2017 marks 40 years of CCAHA. Every Friday, we'll share the articles, photos, and recollections that tell the story of how CCAHA became a world-renowned leader in conservation science.
This article, published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on January 26, 1983, highlights an important aspect of CCAHA’s work: disaster recovery. While assisting a library recover from a fire in late 1981, CCAHA’s conservators noticed additional issues with the way the objects were stored.
In November 1981, Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning (now the Hebert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies of the University of Pennsylvania) suffered a devastating fire. Thousands of rare books and manuscripts were damaged by smoke and water. The College turned to CCAHA to help assess and mitigate the damage to the collections, some of which were over 1,000 years old.
In the process, CCAHA Assistant Conservator Lois Olcott Price noticed something: the documents were also deteriorating due to an outdated preservation effort: lamination. “Decades ago, these rare and valuable documents were laminated in a kind of transparent paper, a method that librarians used to think would preserve them,” the article quotes College President David Goldenberg as saying, “Instead, they were slowly being destroyed.”
CCAHA’s conservators got to work addressing not only the fire damage but also the issues arising from the lamination. They washed the documents to remove the acidic lamination and encapsulated them in polyester film.