Tag Archives: Private Collections

The Conservation of the 18th Century Sloan-Osborne Ciphering Book

[This blog post was written by Garrett Sumner, a graduate student at West Dean College and summer intern in the Conservation Lab]

As part of my internship at the Conservation Lab in the State Archives of North Carolina, I had the opportunity to work on a number of projects, but the one object that garnered most of my time was the Sloan-Osborne Ciphering Book (PC.1955). The Sloan-Osborne Ciphering Book is actually two distinct notebooks, one from the 1750s, and the other from the early 1780s, which were later sewn together. The notebooks contain numerous ciphering problems, such as long division and unit conversion, and were composed by two individuals, Adlai Osborne and Henry Sloan. While their exact relationship to one another is unclear, Sloan may have served as Osborne’s pupil at Charlotte’s Liberty Hall Academy, where Osborne may have given Sloan his notebook. The most intriguing aspect of the book is that it contains two partial snake skins that are still adhered to the paper. Most likely the book was stored in an attic or basement and one or more snakes slithered between the papers to shed their skin.

The book arrived in the conservation lab in a very poor condition, preventing its use by researchers. The paper was very brittle and cockled, and had suffered extensive water and pest damage. Furthermore, some pages were missing, removed either intentionally or accidentally. The iron gall ink used to write the notebook was fading, and in some areas had even burned through the paper.

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Example of iron gall ink burn and damage to paper.

In conservation practice we aim to follow two principles when treating an object: minimal intervention (doing as little as is needed), and reversibility (that any treatment performed can be reversed). However, when an object is so extensively damaged it cannot be safely handled, a more aggressive treatment may be necessary to stabilize it. Such was the case with the Ciphering Book.

The treatment plan for the book involved removing the original sewing thread to allow the paper to be washed. Because iron gall ink can be water-soluble, we first had to perform solubility tests by placing droplets of water, ethanol, or a mixture of the two in different areas to see if the ink migrated. The tests showed that some ink was water soluble, and so to err on the side of caution we used a solution of 50/50 water and ethanol for the bath. Although washing paper is a risky, non-reversible procedure, it can also remove dirt, discoloration, and the acidity that makes the brittle, as well as flattening out the folds and cockling in the paper.

The sheets were gently placed in the bath for 25 minutes. The paper was so dirty we could actually see the discoloration floating out of the paper. After washing, the sheets were then placed between felts to dry. A less invasive washing method was needed for the snakeskin pages. Instead of immersing the sheets in a bath, we placed them between sheets of blotting paper saturated with the 50/50 solution, along with a hole cut out in the areas around the snakeskin in order to not disturb them.

After drying, the paper was noticeably cleaner and flatter, and some of the writing was more legible as a result of the increased contrast between the ink and the now-cleaner paper. However, washing left the paper a bit weak and limp, so the paper was re-sized with a 0.5% gelatin solution. Paper was traditionally sized with gelatin, a type of animal-based adhesive, which would fill in the gaps of air between the paper fibers to give the paper more strength and protect it.

After more drying, the paper was ready to be mended. There were countless tears and holes on every sheet, in all shapes and sizes. When mending paper, conservators typically prefer to use Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. Japanese tissue is thin yet strong, with long fibers that allow it to easily blend into the original paper. Wheat starch paste is a refined paste made by hand using just starch and water. Together, these form a strong repair that can be reversed in the future with water, if needed. To mend the tears and holes, pieces of Japanese tissue were carefully torn to the appropriate shape, then brushed with paste and applied to paper.

Twenty-five hours later, the mending was complete, and the repaired book was ready to be resewn. Replicating the original sewing pattern would have been difficult and potentially damaging, so instead the book was sewn through five new holes using linen thread. A paper wrapper was sewn on the outside of the book in order to provide more protection. In all, the treatment took 49 hours to complete. After treatment, the book is now much cleaner and can be safely handled by researchers, snakeskins and all.

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I would like to thank the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources for facilitating this internship and for providing guidance and assistance during its course, especially Dr. Kevin Cherry, Emily Rainwater, Kate Vukovich, and Mathew Waehner.

The Sloan-Osborne ciphering book is now available as part of our North Carolina Digital Collections!  http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p16062coll28/id/5601

 

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Processing the Bill Harris Papers

[This post was written by Taylor Wolford, a summer intern at the Outer Banks History Center.]

When I began working at the Outer Banks History Center, I was familiar with the name Bill Harris. In 2014, I was a high school student and budding historian in Dayton, Ohio researching the history of flight. My history teacher suggested that I contact local historians in North Carolina to expand the scope of my research. I researched local historians to contact, including Bill Harris, as word had gotten out among researchers regarding his extensive collection of local photographs, oral histories, and documents.

As a graduate student in Archives and Records Management, I am now processing the Bill Harris Papers at the Outer Banks History Center for future researchers. My internship involves processing the collection according to current archival standards and creating a descriptive online finding aid for the collection.

In order to process the collection, I developed groupings, known as series, for the organization of the documents. A notable series in this collection is the Wright Brothers First Flight, which is beneficial for researchers interested in a variety of related topics, including the construction of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the Anniversary of the First Flight, and the First Flight Shrine. Bill worked for the Wright Brothers National Memorial as an expert on local history, and documents throughout the collection showcase his work with the National Park Service and First Flight Society. Additional topics covered by the collection include Dare County, N.C. and the U.S. Lifesaving Service Stations.

Bill Harris (right) at the Wright Brothers National Memorial for the unveiling of the Barnaby Plaque on December 17, 1963. The plaque was a gift from the Soaring Society of America.

Perhaps the most impressive series, however, is Local Genealogy. This series contains a large number of oral histories, documents, and photographs that highlight the juxtaposition of an evolving yet deeply rooted Outer Banks community. The Local Genealogy series poses the most difficulties in terms of organization, for local families often intermarried until it was challenging to separate the Baums from the Harrises. As locals tend to say, “Genealogy in the Outer Banks is not a tree, but a vine.” For those interested in researching family histories in the area, the collection provides many opportunities to answer questions and delve deeper into the familial vines that constitute the Outer Banks community.

After two months processing these documents, I can verify that this collection extends far beyond my initial research in aviation history. Bill spent his entire lifetime immersed in the unique culture of the Outer Banks, and the collection certainly reflects his knowledge of the area. As the collection covers a wide range of topics and geographic regions, I am confident that it will continue to contribute to the research community long after it is properly stored in boxes and folders.

Members of Bill Harris’s family explore his newly processed collection with Taylor’s help, July 2018.

Highlights from the William and Mary Coker Joslin Papers: Mary Joslin, Woman of Many Talents

[This blog post was written by Elizabeth Crowder, contract archivist in the Special Collections Branch of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Under the supervision of Fran Tracy-Walls, private manuscripts archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina, I am arranging and describing materials in the William and Mary Coker Joslin Papers (PC.1929). This work is made possible through generous funding from the Joslins’ daughter Ellen Devereux Joslin.

Mary Coker (far left, with cello) at Vassar College, ca. 1943, around the same time she was experimenting with soybean cultivation.

Mary Coker (far left, with cello) at Vassar College, ca. 1943, around the same time she was experimenting with soybean cultivation. PC.1929.1

In 1975 and 1980, Hartsville, S.C., native and longtime Raleigh, N.C., resident Mary Coker Joslin (1922–2016) earned master’s and doctorate degrees in French from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She taught the language at Ravenscroft School and Saint Augustine’s University, and her fascination with medieval French literature led her to publish a book on the subject with her daughter Carolyn Coker Joslin Watson. However, some thirty years before her graduate studies in French, Mary Joslin’s academic pursuits had taken a different direction. In 1944, she earned a degree in botany from Vassar College. Joslin earned her master’s degree in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1946. Both of these endeavors revealed her interest in social causes.

Mary Joslin’s undergraduate studies were likely influenced by the work of her father, David Robert Coker (1870–1938), and her uncle William Chambers Coker. David R. Coker championed agricultural reform and experimented with plant breeding. Both pursuits had the ultimate goal of improving farmers’ yields and economic livelihoods. To these ends, David R. Coker’s Pedigreed Seed Company developed and sold superior varieties of cotton, corn, tobacco, and other crops. William C. Coker (1872–1953) was an associate professor of botany at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1902 to 1945. In addition to his teaching duties, he made an extensive study of Chapel Hill’s flora, cultivated a six-acre garden on the university’s campus (the present-day Coker Arboretum), and authored numerous publications.

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Women’s History Month 2018 – Charlotte Hilton Green

[This blog post was written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist, Private Collections of the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Charlotte Hilton Green (1889 – 1991)—writer, naturalist, wildlife and nature conservation advocate.

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Charlotte Hilton Green, center, with Bernice Kelly Harris, right. Charlotte Hilton Green Papers, PC.1661, State Archives of NC. [PC.1661_B3_F1_B]

Private Collections are filled with the traces and imprints of inspiring women. Charlotte Hilton Green (1889-1991) is one of the many women deserving of tribute. A native of Chautauqua County, New York, Charlotte first taught school in a one-room school house, as early as 1909. Students included distractible boys who would rather shoot birds and animals than study them. Yet Charlotte was successful, in large part, because she developed the art of creating interest and communicating on a child’s level the complexities of science and nature study. Later, as writer of a weekly nature column for the News and Observer, Charlotte developed a wide following––which many attributed to her ability to put scientific facts and environmental issues into layman’s terms. Continue reading

Women’s History Month 2018 – Lillian Exum Clement Stafford

[This blog post was written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist, Private Collections of the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Lillian Exum Clement Stafford (March 1886 – February 1925)

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Photograph of Exum taken probably during the early 1900s confirms her reputation as a beauty, parallel to her talents as a very capable young woman bent upon a career in law. Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers, PC.2084, State Archives of NC. [PC.2084_Phots_Bx5_F1_A]

In early 1920, before women could even vote, exceptional courage and drive were essential for a woman to run for the state legislature. Such gumption was characteristic of Lillian Exum Clement, known as Exum, who decided as early as April to enter the race––months before passage of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 26. The Buncombe County Democratic party, in a remarkable show of support, had placed Exum’s name on the ballot for the June primary. She went on to beat two male contenders, winning in the November election to become the first female lawmaker in her own state and in the entire South.

Exum was born near the North Fork of the Swannanoa River, March of 1886, the fourth child of George W. and Sarah Elizabeth Burnett Clement [see note at the end regarding her birth date and birth order.] Fast forward 35 years to the beginning of her legislative service when Exum was quoted as telling a reporter, “I am by nature, very conservative, but I am firm in my convictions. I want to blaze a trail for other women. I know that years from now there will be many other women in politics, but you have to start a thing.” [News and Observer. Jan. 7, 1921]. Continue reading

Basketball and High School Romance: Vada Palma and Pete Maravich Papers, Private Collection (PC) 2071

[This blog post was written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist, Special Collections Section, State Archives of North Carolina.]

Pete and Vada at her home before leaving for the Queen of Hearts Dance.

Pete and Vada at her home before leaving for the Queen of Hearts Dance. Call number: PC2071_2_F11_A. From the Vada Palma and Pete Maravich Papers, PC.2071.

As Valentine’s Day approaches and we are full throttle into the basketball season, this post calls attention to one of the many unique collections in our holdings: the Vada Palma and Pete Maravich Papers, Private Collection (PC) 2071.

Millions of fans have heard of Pistol Pete Maravich. However, not all know that this iconic professional basketball player spent a few but highly formative years in Raleigh while his father Press Maravich was coaching the North Carolina State University’s basketball team, 1964–1966. Furthermore, few of the stories about the legendary Pete Maravich (1947–1988), mention that Pete was smitten by a girl named Vada during the height of his stellar career at Raleigh’s Needham B. Broughton High School, 1965. Known then as “String Bean,” Pete was considered girl shy and socially awkward.  Early on he had a passionate devotion to basketball, and his father hoped to hone and focus that passion, in part by steering him away from girls. Coach Press Maravich’s sense of discipline and his parental hopes aside, young Pete fell hard for a popular, pretty junior, Vada Palma.

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Vintage Greeting Cards in the Barber and Towler Papers (PC.1995): Christmas and New Year’s, 1920

[This blog post was written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist, Special Collections Section, State Archives of North Carolina.]

The Barber and Towler Papers (PC.1995) are one of various Private Collections that include a box or at least a series devoted exclusively to greeting cards. This particular collection has only vintage cards, with most being Christmas and New Year’s greetings. Though many were sent by businesses, including The Raleigh Times, the example below is a 1920 Christmas postcard sent to the residence of Mr. and Mrs. James J. Towler, Raleigh, North Carolina.

The side of the card with the address and stamp includes the notation that the card was “Whitney Made.”  Behind that trademark is a fascinating bit of greeting card history with a small but significant North Carolina connection. “Whitney Made” refers especially to George Clarkson Whitney (1842–1915), Worcester, Massachusetts native. In 1861 George enlisted in the Union Army, entering as a private in the 51st Regiment. Later in his military service, George was a clerk in the Provost Marshal’s Office, working with Major Harkness at Beaufort, North Carolina, which fell under Federal occupation during 1862.

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