Blueprints of the Brooklyn YWCA

The Records of the Brooklyn YWCA came to Brooklyn College in 2011 and the majority of the documents in this vast collection require extensive preservation work. In 2014, Brooklyn College Archives and Special Collections received a generous $5000 grant from The Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation to process Brooklyn YWCA archival material from the 1920s and 1930s.   A portion of the $5000 we received from the Noyes Foundation went toward the conservation of blueprints related to the construction of the Brooklyn YWCA’s Central Branch.  Slava Polishchuk, the Brooklyn College Conservator, carefully repaired and restored these blueprints.

The blueprints before undergoing conservation treatment

The Central Branch Building blueprints underwent significant conservation treatment before they could be made available to researchers. Some of the blueprints were rolled tightly which made opening the blueprints impossible without damaging their structural integrity, while others arrived to us in pieces, torn, and frayed.

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Several steps were taken in order to fully stabilize the blueprints.  First, the Conservator flattened all the blueprints using weights– a process which took several days.  Once the blueprints were flattened, all torn edges, holes, and missing corners were mended using a durable archival adhesive.  The smaller blueprints required the most conservation work. These blueprints were tightly rolled up for a substantial period of time which caused significant tears to the paper. Additionally many blueprints had been glued to a highly acidic paper backing which needed to be removed.

After all the blueprints were treated, they were placed in large archival folders along with any intellectual content that was originally adhered to the acidic backings. Heavily damaged blueprints were encapsulated in Mylar and placed on top of archival board for stabilization.

Mike Faller, a Brooklyn College film student, created this short film about the YWCA blueprint conservation:

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