Tuesday, October 14, 2008

From the Preservation Intern

As part of the introductory archives classes at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, students complete a sixty-hour internship of their choosing. I was intrigued by the preservation internship here at the Massachusetts State Library because of the opportunity to learn hands-on preservation techniques, including document cleaning and encapsulation, on a fascinating collection of architectural plans. Created in the 1890s for the Brigham Extension, the135 working drawings feature interior plans for plaster, marble, woodwork and glass elements throughout the extension.

The extension was commissioned when the Bulfinch State House (red area) proved too small. The Brigham Extension (yellow area) was added to the back of the Bulfinch State House and was completed in 1895. Later, the State House was extended with East and West Wings (white area), which was completed in 1917.* I look forward to investigating how these plans represent the interior design and style of the Brigham Extension as it exists today. It’s a great reminder of how archival documents can illuminate the present as well as the past.

The plans are larger than any archival documents I’ve worked with before, and vary in terms of size, shape, and level of preservation needed. Some are in need of minor cleaning, while others are much dirtier and may be on paper that is more brittle. Here is an example of how the plans vary. The plan on top is much smaller and is in better condition.

The plan on the bottom, already encapsulated in mylar, is larger and in worse condition, and will more challenging to preserve:

The plans are in ink, but many have pencil marks in various places, and care must be taken not to remove these during cleaning. All of the plans will be encapsulated in Mylar. However they vary, the plans are all beautiful in their design and unique in their historical value.

Because I had never worked with architectural plans before, I was interested to read a book published by the Society of American Archivists called Architectural Records: Managing Design and Construction Records. It provided a good overview of the different types of architectural documents and best practices for their preservation. Lacy also took me on a tour of the Massachusetts State House, which helped provide context for the project.

As I proceed in my work, I will update the blog to discuss how the work is performed and what I’m learning from the experience.

* Graphic Source: The Secretary of the Commonwealth's information on the State House model

- Laura Pike, Preservation Intern