This post was written by Saira Haqqi, Enhanced Conservation Work Experience (ECWE) Assistant.
One of the highlights of working in the New-York Historical Society’s conservation lab is the range of materials that come to us for treatment. Sometimes, as with this broadside, the treatment can be quite in-depth; but some items just need a minor mend to make them safe for use and display.
This was the case with our recently acquired copy of the 1959 edition of The Negro Travelers’ Green Book. (Here’s a link to our catalog record for it.) The Green Book was a travel guide series published yearly between 1936 and 1966 by a Victor Hugo Green (1892-196), a New York City mailman, and his wife, Alma. The series offered critical information to African American tourists on how to travel safely and comfortably during the era of segregation and discriminatory laws. In the collection at N-YHS, the book forms part of the history of African American activists in the city.
As is evident from the picture, the book was mostly in great shape, but its back cover was missing and its front cover had several tears. I mended these with wheat starch paste (a common conservation adhesive) and filled the areas of loss – and provided the missing back cover.
The book was originally held together with staples, which can rust over time and mark the paper. For the longevity of the book, I removed the staples and sewed the book together with thread.
Voila! The book was done!
This was a very quick treatment, but it was no less satisfying than longer or more challenging ones. At the end of the day, sometimes all a book needs is a few simple mends.
(The New York Public Library has digitized editions of the Green Book available online at this link.)