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Project Case Studies

Naval Midshipman Certificate

An 1843 certificate commemorating the commission of a Naval midshipman was brought into the Lab. The certificate was made from vellum, a writing surface made of treated animal skin. Because of the nature of animal skins, temperature and humidity changes cause vellum to expand and contract, changing its shape. The vellum certificate had slipped in its frame and, as a result, rust from the nails holding the frame in place had rubbed onto the document.This certificate arrived in the Conservation Lab in its original frame.

The certificate was originally nailed into its frame
Nails are carefully being removed from the frame with a small spatula
Front view of the certificate with wrinkles
Back view. Notice the rust stains and discoloration as well as the holes in the paper, as a result of the certificate being nailed directly to its original frame.
The certificate has been flattened as much as possible using dehumidification
A close-up of a segment of the certificate showing removal of rust from the nails in the frame. The rust and excessive grime was removed using lightly dampened q-tips.
After treatment was completed, the certificate was rehoused in a new portfolio

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© Copyright January 22, 2019 Maryland State Archives