Conserving the Paper Remains of Pop Culture from the Grand Ronde school

We have been working as a group with a portion of a comic book recovered at the Grand Ronde schoolhouse site.  The comic book is in several pieces and is in need of a conservation plan to learn more about the comic. The content of the comic book is currently difficult to determine. It is worn, torn, disintegrating around all edges, covered in dried mud, and several pages are bonded together from years of being compressed by dirt and moisture. To answer our research questions cleaning and separating the pages is a must. Over the Winter quarter we have been investigating the kind of pop culture that the children of Grand Ronde school may have been exposed to.

We have carefully pulled back some of the edges and have observed a face (perhaps a superhero?), a pair of hands, other bits of undetermined illustration, and various fonts of typing throughout the pages. These aspects have led us to believe this could be from a newspaper, but there is still much to learn about the object.

In the early stages of this project we had full intent to learn and apply methods of cleaning and preservation to the object ourselves—this would have been done through video observation, written resources, and websites devoted to such. We even tried one test, a process of humidification which reintroduces some moisture into the fibers on a small test sample of the comic. We found that this elementary test caused the color of the ink to fade, and the amount of moisture was not sufficient to separate the pages.

However, we did find that the UW campus library has a conservation lab! Since then we have had a few meetings with conservation specialist Claire Kenny. Her knowledge, advice and involvement in the conservation of this piece has been a crucial element. She has provided us with many insights, and is currently working with the object. This project is still underway. Please stay tuned for more updates and reviews in the future!

Photos of comic book taken with a digital microscope camera


By: Danielle Sakowski