Special Collections has asked us to encapsulate multiple over-sized photographs in polyester film. The goal of the project is to minimize handling damage, in particular damage caused by sliding the photos between layers when removing and returning them to a drawer. I’m spending a lot of quality time with our Minter Ultrasonic Encapsulator. I’m sure it will get boring eventually, but I have to say that the photos are pretty cool. It is especially satisfying to see older photos of campus after all my work on the old campus maps.

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Morrill Hall with Old Main in the Background

The photo above includes Old Main, a building that once held the entire college and has a pretty interesting history which can be read about here. For our purposes today though, we are a bit more interested in what is on the other side of the photo.

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“What the heck?”

I was a bit surprised when I turned the photo over to discover the back covered with what at first appeared to be the brown gummed tape often used by framers. A more careful examination revealed that it isn’t gummed tape, but just brown kraft paper like the kind used to make paper bags. As you can see in the photo below there are even fold lines in the paper.

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Not gummed tape

I showed the photo around the lab and asked if anyone had an idea why someone would “tape” the back in such a manner. The resounding response was variations on “What the heck?” The best theory we have is that someone applied the paper to try to prevent the photo from bowing. I can say that the photo is flatter than some similar photos I encapsulated but not the flattest in the group.

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Flat, but not the flattest

So, we are perplexed and were wondering if any of you have seen something like this or have any idea what the intention of the “taper” was.

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