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Apr 10 / Matthew Fredericks

SLIS Alternative Spring Break – Lantern Slide Stabilization at NARA: The Good, the Bad, and the Silly

By: Brittany Forth, MLIS student

Figure 1, Alternative Spring Break Participants and the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero

For Wayne State’s Alternative Spring Break, I got the amazing opportunity to work at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). I worked on the stabilization and rehousing of lantern slides. The lantern slides were of early aviation and featured the Wright Brothers and Charles Lindbergh. I worked at the Archives II location in College Park, Maryland, in the conservation lab.

On our first day there, all the Alternative Spring Break participants placed at NARA, from Wayne and other schools got to meet the Archivist of the United States and received a tour of the Washington DC NARA building from his assistant (Figure 1). It was very interesting to receive a VIP tour and see parts of the building that not many get to see.

Figure 2, Broken Lantern Slide

Figure 3, Repaired Lantern Slide.
RG 018 Army Air Forces, lantern slides of aviation history, ca. 1903-1927, Box 41

Working at the Archives II facility was very fun and rewarding. Under the supervision of Sara and Lauren, two conservators at NARA, another Wayne student, Mattie Dugan, and I began our project of rehousing lantern slides. The original slides were crammed into too small boxes, cause many of the glass lantern slides to crack, or break completely. We were tasked with rehousing the lantern slides into larger boxes and putting cracked or broken slides into Mylar sleeves to stabilize them. There were quite a few that were completely shattered. Luckily for us, Sara and Lauren let Mattie and me help with conservation treatment for the slides. Figures 2 and 3 show the slide before and after treatment.

Working with the lantern slides was very interesting because it was a medium I had not worked with before. Also learning conservation techniques from Sara and Lauren was really exciting, because I now have these skills that I did not have before. I think my favorite part was looking through all of the images, because there were quite a few silly ones. There was one in particular of a pilot holding a raccoon (Figure 4).

All in all, my experience at NARA was an exceptional one. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun. I am very grateful for the experience and gained knowledge.

Figure 4, Man and his raccoon. RG 018 Army Air Forces, lantern slides of aviation history, ca. 1903-1927, Box 26, #3087.