When Chief of Conservation MaryLynn Ritzenthaler retires in July, the last hands to have touched the Declaration of Independence will leave the National Archives.
The Declaration of Independence was sealed in early 1950s when it was still in the custody of the Library of Congress. Along with now-retired conservator Catherine Nicholson, MaryLynn removed the documents from the encasements to examine and treat them in 2001.
The conservators did not wear gloves when handling the parchment. “That surprises a lot of people because wearing gloves for certain kinds of artwork and photographs is a very good thing to do because you avoid fingerprinting,” Ritzenthaler said. “But with the parchment, we wanted to make sure that we were handling it as carefully as we could, and, sometimes, when you’re wearing gloves, you don’t have the same manual dexterity. So care was our big concern—and our hands were always clean!”
When the Declaration returned to the Rotunda in 2003, the National Institute for Standards and Technology estimated that the encasements will stay sealed for close to 100 years--making it likely that MaryLynn will be the last person to have touched them for a long time.
Read the full story here: http://1.usa.gov/298s7eW
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