The W.V.S. Tubman Papers Collection

Stages

Stage I - Packing and Shipping to Indiana University

A team trained to pack fragile documents will take special shipping containers to the library of the Tubman Estate where they will retrieve the Tubman papers, flatten and pack them into the containers. Because facilities do not exist in Liberia to deep-freeze and freeze-dry the damp, insect infested collection, the containers will be air shipped back to the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Laboratory at Indiana University.

The Tubman materials were in worse condition than anticipated. Although not as damp as found in August 2004, the papers had more rodent and insect damage than expected. Many documents were missing and others were missing chewed sections: sometimes only around the edges; sometimes rendering the document an unusable paper doily.

Twenty-two (22) boxes of documents and photos were retrieved, packed in wooden boxes and air-freighted to the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Laboratory at Indiana University. Originally LCP estimated fifty (50) boxes of materials would be retrieved, but significant quantities of the collection were either missing or had deteriorated. The observed volume also included far more photos and photo books, which were beyond the scope of the project originally proposed to the Africana Librarians Council and the British Library´s Endangered Archives Programme. The remaining photos and photo books were retrieved from the Tubman Estate in January 2006 and are temporarily stored in Monrovia.

Stage II - Freeze-Dry Papers

The containers with the Tubman Papers will be deep frozen at -10º F to stop mold growth and exterminate insects, then placed in a freeze-drying facility at 28-30º F for several months.

After arrival at Indiana University, the Tubman boxes went into the deep-freezer for one week of extermination freezing on August 31, 2005. Because the materials were not soaked, but only limp from high humidity, freeze-drying was not necessary. Air-drying was determined to be the best drying method for such damp papers.

Stage III - Conservation and Restoration

Professional conservators at the Craig Preservation Laboratory will inspect the condition of the dried documents. Damaged documents will be restored whenever possible. When original documents can not be saved, the imaging staff, under the direction of the Head of the Craig Lab, will take necessary measures to capture and preserve their content.

A team of five students supervised by Garry Harrison, preservation specialist at the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Laboratory began the actual conservation work on September 23, 2005, working outside in the sunshine and crisp, dry fall air whenever possible. The conservation work was completed on March 8, 2006, yielding 43 document center boxes of clean, stable, flattened papers. Most papers at least required being flattened and brushed clean. Because of fecal matter from bats, rats and mice, many of the materials first required washing in a disinfectant bath by workers wearing lab safety gear: gloves, lab coats and masks.

Stage IV - Description & Arrangement

Colleen McCorkell began work as the W.V.S. Tubman Archivist on December 1, 2005. She first developed a processing plan based on analysis of the Tubman papers and her study of the Tubman presidential era. Approved by Philip Bantin, IU Archivist, Elwood Dunn and Verlon Stone in March, the plan will be periodically reviewed and updated as experience dictates. In March Ms. McCorkell finished the box inventories and began sorting the papers into series and subseries. She reports that 58% of collection has been sorted into folder title groups as of May 1, 2006.

Stage V - Microfilming

Following arrangement, McCorkell will prepare the W.V.S. Tubman papers for microfilming. Microfilming is expected to be completed by December 31, 2006.

Stage VI - Return Tubman Papers to Liberia

The timing for the return of the Tubman papers to Liberia will be determined by the Tubman family, which is weighing the storage and access options that will be available in Liberia.

Back to the top