News from The Brick Township Archives: Conservation of Brick Township Historic Minute Books

Located in northern Ocean County, the Township of Brick was created on 15 February 1850 by the New Jersey State Legislature in the same act that created the County of Ocean from the County of Monmouth.  Starting at the Township’s founding, the official acts and meetings of the Township Committee were recorded in three Meeting Minute Books which span 1850 to 1931 (Volume 1: March 1850 to February 1890; Volume 2: March 1890 to December 1915; and Volume 3: January 1916 to December 1931).  
The three volumes serve today as irreplaceable records of the Township Committee’s activities from its founding onward. They also document a number of important events in the community’s history during this period, including the Civil War, municipal elections, changes in the organizational structure of the municipal government, the secession of five sections of the original community to form new municipalities, and the introduction of utilities such as electricity and telephone service.
In 1975, officials of the Township of Brick arranged for a private vendor to microfilm the three volumes.  This costly project was intended to ensure the longevity of the books’ content by creating backup copies in an alternate format.  However, it caused some unforeseen problems in the process.  The original books were dismantled to facilitate microfilming, then re-assembled using plastic Velo-style bindings that involved drilling holes through the pages.  By 2012 these plastic bindings had broken, leaving many text pages loose and in danger of being lost.  The covers were detached or loose, and the books were difficult to handle safely.  In addition, the 1975 microfilm images were no longer readable.  Nearly forty years after the initial preservation effort, drawing on advancements in the field and the benefits of hindsight, in the spring of 2012 the Township Clerk’s Office decided to have the three Township Committee Meeting Minute Books digitally imaged and conserved. The digital imaging was performed by the New Jersey Division of Archives and Records Management (now Records Management Services) and their contracted vendor. 
After the digital imaging was completed, the Township arranged for conservation of the books with the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA), a nonprofit conservation center located in Philadelphia and specializing in the treatment of works of art and artifacts on paper.  First, CCAHA staff disbound the text blocks by either dismantling what remained of the plastic bindings (Volumes 1 and 3) or by releasing the cover (Volume 2). Surface dirt was cleaned from the leaves as needed with natural rubber sponges and a solid white vinyl eraser.
Volume 3 proved to be the most involved of the three Minute Books.  Numerous pages of resolutions, ordinances, and other records were found attached to the text pages with pressure-sensitive tape.  This tape was removed with a heated spatula, and the adhesive residue was reduced using a crepe eraser. The crepe eraser was dipped in ethanol when lifting adhesive residue from particularly fragile areas of the paper.
In all three volumes, major leaf tears were mended and losses bridged with mulberry paper and wheat starch paste. Mends extending into areas of text in Volume 3 were adhered with hydroxypropylcellulose in ethanol, a non-aqueous adhesive, to avoid disturbing the water-sensitive media.
The volumes were adhesive bound with PVAc (polyvinyl acetate, a high quality white glue). New alkaline machine-made paper end sheets were added to each text block.  The spines of the volumes were lined with layers of mulberry paper, cotton textile, and/or machine-made paper, laid down with PVAc. The text blocks were placed in dark brown Canapetta cloth cases with computer-generated spine labels printed on alkaline paper.
The three Township Committee Meeting Minute Books are among the most historically and legally valuable documents in the Township of Brick’s possession.  CCAHA’s expert repair and conservation of these documents has greatly extended their life and helped to ensure that the documents will be usable for many future generations to come.
About the Authors – Bryan J. Dickerson is the Township Archivist for the Township of Brick.  Amber Hares is one of the CCAHA Conservation Assistants who conserved and rebound the Township Committee Meeting Minute Books. 
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