This 1852 map of the city of Madison is the earliest map of the old river city held in the Indiana State Library’s collections. The detail is brilliant, done by the careful hand of Hoosier pioneer William C. Bramwell. It seems clear that this map is the original map used for the 1854 published map of the city, which is held in Madison. Bramwell seems to have an interesting biography, although little is known about the details of his life. Credits to his name include state legislator, surveyor, preacher, inventor and spinning wheel maker. Whatever his true calling, it is clear his attention to detail and craftsmanship has left us a beautifully rich and detailed map of one of Indiana’s oldest cities.
It is not known when the Indiana State Library acquired this map, or its history before it arrived at the library. When it was found in the collection it was in an extremely deteriorated and fragile state. The map was still adhered to its original fabric backing, which had become very dirty and deteriorated. As with many maps from this period, the front had been varnished, which resulted in even more deterioration. The front of the map had also become so dirty and discolored that most of the map could not be read. Many pieces of the map had broken off and become lost, and it was difficult to determine the difference between the paper areas and the cloth. It was in such poor condition, that even unrolling it would result in pieces falling off. Finally, as with many maps from this period, there was evidence of water damage as well in the form of staining.
The goals for this project were simple. In its current state, the map was unusable. It was so dirty that it could not be read, and it was so fragile that even unrolling it would result in more pieces falling off. The goals of this project were to clean the map as much as possible to remove the old varnish, the dirt and the staining and then line the map onto a single sheet of Japanese paper to allow for it to be stable enough to handle. While the goals were simple, the execution would prove to be complicated by the enormous quantity of loose pieces that would come loose once the original fabric was removed. In order to preserve the information in the map, all the loose pieces would need to stay in their correct spots throughout the entire treatment. Finally, the map would be encapsulated in a custom polyester film sleeve to allow for more protection. The below pictures outline the conservation process.
Click here to read more about the conservation efforts of the Indiana State Library.
This blog post was written by Seth Irwin, conservator, and Monique Howell, Indiana Collection supervisor, both of the Indiana State Library.