Aug 12 2011
The New York Times - by Eve M. Kahn
Woody Guthrie saved paperwork documenting his peripatetic life, from utility bills for New York apartments to fliers protesting shanty demolitions in Seattle and lyrics for folk songs performed at a Los Angeles radio station. He and his family put some of the artifacts in scrapbooks, but that did not fend off damage over the years.
The glues and album bindings weakened and failed. The page edges turned brittle and crumbled. Newspaper clippings yellowed and tore.
The Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives, which the family helps run at a tiny office in Mount Kisco, N.Y., has long had to keep researchers away from the more fragile scrapbooks.
“Anytime anyone looked through, I knew we would lose a portion of it,” said Tiffany Colannino, the collection’s archivist.
During the last year the staff has finally been granting access to the albums, thanks to preservation work undertaken with a grant of $80,000 from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. Among other things, the money allowed the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass., to box a half-dozen Guthrie scrapbooks in dove-gray cardboard and sheath the pages in clear polyester.
New labels on the covers explain the other treatments performed, with phrases like “nonaqueously alkalized” and “magnesium oxide particles in a perfluoro compound.”
Next year the albums may go on the road for celebrations of Guthrie’s centennial. “Now that everything’s conserved, it can be traveled and exhibited,” Ms. Colannino said. Digitized pages will be reproduced for new books, including one by the singer’s daughter Nora Guthrie for powerHouse Books about his years in New York.
Photos and clippings in the scrapbooks trace his wanderings in Greenwich Village, the Upper West Side and Coney Island, through three divorces and the births of five of his children, and his decline from Huntington’s disease at hospitals in Brooklyn and Queens.
The government has financed dozens of other scrapbook rescues in the past few years.
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