Northeast Document Conservation Center

Rare J. J. J. Gourgas Manuscript Book Conserved

130015B000BT005In honor of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, Scottish Rite, a rare manuscript book written by J. J. J. Gourgas (1777-1865) was conserved at Northeast Document Conservation Center. J. J. J. Gourgas was one of the earliest founders and charter members of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, was Secretary of the organization for over 20 years, and then served as Sovereign Grand Commander from 1832 until 1851. 

The photograph on the left shows the condition of the manuscript before conservation. According to the conservator's report, the manuscript pages were dirty, discolored, and acidic, yet flexible. There were tears on many pages and detached pages with paper seal had a major tear.  The text block consisted of support leaves of laid paper with entries in iron gall inks. The manuscript book's boards (or front and back covers) were worn at the corners.     

According to the treatment report from the conservator, the manuscript document was washed in filtered water and then alkalized or deacidified with calcium hydroxide.  Tears were mended and folds guarded where necessary with Japanese kozo paper and wheat starch paste.  Buffered barrier sheets were inserted where clippings, paper seals, or heavy ink deposits were causing discoloration on adjacent pages.  The board corners and edges were stabilized using wheat starch paste.  The detached manuscript pages (shown at the right) were placed in a buffered folder.  The volume and folder were housed in a custom drop-spine box. 130015B000AT005 

This document will be featured in the upcoming exhibition opening on June 15, 2013, "A Sublime Brotherhood:  200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Jurisdiction" for all to see.   The exhibition staff will turn the pages of the manuscript every month so that the inks do not fade from the light in the gallery. 

This conservation has ensured that the manuscript will have a long life and can safely be used and handled by staff and future researchers.

 For more information on the contents of this manuscript book, see our earlier blog post.


Photographs of Gourgas Manuscript before and after treatment by Northeast Document Conservation Center by NEDCC staff, 2013.

Revere Charter from St. Paul Lodge on Extended Loan

Revere charter scan for blog postRecently, St. Paul Lodge A. F. & A. M., of Gardner (previously Groton), Massachusetts, deposited their lodge's charter on extended loan with the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library for safe keeping (see detail of charter on the left). The museum has an extended loan program in which lodges, chapters, and other Masonic bodies from the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction can place their charters with us.  These charters are stored in a secure vault which is temperature and humidity controlled.  Charters are then documented in our database for tracking purposes.  There is no fee for this storage which is a service to the Masonic community.

The St. Paul Lodge charter, dated January 15, 1797, is signed by Paul Revere, Jr. (1734-1818), Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, and Samuel Dunn (b. 1757), Deputy Grand Master.  Other signatures include Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831), Senior Grand Warden, Joseph Laughton (1746-1808), Junior Grand Warden, and Daniel Oliver (b. 1750), Grand Secretary.  The 24 charter members of St. Paul Lodge are listed on the document.

During Revere’s terms as Grand Master from 1795 through 1797, he chartered 23 lodges in Massachusetts.  This doubled the number of Masonic lodges in Massachusetts. Among these lodges were Union Lodge (Dorchester), Montgomery Lodge (Milford), and Jerusalem Lodge (South Hadley) whose charters the museum also holds on extended loan.          

The 216 year-old St. Paul Lodge charter is in very good condition.  Having been conserved at Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in 2010, this document has been de-acidified, flattened, and encapsulated.  This stabilization insures that it will be preserved for many years to come.   

We welcome other lodges and chapters to deposit their charters here at the museum on extended loan.  We will store, track, and record each document in our database.  If you are interested in this program or have questions about it, please contact either Catherine Swanson, Archivist, or Maureen Harper,  Collections Manager.   

Keeping collections safe from flood, fire, and mold

Water mains break, electrical wires can malfunction, and climate control systems can fail--all of which can threaten the safety of a cultural institution's collections. How do organizations manage a disaster or emergency of this kind? As well as these type of emergencies, other major disasters can threaten  collections: flooding, fire, earthquake, or vandalism. Many museums in the United States have experienced disasters of various types. From their experiences, the museum community learns how to cope.

In the summer of 2008, Iowa's Cedar Rapids Museum of Art was hit by severe flooding.  It tookFlood at Cedar Rapids Art Museum  the museum a full year to get back to normal operations. The collections storage and preparation areas in the basement were damaged. All staff took time away from their normal duties to help with reconstructing of storage spaces--one painting at a time.

After the earthquake of 1989 in San Francisco, California museums became models for disaster response and recovery. The Oakland Museum of California even prepared an exhibition about the topic.

Other museums, such as the Saskatchewan Western Development Museum, document disasters that they've coped with. In this case, in Canada, the museum suffered severe damage to its roof from a wind storm in 2003.

Vadalism at Cairo Museum One recent example of a disaster at a museum was the damage done to some of the ancient treasures at the Egyptian National Museum in Cairo during the 2011 political protests of the Egyptian people against the regime of Hosni Mubarak. The museum is home to some of the world's most precious antiquities, an estimated 120,000 artifacts, including the treasures of King Tutankhamen. The damage done to Egyptian artifacts is major and curators must now assess the extent of the damage and begin conservation or restoration of the pieces.

As part of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library's Preservation initiatives, we are creating an Emergency Preparedness Plan. During 2011 we will be using and online tool called dPlan which was written, designed, and is maintained by Northeast Document Conservation Center.  NEDCC is a premier center for disseminating information about preservation and conservation.

The Northeast Document Conservation Center and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners share dPlan, a free online program to help institutions write comprehensive disaster plans. The program provides templates for museums of all sizes to develop a customized plan with checklists; salvage priorities; preventive maintenance schedules; contact information for personnel, insurance, and IT help; and a list of emergency supplies and services are included.


Flooding entrance to Cedar Rapids Museum of Art,

Antiquities Damaged at Egyptian National Museum,