We receive additions to collections all the time around here, and sometimes we reach in a box and pull out an absolute gem — a picture, poster, letter, object — that makes us all go “ooh!” And sometimes, that gem needs some serious TLC. Case in point, a “You can count on Joe!” campaign poster that arrived last fall.
Why is it a gem? It’s the earliest campaign poster we have from Joe Wilson — by far. It shows a baby-faced Wilson running for the South Carolina Senate, possibly from his successful 1984 campaign, long before his congressional career began in 2001. It also identifies him as Addison Wilson! This is the only piece of campaign memorabilia we have that uses his real name.
Why did it need TLC? To start, it was curled (not like a poster you might pick up at a concert and put a rubber band around but enough that we couldn’t put it on the display or put it in a folder). It was so stiff that sticking it under a stack of large books would damage it further. We also saw a lot of dirt and numerous tears. It needed professional help. Shown above is the “after” shot. It’s now relatively flat. You can still see some discoloring but it doesn’t smell or feel dirty to the touch. It’s also smooth — no tears!
We sent the poster to the Arthur E. Holman, Jr. Conservation Laboratory, part of USC Libraries. There, professional conservators do magical work conserving books, manuscripts, posters, maps, drawings, etc. They also make enclosures for just about anything, usually for books that are falling apart. We sent to them a little flag banner with numerous objects attached that needed a special box because we couldn’t store it safely otherwise. Pictured below is what they sent back to us and we love it! I made a lot of boxes out at the lab when I volunteered there as a grad student so I can tell you, it’s not easy making a triangle box. And they did it. And it’s adorable.