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Bringing Back a 154-Year-Old Book

Kathy L.
Intern Kathy Lechuga spent 10 hours restoring the Indianapolis Directory.
Grooms & Smith’s Indianapolis Directory, City Guide, and Business Mirror, or Indianapolis as it is in 1855 appears to be the first full-blown and inclusive directory of businesses and individuals in the rapidly growing Indiana capital. “One would be hard-pressed to find anything comparable to it earlier than 1855, and an inscription by Booth Tarkington makes it even more significant,” says Eric Mundell, IHS director, printed collections and artifacts. “The book presents a unique view of Indianapolis as it stood just six years before the start of the Civil War. The burgeoning railroads were having an impact on the area, so there were all types of merchants and professionals flowing into the city.”

Though fairly well-preserved for its age, the directory had some condition issues. There was electrical tape on the spine where the cover had come apart, and it was coming off, exposing the deteriorated original spine linings. A fold-out map of Indianapolis and its suburbs was torn and detached from the book. The front cover and the first few page sections were completely detached, and other front sections were detached or loose. Kathy Lechuga, an intern in the IHS Conservation Lab, completed the work on the piece.

“The most challenging aspect of this treatment, and indeed any treatment, was repairing the book with minimally invasive, aesthetically pleasing methods that would restore its structural integrity and allow researchers to safely access its contents,” says Kathy, who is now an intern at the University of Notre Dame’s conservation labs and finishing up her master’s degree.

Booth book
The directory bears an inscription dated 1932 from Hoosier author Booth Tarkington.

Kathy first cleaned the spine and removed fragments of the original spine-covering material from the electrical tape. She reinforced loose sections and reattached separated sections using long fiber paper hinges. Two strips of long fiber paper were adhered to the exposed area of the spine to serve as an infill so that the spine would have the same dimensional thickness throughout and the sections would move the same way when opening the book. She gave the book a new cloth spine and mended and reattached the map.

“Conserving an object like this is always very satisfactory,” says Kathy. “I have the chance to make a completely unique and interesting historical artifact accessible to the public again while simultaneously contributing to its long-term preservation.”