by Linda A. Ries and Jane Smith Stewart  


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By 1984, the staff of the Pennsylvania State Archives had grown extremely concerned about the condition of the Charter, in light of emerging modern professional exhibition and conservation standards. Despite previous conservation efforts, constant exposure to light, heat, and high humidity had caused noticeable damage in less than twenty years.

The debilitating effects of light--especially the ultraviolet spectrum--upon parchment and paper is cumulative, and the steady and intense exhibition lamps had caused the iron gall inks to fade.  Fluctuating temperature and humidity levels inside the exhibit case had caused the document to warp again. The modern parchment inserts used to fill holes and gaps had pulled away from the original document weakening its overall strength.

The best preservation protocol--and only option, really--would be to remove the Charter from this environment. Security, also a factor, was given greater import after the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Charter was stolen that year. (It was later recovered.)

And then came time for a rest.

The "venerable document" was removed from its display case on September 17, 1984, and placed in a special environmentally-controlled and high-security vault in the Pennsylvania State Archives. The vault, maintained twenty-four hours a day at a constant sixty-five degrees and thirty-five-percent humidity, contains a chemical fire suppression system and anti-theft alarms. In order to not disappoint museum visitors, however, full-scale color photographic reproductions were substituted for the original Charter. 





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