Sheesley separating a leaf from an album page
When the Constitution arrived, its 17 leaves were adhered to acidic brown papers and bound in a leather album. The leaves were brittle due to prolonged contact with the acidic mounts, and they exhibited numerous tears and losses. Mends and fills from previous treatments remained. Spots, stains, and accretions were scattered throughout, and the pages displayed minor planar distortions, as well as uneven discoloration overall.
CCAHA Paper Conservators Samantha Sheesley and Corine Norman McHugh and NEA Fellow Gwenanne Edwards removed the album pages from their binding. They then reduced surface dirt that had accumulated on each leaf. After immersing the leaves in successive baths of calcium-enriched deionized water, the conservators separated them from the album pages. They removed old mends and fills and reduced adhesive residue left from the album pages. They mended tears with narrow torn strips of mulberry paper and filled losses with paper pulp. These fills were toned with watercolor to blend with the original paper. Finally, Sheesley, McHugh, and Edwards humidified the leaves and pressed them to restore planarity.