Help with 85 year old document!


True Grumbler
Feb 21, 2006
We have a customer who brought in an 85 year old Naturalization Certificate. It has been folded in 6ths until just recently so it's falling apart at the creases (its actually in several pieces) I know that it should probably be de-acidified and encapsulated in mylar, but is there a trick to holding it together? Would Lineco Doc Repair tape be a safe option? Thanks so much!
I would suggest enlisting the aid of a paper conservator. If you do a search in the archives, this is pretty much the standard answer. Unless you are trained in paper conservation/resoration (and judging from your question about the Lineco product I would guess not) you would be possibly doing more damage than good to the document.
There is a very good paper conservator that fequents the Grumble just north and west from you. Search for "Rebecca".
If the paper is to be viewed from both sides, an encapsulation mount would be right. And in that case, any kind of reinforcement to the paper should be applied by a conservator.

But if only one side will show, then you could make an Overlay Mount, which is just like encapsulation, except that the back is a 4-ply alphacellulose board instead of a piece of clear film. The fiberous board surface will help to hold the loose pieces of the document in place, so perhaps no direct repairs of the paper would be necessary.

I don't normally have a preference between alphacellulose boards made from wood, and those made from cotton, but cotton boards work better in Overlay Mounts. Cotton boards have a "toothier" surface -- probably due to the fact that the pulp is processed less, and so the fibers are longer.

A 19th century letter, long ago shredded into in four pieces at its folds, is encapsulated and framed in my gallery as a model since 1990. The pieces of the letter are all still snuggled in their correct positions.
Thank you both for your quick replies.
Jim, where do I get the cotton fiber alphacellulose board you're speaking of?
Wally, sorry I brought up the Lineco product...I guess I won't do that again on the Grumble!
The certificate was probably not printed on good quality paper. If you frame it and expose it to light (even with conservation glass) it is going to deteriorate further.

In the 1920's manufacturors were still experimenting with ink for fountain pens - some of them fade.

Could you suggest that the customer have a color copy made of the original document?

You would have something easy to work with and the customer would be able to preserve the original.

The mylar overlay has worked well for me also. I actually have my greatgrandparents emigrations papers and they were in a similar state - folded many times over. I didn't use any tapes, just the mylar to hold them in place and it works great. It also allows for easy removal, which is good because customers are often scared of the added expense of having something cleaned up by a conservator. If you encapsulate it, using eather method, it will be easily and saftly removable in the future, which takes the pressure off of your customer having to decide now weather to have it cleaned or not - they can frame it guilt free!
Also, I would deffinatly use a 100% cotton board / rag board - like anything from Bainbridges 8600 series. I think they are tagged "alpharag". Just make sure it's cotton and not treated wood pulp, I think using the wood pulp boards are iffy.
I really appreciate your responses.....and the Grumble. I'm a new grumbler and finding it very helpful.