is to show these pages sealed in mylar envelopes to prevent deterioration.  Mylar is used because it is inert and has been proven to be safe for longer term storage and display.  Mylar is one of several choices (polypropylene bags being another) in comic book storage particularly for Golden or Silver Age comics but also for any truly valuable comics.  Either types of bags are clear so can be used for display purposes. However, polypropylene bags may yellow over a longer period of time so is not the best choice.  Additionally, we can keep each page in the mylar envelope with an acid free backing board to ensure that it will not bend.   It is best for these pages to be unfolded once only and stored flat which we have now done.  Repeated unfolding may damage them.  Think of them as fibrous material which may break from repeated bending.  These pages are currently stored unfolded, flattened and in acid free folders pending purchase of mylar envelopes (on order).  Displaying them in an exhibit in mylar envelopes can allow for viewing of the pages which will show the public the handwriting, fading, staining, etc. of the original.  These are all important parts of the history of the artifact. 

Handwritten Page 7 - enhanced
Transcription of all seven pages will be done.  As you can see by the photographs there is some fading along the right side and water damage in a few spots.  This next photograph shows the last page which will be a challenge to transcribe due to more serious fading from water damage.  However, with the use of image enhancement software we can attempt to bring out the more faded writing.  You can also see that there is no signature at the bottom.  This begs the question, who is the author?   

Inks used in writing from the time period as with many other inks will fade over time.  Direct sunlight is particularly damaging so these pages will be displayed and stored away in a carefully controlled low light setting for exhibit and stored in acid free boxes for longer term storage in a humidity and temperature controlled environment.

I mentioned in the last post that there are techniques to bring out faded writing.  There are two worth mentioning: ultraviolet light (UV-A light or black light) and infrared light.  Both are light at a longer wavelength and depending on the ink used each may work better.  Since ultraviolet is the easiest and lower cost we would normally try it first.  It is commonly used to authenticate oil paintings, antiques, and bank notes.  Infrared light is more challenging because it uses more expensive equipment in a special setting.  The phrase "infrared reflectography" is used for a technique that will show underlying layers in oil paintings such as drawings used as a guide by the artist.  I mention these for use with the handwriting on the inside corner of the time capsule lid and possibly for some of the faded writing in the handwritten pages if it is necessary.

Conservation Tips:

Use mylar envelopes for storage of fragile paper, pamphlets, etc.  You can purchase these in various sizes from comic book stores or on-line.  Although more expensive than polypropyline it is well worth the extra expense.  Measure your artifact first to determine the best size to use.  Note: modern comics are smaller than 8.5 by 11 standard page size so be sure to order the correct size.  Most comic stores (at least in my area) stock the modern comic size only.

Always keep fragile papers away from direct sunlight and strong lighting of any kind.   Light is particularly damaging to inks and some papers.  You can bring these artifacts out from time to time to look at them but minimize light exposure.  In a museum environment lighting may be set to come on when someone enters a room to view them or limited to only a few hours of viewing.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Time Capsule Contents - July 2, 2014

July 2, 2014

Two weeks after the public opening of the time capsule I opened it again to start the conservation work necessary to record the objects as they are removed.  This photograph shows the tools I will use (starting from the far right):
Getting Ready

  • an exacto-knife with a larger flat blade, 
  • a probe flat on one end, pointed on the other, 
  • a metal ruler for measurements, and 
  • a pen and paper to take notes.

First thing was to take the capsule measurements:

  • 18.8 cm long, 11 cm wide, and 8.5 cm tall including the lid, 
  • 18.5 cm long, 10.5 cm wide, and 8.2 cm tall without the lid
The contents of the time capsule are (more details following):

  • 7 handwritten sheets of paper
  • 3 newspapers (details to come later)
  • one small business card - Dominion Atlantic Railway 
  • one large business card - Town of Kentville

The capsule reacted strongly to a magnet implying that it has high iron content.  The exterior and interior does show patches of reddish coloured corrosion which is another clue to iron content.  The lid was made of a single flat piece of metal with notches in the four corners and folded over to produce an edge.  One of the consequences of this is that there are minute openings in each corner which could allow moisture to enter the capsule.  Moisture was evident on opening day on the paper observed.

Small business card
Handwritten pages - pinned together
The first thing I noticed upon opening the lid was that the handwritten sheets of paper folded on the top were now loose from the sides of the capsule.  It is likely that it dried out to the point where it came loose.  However, the newspaper below it was still attached to the sides.  The folded up, handwritten pages came out easily with no tearing.  On the other side a small business card in very bad shape was attached to the paper but came loose very easily.  It is not easily readable but does have two lines printed in the lower left corner: Dominion Atlantic Railway and Engineer and Mechanical Supervisor.  The person's name in larger lettering is printed in the middle.  All is obscured by black spots and general deterioration.  It is very fragile and requires special handling.

Carefully releasing edges
Below this was a folded up newspaper with some parts attached to the sides of the capsule.  I used an exacto-knife with a larger, flat blade to scrape along the sides to loosen the attached bits.  This was done all around the sides.  The newspaper came loose after a few minutes with minimal damage.  This newspaper was dated April 18, 1929, two months before the capsule was placed.

Beneath this was another newspaper.  I was able to loosen the newspaper using the exacto-knife.   It was dated June 19, 1929.  The date the capsule was placed.

What is in the bottom?
Below this was a third newspaper and unlike the others this one had attached itself to some parts of the capsule beneath it causing slightly more tearing.  This could not be loosened via an exacto-knife due to the location.   However, it came out with only minimal damage.  Some bits of newspaper are left intact in the bottom of the capsule along with a very well preserved business card for a Mr. Henry Morse Kentville Town Clerk and Treasurer.  Although some small pieces of the newspapers were torn on removal all the text is readable except for the pieces shown at the bottom which will be left as is.

In my next blog entry I will show details of the handwritten pages.  It is currently being transcribed by one of our museum volunteers.  I will also write about the inscription on the inside corner of the lid.  There are a few techniques that can be used with the right equipment to make the inscription clearer.