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CCAHA's 40th: Small Phila. Shop Preserves History

    • Ellis Island Museum Treatments

2017 marks 40 years of CCAHA. Every Friday, we'll share the articles, photos, and recollections that tell the story of how CCAHA became a world-renowned leader in conservation science.

Click here to read the article. 

“Immigration is predominantly a paper trail,” says an art historian in this 1990 article about CCAHA’s work preserving paper artifacts for the new Ellis Island Immigration Museum. More than half of the exhibits in the museum were paper-based, the article says, “and lousy paper it is; some of the worst ever produced. So you can imagine the task facing the small shop in Philadelphia charged with conserving and mounting the paper trail left in the backwash of the largest immigrant flow in history.”

The article proceeds with colorful language, describing CCAHA conservators’ work on the passports, photographs, certificates, tickets, and journals: “paper-conserving is a strange art whose practitioners are skilled in masking the seasons and playing tricks with time.” This large-scale project went on for two years, with CCAHA staff treating between 600 and 700 items.

The article ends with a poignant example of a 1904 journal of a boarding matron who wrote Chaucerian stories about the immigrants who passed through Ellis Island, such as “The Italian with Two Wives” and “The Arranged Marriage.” 

See ongoing coverage of our 40th anniversary here.