Historic documents may have deteriorated in poor storage conditions

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | May 4, 2015 3:53 AM

One of the tribunals at the Nuremberg Trials.

(Harrisburg) -- The city of Harrisburg is still trying to sell off many historical artifacts acquired by former Mayor Stephen Reed.

But some of the items may have deteriorated under poor storage conditions.

Take the partial collection of Nuremberg Trial transcripts from the prosecution of Nazi war criminals - or what the city believes are transcripts.

The documents have been stashed in a storage facility, and a former public works director says he doesn't think it had air conditioning.

The city couldn't confirm storage conditions by deadline.

Jessica Silverman, a paper conservator at Philadelphia's Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, says climate control is one of the best ways to ensure proper preservation of historic documents.

"It'd be best to stabilize them by mending them so that those tatters don't turn into tears and lost pieces can be made whole," says Silverman.

She says an expert is limited it what they can do to completely prevent deterioration as time goes on, but recommends at least getting the documents into acid free folders and boxes.

"As part of the history of where the object's been stored or what's happened to it, I mean there are definitely things that we cannot reverse. Chemical deterioration being one of them it's not completely reversible by any means," she adds.

Silverman spoke broadly about document preservation because she hasn't seen the city's specific transcripts.

She says more advanced techniques depend on the type of paper and ink used.

Harrisburg City Solicitor Neil Grover, who came into his position when Mayor Eric Papenfuse took office last year, says he's still trying to determine what else Reed bought that wasn't sold during previous auctions.

He says he's trying to track down a letter from Abraham Lincoln that's rumored to be in the pile of documents.

Grover says the city will likely hold another auction to rid itself of the random artifacts and documents.

About 10,000 items already were sold during prior city auctions.

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