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Preservation Initiatives
Preservation and access are primary goals of the St. Louis Circuit Court Historical Records Project. While processing the records, Archivists have performed basic preservation work using the National Archives' Holdings Maintenance procedures as a guide. This process includes upgrading the storage of the whole collection with the use of alkaline folders and boxes. Conservators on staff in St. Louis and Jefferson City have performed item-level treatment of selected records, and sent records to conservation treatment providers. The entire collection is being microfilmed to ensure a permanent copy.
Dred and Harriet Scott Freedom Suits
Early in the Archives' work with the Circuit Court, the Clerk recognized that one of the most significant cases in the collection is the body of records that comprise the initial court case Dred and Harriet Scott filed to claim their freedom from slavery. In November 1999, those records were transferred to the Archives' conservation lab for treatment. The treatment included testing and analysis, surface-cleaning to remove dirt, washing and removal of old mends, mending, and encapsulation. A detailed description of the conservation work is available. The records were returned to the St. Louis Circuit Court in a gala celebration at the Old Courthouse in February 2000. Digital facsimiles are available at Washington University in St. Louis's Dred Scott Exhibit (view additional resources).
Save America's Treasures
On July 7, 2000, President Bill Clinton officially designated the early St. Louis Circuit Court records an "American Treasure" and announced that the Missouri State Archives had won a grant under the Save America's Treasures program. That funding allowed the Missouri State Archives to undertake more extensive conservation treatment of the pre-1830 documents, followed by preservation microfilming to make them widely available for research.
In the course of their work to process the collection, archivists flattened and surface-cleaned many records, and placed the most fragile ones in protective sleeves. After processing was complete, archivists and conservators from the State Archives worked together to identify the cases that had the highest intrinsic value and were in most dire need of conservation treatment. Approximately 800 documents from the collection were sent offsite for conservation at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) and Richard Baker Conservation. A modest conservation studio was established at the Missouri State Archives-St. Louis, and a full-time conservator hired to treat some 4,500 items (10% of the records) with basic and moderate-level conservation needs: surface cleaning, humidification and flattening, tape removal, mending, and housing in polyester sleeves. Items requiring encapsulation or protective boxes were sent to the State Archives' conservation lab in Jefferson City. The sum of these actions prepared the collection to withstand the stresses of research use and microfilming.
The entire collection up to 1830 was microfilmed in accordance with ANSI/AIIM standards and with the guidelines of the Research Libraries Group. The work was done by the Northeast Document Conservation Center, vendors that specialize in preservation microfilming. Preparation and quality control work was performed by Archives staff with significant microfilming experience.
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Save America's Treasures
Conservators at CCAHA remove adhesive tape from an early court record.
Conservators at CCAHA remove adhesive tape from an early court record.
Japanese paper and starch paste are used to mend a record from the Meriwether Lewis estate.
Japanese paper and starch paste are used to mend a record from the Meriwether Lewis estate.
Archivists use dry cleaning sponges to remove surface dirt from the documents.
Archivists use dry cleaning sponges to remove surface dirt from the documents.