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Conservation: BHS’s Maps Get Some TLC!

By Laura Juliano

Posted on May 10, 2019

In our second post about the Library & Archives project Portal to the Past: Creating Brooklyn Historical Society’s Digital Map Collections, we are happy to announce we recently completed a significant milestone: conservation!

One large facet of this project was being able to conserve a few maps in order to reintroduce them into our collection for researchers, scholars, and map enthusiasts. The Portal to the Past project team chose ten maps to conserve out of 1,600 based on four parameters: historical significance, uniqueness, state of decay, and those most in scope with our collection. Most of these maps were unable to be touched or opened without taking great care and only with assistance. For all these maps, this is no longer the case!

Before images:

Brooklyn, Flatbush and Coney Island guide map to Brighton Beach, [1881]; B A-1880.Fl.RA; Brooklyn Historical Society.

After we selected the ten maps to be conserved, a paper conservator completed an initial analysis and provided individual treatment proposals.

Map of the sickly neighborhood at Brooklyne, New York, [1809]; B B-1809.Fd.RA; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Map of the sickly neighborhood at Brooklyne, New York, [1809]; B B-1809.Fd.RA; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Once the treatment proposal and budget were approved, we carefully packed the maps for hand delivery to the conservator’s lab near Central Park. There, she worked her magic; using patience, skill, and Japanese paper, she gave each map a new life.

On a gorgeous spring day in early April, we picked up our maps and returned them to their flat files at BHS.

Brooklyn, Flatbush and Coney Island guide map to Brighton Beach, [1881]; B A-1880.Fl.RA; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Plan of Central Park, New York City, Dripps, M. (Matthew); [1860’s]; M-[186-?].Fd.RA; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Most are now in the process of getting digitized. In addition to improving their condition through a variety of conservation techniques, such as removing tape, filling losses, cleaning, and encapsulating, we are ensuring that they will last indefinitely while allowing for increased access through digitization which we will tell you about in a few months.

Plan of Central Park, New York City, Dripps, M. (Matthew); [1860’s]; M-[186-?].Fd.RA; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Thanks to the efforts of our conservator, Ursula Mitra, and the entire Portal to the Past project team, all ten maps are conserved and in beautiful condition.

Farm & property line map of Twenty-sixth Ward of Brooklyn, J.B. Beers & Co.; [1889]; B P-1889.Fd.Folio; Brooklyn Historical Society.v
Peremptory sale of valuable real estate in the city of Brooklyn, Miller & Co.'s Lith.; [1835]; B P-[1835].A; Brooklyn Historical Society.

If you missed our first post, please read it here. In the meantime, please stay tuned for the next update on this project!

In 2017, BHS received a generous grant from National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support Portal to the Past: Creating Brooklyn Historical Society’s Digital Map Collections, a project that will increase public access to the institution’s extensive collection of flat and folded maps through conservation, digitization, and the creation of a web-based portal.

Map Portal Team:

Julie I. May, Laura Juliano, Camille Lannan, Daniel Brenner

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