William Gaston letter, March 22, 1811. Georgetown University Archives; Booth Family Center for Special Collections.
Georgetown’s first student wrote this letter in 1811 on wove paper using iron gall ink. The paper had become moderately brittle over time. Also, the ink tested positive for iron(ii) ions, making the letter vulnerable to a type of rust. In addition, the letter’s wax seal had created both discoloration in the paper and a large hole. The letter was conserved in 2014, and treatments included surface cleaning to remove dirt and grime, washing the paper to reduce acidity, and performing a calcium phytate treatment to sequester the damaging iron ions. Lastly, conservators mended the tears and filled paper losses with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste.