Remember the little book I found in the package of photos I received? The Eastern Star book that I thought must have belonged to my great uncle Wilt?
Imagine my surprise when I finally opened up the document folded inside the book and saw the name Rebecca Schwartz staring back at me! It's very hard to see in the 'before' document above but if you look closely, about 3/4 of the way down in the middle of the page, it's there. REBECCA SCHWARTZ. See it? And what you probably can't see is the date in the section marked "In Testimony Whereof" of November 16, 1888. This document was presented to my great great grandmother, Rebecca Steen Schwartz, when she was elected Grand Matron, Order of the Eastern Star in California in 1888!
My hands began shaking and my heart was pounding as I realized what I had in front of me. This 120+ year old document had been folded up in this little book for who knows how long and now here it was! Oh my, what do I do? I thought about scanning it on the oversized scanner at work but honestly, I was afraid the light would damage it. Besides, I was afraid to even open it up all the way for fear of damaging it.
After a lot of research on document restoration, and a near-miss dumb move, I found an art restoration business in Seattle . The woman I contacted explained what she would be able to do and asked me to bring it by the shop so she could see the document. Together we unfolded the document and she examined it. She told me the paper was fine quality and was stamped with the date 1886. The tape on the back, where someone had tried to repair it, was a fairly recent addition but for $1 per inch, she could remove it. Then she would spray it with de-acidify and mount it to repair paper. It wouldn't look perfect but it would be my great great grandmother's original document! She apologized that it would take 4-6 weeks to complete but since it had been folded up for over 120 years, I told her I could wait a few more weeks :-)
When I picked it up, I was astounded at the difference. While the crease marks could still be seen, it was absolutely beautiful! And just like Rebecca had done 120 years before me, I held the document in my hands and was mesmerized by the meaning it held.
Next stop was the framing shop. I knew this had to be framed in such a way as to preserve the document while still showcasing it. We spent quite a bit of time with the framing expert in order to find just the right material and when we finally finished, I knew it would be perfect.
And it is!