Professional techniques preserve family treasures

This article is posted by permission of the Alexandria Gazette.

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Professional techniques preserve family treasures

August 25, 1994
By Pamela J. Cressey

I am often asked why I became an archaeologist. People then offer their own interpretations for my occupational choice. Do I long to discover gold and treasure? Do I want to find the missing link? Do I want to hide from contemporary life by studying the dead?

Actually my involvement in archaeology is far more basic. I love old stuff and dirt. Putting the two together as archaeology is paradise. I learned to love dirt as a child making mud pies. My parents instilled within me an awe for old things by caring for our family's treasures and taking me on countless museum trips.

In essence our homes are family museums. By preserving the family photographs, toys, quilts, papers and furniture we are all curating for future generations. Sometimes we acquire another family’s objects at auctions and add them to our collection. In other cases we create new family treasures as we add current photographs and newspaper clippings.

But do you ever find that you may need an archaeologist to dig out all your family's treasures? Where are those old photographs that you always meant to frame? And how did they get so brittle sitting in the attic the last 20 years? In fact, you may need a conservator even more than an archaeologist!

Now is your chance to get professional expertise to help you properly preserve your historic materials and collectibles. The Fort Ward Museum is hosting its popular lecture series "Home Care of Heirlooms and Collectibles" on Saturdays beginning October 15, 1994.

On four consecutive Saturdays you will be able to listen to specialists in paper, furniture, textiles and photographs discuss guidelines for handling, storing and displaying. You can bring one collectible corresponding to the lecture topic for consultation.

Photographs are one of the biggest issues for most families. Not only do we have many from previous generations, but we are creating them at a faster pace as technology changes. Larry Baume, an appraisal archivist with the National Archives, will discuss how to identify and care for your photographs. He will deal with daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes and cartes-de-visite as well as videotapes. You will learn how to archivally store and display your photographs so that you can protect them from environmental agents that cause deterioration.

Call Fort Ward Museum now for a reservation either for the four-part series ($17) or individual lectures ($5 each), 703-838-4848. This series is extremely popular, and there is limited seating. This is a rare opportunity to learn current techniques for protecting your own family history.

Pamela Cressey is the Alexandria City Archaeologist.

This caption appeared with an image printed in the Gazette:

A Photograph taken at Fort Ward's Southwest Bastion, circa 1864. The 100-pounder Parrott rifle, the most powerful gun at Fort Ward, had a 5 mile range overlooking Liver River Turnpike.