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Flattening and Restoring a Vellum Fraternity Charter

I recently had the privilege of preserving the charter of the Tau Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity in Roanoke, Virginia.  This conservation project was prioritized to be completed in time for presentation at the fraternity’s 150th anniversary celebration.

When the vellum charter arrived, it was evident that iron gall ink corrosion had severely damaged the vellum in areas where the ink was heavily concentrated.  Over time, the parchment had suffered some water damage and had slowly become quite cockled and wavy, which is a very common condition issue for vellum manuscripts.  

Above, the vellum fraternity charter prior to treatment. It was partially adhered to an acidic backing board, which had to be removed before restretching the vellum to flatten it.

The document was surface cleaned to remove grime, and then humidified, stretched and flattened several times to bring it back into plane.  Once it was flattened, the document was adhered to an archival cotton rag matboard in preparation for archival framing.  Adhering it to the matboard will help prevent further planar distortion and loss to the document, since it is now stabilized and held in plane.  I infilled the losses with charcoal and artist grade pigments.  

Above, the vellum fraternity charter after conservation treatment.

It was truly an honor to help the Tau Chapter preserve their founding document.  I enjoyed problem-solving the condition issues and coming up with a suitable treatment plan.  This charter is now ready to be enjoyed for many more years to come!

The fraternity charter after archival framing.
The original charter pictured with a 1923 charter at the Hotel Roanoke during the 150th anniversary celebration of the Tau Chapter.

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