The Archive Lady: Grandmother’s Pressed Flowers
Christine in Vermont asks: “I have my Grandmother’s family Bible and there are several pressed flowers and leaves in-between the pages. I would like to remove them from the Bible and preserve them somehow. Can you please tell me how to preserve pressed flowers and leaves?”
Christine asks a great question about a preservation problem about which I get asked all the time as an archivist. Many genealogists have inherited a family member’s documents, books, photographs and other genealogical materials. When it comes to the books we have inherited, I hope that everyone reading this column takes the time to search through all these books to retrieve any scrap of paper, newspaper clipping, photo or pressed flower that your family member placed in those books. Even if the books you received are not genealogical in nature, search through them anyway. You just never know what you might find in their pages!
Now, let’s talk about Christine’s question as to how to preserve pressed flowers and leaves that she found in her Grandmother’s Bible. Most of the time, when a genealogist encounters these items in books, they are brittle, fragile and falling apart. It can be a challenge to remove these items in one piece and transfer them to a medium that will protect and preserve these precious family items.
First and foremost, make sure your hands are clean and free of any lotions or hand creams. The chemicals in these lotions can adversely affect the pressed items. There is no need to wear gloves, in fact, it is preferred that gloves not be used in this instance. The reason: when gloves are worn they remove the textile sensation you need in order to feel the items. It is important to feel how you are handling the items so that they are not damaged.
If you don’t feel comfortable picking up the pressed items with your hands, use a plastic or rubber spatula. Do not use metal spatulas as the sharp edges could damage the items. Be sure the head of the spatula is as big as the item so that all of it can picked up and transferred at the same time. An ordinary kitchen egg turner or spatula that you already have will do just fine for this project. If you find that any part of the item is stuck or adhered to the page, gently use the spatula to separate the item. I have found that most of the time pressed flowers and leaves are not stuck to pages but can be removed quite easily.
Two options that I can recommend for preserving and protecting your pressed flowers, leaves, and ferns are:
Specimen Mounting Boxes
Specimen Mounting Boxes are easy to use and can be purchased at any of the online archival materials stores (see below), the local hobby store, taxidermy stores and at Amazon.com. These types of mounting boxes are used for pressed flowers, leaves, preserving butterflies and other zoological items. These boxes are great to use if you plan to display the items.
Suspension Boxes are also easy to use and will protect the pressed items once they are removed from the books. These boxes can also be purchased at any of the online archival materials stores and at any hobby store. The clear, polystyrene box has flexible membranes in the top and bottom which conform to the item, holding it firmly in place. The nice thing about these particular boxes is they can be held and the items inside can be viewed from all sides. These suspension boxes also come in many different sizes to accommodate the different sizes of flowers, leaves and other pressed items.
Remember, your ancestor or family member took the time to place those flowers and leaves in books to be pressed. They were marking a day of remembrance, remembering a family member or just appreciating the foliage itself. These items meant something to them at the time and it should mean something to us today. Sadly, many times there are no notes or writings to tell us exactly why our ancestors pressed these items. We are left to guess at their significance, but what we can do is preserve and protect them for future generations to enjoy.
Online Archival Material Websites
Here is a listing of online archival materials stores. Archival sleeves for letters can be purchased at any of the following online archival stores. They all have online catalogs and paper catalogs that can be sent to your home. Also, be sure to sign up for email notifications because they periodically have sales and will send out email notifications.
- Gaylord Archival
- Hollinger Metal Edge
- University Products
- Archival Products
- Light Impressions
Melissa Barker’s Legacy Family Tree Webinars and QuickGuides
Scrapbooks! Do you want to know how to find scrapbooks about your ancestors or do you have scrapbooks that you own and would like to know how to preserve them? Get my latest Legacy Family Tree Webinar and QuickGuide:
Scrapbooks: A Genealogist’s Gold Mine
PDF Version: http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=1413
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Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation.
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