WWII Map Conservation

During WWII, pilots used air navigation charts with bomb targeting sites during their operations over enemy occupied territory. Maps like this were often hand held in the cockpit by pilots and navigators during numerous missions. After the war, many of these maps were lost, discarded or destroyed. Some airmen brought these maps home where they would become heirlooms and an important part of family history. Our client brought this map to us in poor condition. The map had was heavily worn and torn at the margins and had separated into multiple pieces along its creases. A family member, trying in earnest to repair and preserve the map, attempted to tape the pieces back together. It was now our job to undo these make shift repairs and preserve the map properly for the future.

Tape was carefully removed from the map in order to not further damage the paper and its printed details. A solvent was used to reverse any traces of the acidic adhesive still present on the surface.

After the tape removal, the map was slowly humidified to prepare it for flattening. Once flattened, the map pieces would be ready for alignment and tear repair. Using the correct weight of Japanese paper, and wheat starch paste (a conservation grade and reversible adhesive,) the tears and holes were mended.

While typically, the mended areas are filled and retouched, this client elected not to have the negative spaces and losses filled. Once completed, the map will be stable and able to withstand handling and viewing by the family or conservation grade framing for display.

We consider the opportunity to experience history through our clients’ heirlooms like this air navigation and bombing charts a special privilege. We appreciate being able to play a part in the preservation of these items for the family and for our collective cultural heritage. What can we help you to save?