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Angel’s Project at the Bergen County Historical Society

Posted by Jessica Pace

On October 12th and 13th, volunteers flocked to the Bergen County Historical Society (BCHS) in River Edge, New Jersey to conserve objects damaged by last fall’s Hurricane Sandy.  The event, an Angel’s Project organized by the New York Regional Association for Conservation (NYRAC), provided much needed aid to an organization still reeling from the storm’s aftermath.

Last fall, the Historical Society’s approximately 1,000 square-foot offsite storage facility was hard hit by Sandy’s floodwaters. The space had held numerous artifacts dating from New Jerseys’ colonial period to the present day. These materials include textiles, paintings, and documents, as well as everyday objects.

Objects that were salvaged from the flood suffered from exposure not only to moisture but also to numerous unknown waste materials carried by the floodwater. Fragile paintings and textiles were torn and stained. Organic materials were damaged by rapid mold-growth, while ferrous materials underwent equally rapid oxidative corrosion.

Volunteers at the Angel’s Project treated a group of thirty mostly mid-19th century household and farm-related objects, which included tools, chests, and children’s toys. Harriet Irgang Alden also treated an oil painting by the 19th century local artist Emile Stange.

Volunteers treating objects from the BCHS.

Volunteers treating objects from the BCHS.

All objects were cleaned to remove dust, grime, and residue from floodwater. Many objects also required removal of mold or iron oxide corrosion, and some required reattachment of broken elements.

Cleaning a painted cast iron toy.

Cleaning a painted cast iron toy.

After treatment, the objects were wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and placed into boxes for temporary storage in the attic of the Steuben House, one of three structures located at the Historical Society.  Treatment reports, as well as before and after treatment images generated from the project will be entered into the BCHS database.

Manacles before treatment.

Manacles before treatment.

Manacles after treatment.

Manacles after treatment.

Cast iron toy before treatment.

Cast iron toy before treatment.

Cast iron toy after treatment.

Cast iron toy after treatment.

The project is spearheaded by Gary McGowan, NYRAC’s president, in collaboration with Kevin Wright and Deborah Powell, both past presidents of BCHS. Equipment was donated by Gary McGowan and the Alliance for Response. The approximately fifteen participants in the Angel’s project include practicing conservators, conservation students, as well as graduate students in museum studies.

Regardless of background, participants came away with a richer understanding of Bergen County history and an appreciation for the effort of the Historical Society in its preservation. No doubt many also appreciated the brief foray away from the city and into the slice of nature in which the BCHS is situated, as well as the sunny weather that allowed them to work outdoors.

Participants on Saturday, October 12th.

Participants on Saturday, October 12th. From left to right: Moses Mkumpha, Brittany Venturella, Esther Rydzik, Jacqueline DeLuca, Keira Gruber, Danielle Pace, Julia Sybalsky, Karen Zipf, Gary McGowan.

Participants on Sunday, October 13th.

Participants on Sunday, October 13th. From left to right: Jessica Pace, Harriet Irgang Alden, Shannon Mulshine, Stephanie Liff, Kim Weglarz, Karen Zipf, Jacqueline DeLuca, Gary McGowan.

The Angel’s Project in the news!  Read about the project here:

NorthJersey.com

NJ.com

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