I recently returned to the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies where I pretended to be a conservator for a week. Located among the rolling farmlands of Northeast Illinois, the Campbell Center is like summer camp for library and museum enthusiasts. Professionals and novices from all over the country gather to try their hand at preservation techniques and share war stories over pizza and beer. The silence and solitude of their beautiful campus makes for a perfect escape from Los Angeles even though some of the buildings look totally haunted and some in town actually are.
Coursework included a history of paper making, examples of paper deterioration and methods for surface cleaning, tape removal, paper mending, deacidification, humidification, flattening and in painting. After a series of informative lectures we got to get our hands dirty. A classmate from the Stearns History Museum was kind, generous and brave enough to let me work on a worn 1898 death certificate from Albany, Minnesota. After viewing hundreds of these types of documents online, it was a thrill to care for an original. I needed a few more hours to repair all the damage, but it definitely ended up looking better than it started. What do you think?