Unrolling History

A few months ago, Bok Tower Gardens’ Chao Research Center Archives received an exciting donation – a photograph of the choir that performed at the Dedication on February 1, 1929. The choir was comprised of 500 people from the United Singing Societies of Polk County, under the direction of Dr. Henry W.B. Barnes. Among the choir were Mr. & Mrs. Loy Duvall Watts, grandparents of James Duvall Watts and Karen Watts Murphy, who kindly donated the photo.

Although the archives did already have one copy of the photograph, it was sadly damaged, so we were delighted to receive another copy.

In order to capture a group of 500 people, the photograph is a long panoramic photo and the donation arrived at the archives likely the same way that it arrived to the Watts family 91 years ago – rolled up. Unrolling the photo would have resulted in severe cracking and possibly even breaking the historic photo into multiple pieces. So, needing to flatten the photo but not wanting to risk damaging it, our archivist set to work.

In order for the photograph to be flattened safely, it needed to be rehumidified. Rehumidifying the photo softens the dried out paper, allowing it to be unrolled without cracking. Luckily, the procedure for rehumidifying a photograph is relatively simple and this one was a success!

Here are some before, during, and after photos of the process.

The photograph when first received was rolled very tightly.

Being rehumidified

About halfway through the rehumidification process. Note the looseness of the roll.

After being rehumidified. Ready to be flattened!

Do you have family members who performed on Dedication Day? Send us their names and details to library@boktower.org.

Looking to rehumidify some of your own rolled up photographs, here’s a helpful resource with step-by-step instructions: https://thefamilycurator.com/photo-tutorial-how-to-relax-and-rehumidify-old-rolled-photog/

This blog posted was created by Jaime Fogel, Library & Archival Collections Manager. Click to learn more about the
Bok Tower Gardens Digital Collection.