A simple humidification chamber you can build
What collector hasn’t encountered a panoramic photo or some historic document that has been rolled or folded for so many years, it isn’t safe to open them up for viewing? Too often, an attempt is made resulting in torn or damaged edges. It doesn't need to end like that.
The reason most documents or photographs are reluctant to unroll or flatten is that the moisture in the paper has disappeared, leaving the item stiff. In order to unroll or flatten the document, moisture needs to be slowly and evenly reintroduced. The easiest—and safest—way to do this is by slowly “re-humidifying” the document. The idea is to introduce moisture without getting the document we. Whereas libraries and archives go to great expense to humidify records, it is quite simple to do in your home.
MAKING A HUMIDITY CHAMBER TO FLATTEN DOCUMENTS
To make your own humidity chamber, you will need to acquire a few items:
- Large Rubbermaid or Sterlite tub with lid
- 2 shoebox-size plastic boxes
- large sponge (car-washing size)
- Egg crate (found in Home Depot / Lowes ceiling supplies)
- Distilled water
- Jig saw
- 2 pieces of 20” x 30” watercolor 140-lb cold press board (art supply stores have this)
When you have your materials rounded up (it cost me less than $50 for everything except for the jig saw—I already had that!), you are ready to begin construction. It took me about 10 minutes, including setting up sawhorses for cutting out the egg crate.
Once your documents or photos have been flattened, the key to them not curling is how you store them. The best method with panoramas is to matt and frame them immediately. If this is not possible, layering them with acid-free tissue and weighting is the next best scenario.
Documents are best stabilized when encapsulated, but this is usually not practical for large collections. Again, sleeving with acid free tissue and storing flat in acid-free folders will help the documents to retain their new, flat condition.
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