The W.V.S. Tubman Papers Collection

The Project

Rescuing Liberian History: Preserving the Personal Papers of William V.S. Tubman, Liberia's Longest-Serving President
Liberian Collections Project
Supported by Grants from Endangered Archives Programme

and the Title VI Librarians of the Africana Librarians Council

In Summer 2005, Dr. Elwood Dunn and Dr. Verlon Stone, along with other members of the Liberian Collections Project, traveled to Tubman Farm in Bong County, Liberia in hopes of rescuing the personal papers of William V.S. Tubman, Liberia´s longest serving president (1944-1971).

The purpose of the project, funded by the British Library´s Endangered Archives Programme and the Title VI Librarians of the Africana Librarians Council, was to restore the insect and rodent damaged papers of the former president as well as improve the techniques of the archivists. When Christopher Clapham, an African Studies specialist, visited the Tubman Farm in 1979 to prepare a report for Tubman´s widow, he estimated about 30,000 items to exist, which he felt were of great value for the study of OAU´s early years and West African diplomacy.

Tubman Farm was looted in 2003 during Liberia´s most recent civil war. The looters scoured through the papers in search of money and valuables then scattered everything on the floor. Stone and Dunn visited the Farm in 2004 to assess the Tubman documents and found them damp from the tropical climate and in poor condition. Many photo-scrapbooks were also found, displaying Tubman´s trips to the US and other countries, as well as trips throughout Africa. These scrapbooks, created by the Liberian and US government press offices, were in better condition than that of the papers.

Dunn and Stone reviewed the condition of both the papers and the scrapbooks then spoke with the Tubman family about their plan to recover and restore the documents. The plan is outlined below.

Stage I - Packing and Shipping to Indiana University

Stage II - Freeze-Dry Papers

Stage III - Conservation & Restoration

Stage IV - Description & Arrangemen

Stage V - Microfilming

Stage VI - Return Tubman Papers to Liberia

Twenty-two boxes of documents and photos were retrieved from the Tubman Estate during the 2005 trip. The boxes were then air shipped back to the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Laboratory at Indiana University in order to deep-freeze and dry the collection. According to the lab´s Unit Head, Garry Harrison, the documents were so badly contaminated that they could not be brought into the lab. Instead, tables were set up outside the lab in order for the preservation process to begin. The lab work was completed in September 2005.

Archivist, Colleen McCorkell, began work on restoring the collection on December 1, 2005.