By Mary Elizabeth O’Toole
If you live on the Eastern Shore and have heirloom paper objects or recently discovered archival treasures, you can find a CAPC certified conservator close to home. Previously, we profiled Julia Landry of Jeddore and provided an overview of her work. In this article, she shares details of her processes on a special restoration.
One of Landry’s current projects is treatment of large maps by A.F.Church. The NS Archives Map Collection includes this citation for Ambrose Church: “Ambrose F. Church Co. published a topographical map of each county in Nova Scotia between 1865 and 1888, the first being Halifax County in 1865. These maps feature detailed plans of the various census districts and townships including location of buildings, names of occupants, transportation routes and various geographical markings. Church included inserts for the larger communities in each county. “
Landry explains in more detail: “Church was an American cartographer who came to Canada in the late 1800s, reportedly as an army deserter from the American Civil War. His maps are treasured by genealogists and historical societies because of the level of detail. In cities, Church recorded info about businesses and features; in rural areas, he included small boxes with the names of families in residence and indicated tradesmen and prominent citizens.”
These maps are huge and were in all schools, hung on the wall with sticks at the top and bottom. Many historical societies in the province have one, although most are in pretty bad shape.
This is not Landry’s first Church map but it has new challenges. “I have done a Church map for a different project, “ Landy said. “But it was split in two pieces that I could work on separately before I had to reassemble. Even together, it was a little under 4’x5’. This one, for Halifax Country, is close to 6’ on the long side, which means there are some logistical issues ,- like reaching the middle of the map with control. Even cleaning becomes a two-person job so I have to hire a conservation technician to help with some processes.” Some of the work must be done on the floor using a rolling “bridge” to reach the center of the map.
Landry provided an overview of the process, “After removing the hanging rods, the first step is to wash the map using wet blotters to pull dirt and degradation from the paper. The original linen lining is also removed at this stage. Next comes removal of the shellac, a type of varnish, which was applied to protect the document from environmental and handling damage. Over time it has aged to a butterscotch colour resulting in some loss of clarity of text. The next step will be reassembling and filling gaps, typically with sympathetic paper that will make it less noticeable. Finally, the original linen backing will be replaced with Kizuki kozo, a Japanese paper that is strong, lightweight and stable.”
It is a time-consuming process but the result will be an historic record that prevents the loss of important historical detail, preserving it for future generations.
The Maritime Institute for Civil Society has joined with other members of the Nova Scotia Heritage Community for a major legacy project to locate, conserve and digitize a full set of Church maps. They are seeking donations of maps. If you would like to learn more about Church, or the map project, visit https://www.mircs.ca/maps/
Julia Landry is CAPC accredited in Archival Materials. She also works withMichelle Gallinger, The Art Gal, who specializes in fine art, on certain conservation projects. For more info, contact Landry at [email protected]