The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 20, Number 37, September 10, 2017, Article 34


This September 7, 2017 article from the Smithsonian's O Say Can You See? blog describes the meticulous process involved in restoring burned artifacts. -Editor

The history behind a single object can often tell many stories. In 2004 the museum acquired a stock certificate from an early Internet start-up. At first glance, you can probably imagine the types of stories we might tell with this object. However, when context places it in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, this stock certificate's history becomes much more complex.

Donated by Hoover, Inc., to the museum's Division of Work and Industry, the stock certificate is a reminder that the World Trade Center was a target, symbolically representing America's economic might and reach. The stock certificate is also a piece of reality, as fragments of paper rained down all across the city of New York following the collapse of the World Trade Towers.

Congress designated the museum as the official repository of the story of September 11, and the museum continues to collect artifacts that reflect what happened that day and the aftermath. How do you preserve the history of an object—especially a tragic history—and how does that history inform the conservation treatment the object receives in preparing it for potential display?

While the answers very much depend on the object in question, making this particular stock certificate's tumultuous history immediately obvious to the viewer is especially important. The certificate arrived in the Paper Conservation Lab as a pile of paper bits stored in the envelope and inert plastic sleeve shown below. Organization of these fragments was needed to make some order out of the chaos, to make the story of the certificate clear, and to provide a safer permanent storage solution.

To achieve these objectives, the fragments were categorized by charred paper color, ink lines, and shape to make the original size of certificate clear. Once staff members knew how to put it together, the intentional decision was made to place the pieces slightly apart—not fitting together quite perfectly—thus maintaining their history in demonstrating the destruction the attacks caused. This was accomplished by using something called solvent-set tissue paper. The tissue is coated with an adhesive that is not tacky at room temperature, but can be activated with ethanol. This allowed for the pieces to be placed in desired positions, secured with ethanol applied with a miniature paint brush, and then weighted down while the softened adhesive set to establish a strong connection. This process made organization and workability easier, as secured fragments wouldn't move around while adjusting others. The fragments can be seen on the tissue in the photos below.

September 11 stock certificate restored

To read the complete article, see:
Preserving and displaying layers of history: The stock certificate nearly destroyed on September 11 (

This is an appropriate time for all collectors to consider the safety of their collections. Given the recent weather events battering the U.S., dealer Lyn Knight sent this message to his email list on September 7, 2017. -Editor

This is a difficult time for many Americans as well as throughout the world with storms and weather events that we will rarely see in our lifetimes and I just want to remind those of you in harms way to take proper precautions to protect your family, your home and your irreplaceable memories and personal property. Having been to banks and safe deposit box vaults around the world I want to remind everyone that vaults are not waterproof and you are responsible for the safety of your collection. Some of us have safe rooms etc, will the paper money survive but will it be damaged by dirty water-most likely. If you have water damage or such we have a fantastic restorer that understands paper money and can be of assistance if necessary.

Whether you live on a mountain or on the beach this would be a great time to review the safety of your collection.

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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