Samuel Strong Box – DAR Conservation Project
In 2017 the Vermont State Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) embarked on a joint project with Bixby Library in Vergennes to conserve specific Samuel Strong papers found in Bixby’s collection. These papers date from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s and contain documents related to the Strong family and the early history and culture of the Vergennes and Addison County area.
The Strong family was one of the founding families in Addison County. John Strong was a Revolutionary War patriot and a prominent early citizen of Addison County. He served as a judge, surveyor, State Legislator and represented Addison at the State Convention that adopted the Constitution of the United States and approved the admission of Vermont to the Union as the 14th State. A number of buildings, graves, artifacts, and artwork in Addison County are connected to the Strong family, including:
- The John Strong Mansion Museum, stewarded by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)
- The Strong House Inn, originally a Federal/Greek Revival home for Samuel Paddock Strong (John Strong’s grandson)
- A number of graves for Strong family members are spread around Addison County
- Bixby’s Partnership with UVM’s Center for Digital Initiatives allows online access to 794 historic photos from our History Room Collection
- The Bixby also houses a number of artifacts and items with is partially digitized and can be viewed in-person by appointment only. Preserving more of these items, including the items outlined here, is an archival dream for the Bixby.
The items relevant to this project are located in a box in the Bixby History Room. This box, nicknamed Sam’s Box, is listed in a 1977 Bixby inventory, but the provenance of the box and items within it are unknown. It is assumed Sam’s Box was donated to the Bixby prior to 1977, most likely by a family member of Cornelia Wagstaff (the 3 times great grand-daughter of John Strong), who passed away in 1976 and was the last Strong family member to live in Stronghold (pictured above).
Around 2007, there was a roof failure at the Bixby and water damaged items in the History Room and Vermont Room, including items in Sam’s Box. Archival sleeves were added to items to provide some protection. In 2016 Jane Spencer, then Bixby Director, approached DAR to see if there was interest in archiving and conserving any of the items in Sam’s Box. A joint project was approved in May 2017.
From September 2017-March 2018, four evaluators and DAR members, Maureen Labenski, Susan Ferland, Rena Trepanier, and Joy Minns assessed every item in Sam’s Box (pictured). Four items were identified to have historical or cultural significance and be in good enough condition to justify conservation.
Items to Conserve
The four items were assessed by multiple conservationists and estimates were gathered in the Spring of 2019. After meeting with conservators, Barbis Fine Art Conservation in Woodstock, VT was selected.
The conservation work achieved the following:
- It cleaned surface soils and, where possible, removed stains. (In some cases the ink is too fragile to remove the stains.)
- The paper was de-acidified and restored to a neutral pH.
- Folds and creases were relaxed, restoring the paper to its original smooth, flat state.
- Tears and holes were filled with Japanese rice tissue.
The treated documents are much more accessible to the public. While the documents will always be fragile, people will be able to handle the documents (with gloves, of course!) without as much danger of damaging them. The documents are more legible due to the removal of stains and have been placed in Mylar envelopes for storage and viewing. In addition, the de-acidification will ensure the documents’ longevity, as will the use of high-quality materials for repair.
Strong Family Papers Exhibit
The restored Strong Family Papers were officially exhibited in the Bixby Library’s lobby in May 2021. Thank you to the DAR for awarding us the grant and all of our volunteers for their hard work advocating for the conservation of these historically and culturally significant materials. The exhibit will be removed from the lobby in the fall of 2021 for preservation purposes and will become part of a rotating historical collections exhibit.