Special Collections and University Archives

-Suzanne Sawyer

The Robert C. Hansen Performing Arts Collection contains programs, heralds, guidebooks, periodicals, playbooks, sheet music, songbooks, correspondence,  autographs, original costume designs, scenery designs, posters, photographs, scrapbooks, and other visual materials and memorabilia. Each of these items help document the history of the performing arts, mainly theatre, in many countries though mainly in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Items date from 100 to 2012, with the bulk of the items dating to the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection is named for Dr. Bob Hansen, an Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Theatre at UNCG, who has generously donated the entire collection (and continues to donate additions).

   This broadside from the Hansen Performing Arts Collection advertises a 19th century theatre production entitled Caius Gracchus, a tragedy written by James Sheridan Knowles, that was performed around 1823 at the New Theatre Royal on Drury-Lane in London. The broadside arrived in Preservation Services to be stabilized and to have a protective enclosure created for it. It was discolored due to age, impurities in the paper, and environmental exposure. One corner was detached and the edges had small tears, losses, or folds.

Due to the discoloration, the broadside was washed. The first step of the process was to ensure the ink was not soluble in water. It was tested by adding a very small drop of water, allowing it to absorb for a few seconds, and then blotting it dry. If any ink transfers to the blotter, the ink is likely soluble in water and washing the broadside would be a bad idea. However, this test proved the ink was stable. 

The broadside was sandwiched between two layers of Reemay, a spun polyester fabric that can be used to support documents during the washing process. It makes it easier to handle the wet document. The broadside was submerged in water in a large, flat tray. The water was exchanged several times until it was mostly clear after soaking the document. This process helps to reduce discoloration and also serves to strengthen the paper as it removes some of the impurities and rehydrates the paper fibers.

The paper was relatively thin, so an overall lining of Japanese paper was attached to the back to provide extra support as well as to fill in the losses at the edges. (Unfortunately, there are no pictures of this phase of the project.) While the broadside was still damp, it was laid face down on a piece of Mylar, which helps keep it flat with surface tension. The crumpled edges were flattened out and the detached corner was laid in its original place. A slightly oversized piece of Japanese paper, close in tone to the original broadside, was pasted out with rice starch paste. The broadside, while being supported with Mylar, was then laid down on the Japanese paper. The Mylar was removed and the broadside and Japanese paper were sandwiched between dry Reemay. This allowed for gently burnishing the back of the Japanese paper lining to ensure it had good contact with the broadside.

Before and After Treatment

Once burnished, the lined broadside in its Reemay layers, was placed between cotton blotters to dry. It was restraint dried–placed under a board with heavy weights–to prevent warping. Once it was completely dry the following day, the excess Japanese paper was trimmed away. The broadside was placed in a Mylar sleeve and a portfolio enclosure was created for storage and protection. The portfolio provides the support needed to more easily handle the broadside as it is pulled for researchers or classes that visit the Robert C. Hansen Performing Arts Collection at Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives.

The broadside in its portfolio enclosure

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