Lee’s Recipe from ‘Conversations in the Kitchen: Mapping the History of YYC’

Lee Churchill was the first speaker in our ongoing lecture series ‘Conversations in the Kitchen.’ If you missed it, check out The Map Project Blog to catch up on the restoration and conservation work she did on an early 20th century map used by Calgary’s firefighters.

Lee’s talk was followed by food and lively conversation in our Fire Hall kitchen, where she cooked up some Newfoundland toutons. She has been kind enough to share the recipe with us! To make your own delicious bits of fried bread dough, you’ll need:

3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sugar
2.5 tsp (1 packet) of traditional yeast
1 cup warm water

  • Proof the yeast by dissolving sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water and sprinkling yeast on top. Wait 10 min until frothy.
  • In a large bowl put flour, salt and oil. Stir in yeast mix and continue stirring until a ball forms, then knead until elastic. Adding flour if needed.
  • Let rise 30 min, until doubled, then punch down and re-knead.
  • Turn on frying pan and add butter. Tear off golf ball sized pieces of dough, pull into circles and fry until lightly golden.

Serve with butter, molasses, and cloudberry or ligonberry jam.


Tackling the Bottom Edge

The bottom edge

Map bottom overall


I’m just dropping in for a quick update. At the end of last week I finished dry cleaning the top sections of the map and now I’ve moved onto the bottom. I left this section until now because the bottom edge is the most damaged part of the map. This overall shot shows the major tear and crumbling caused by water damage.

I’ve taken the bar off, fortunately the front part was just screwed on. Unfortunately, the back piece of wood was also glued which meant I had to do some extra finagling to get it free. Some parts hadn’t adhered well and I was able to loosen them with a spatula, others needed to be humidified so the glue softened before it would separate. You can see how broken and folded the paper and fabric are here:


Humidifying bottom bar, left corner of map

My job today has been gently humidifying and unfolding each fragment and placing it where it belongs!


Fragments, unfolded and repositioned, bottom left corner

It’s very exciting! (Well, for a conservator anyway!)



Test cleaning

Dirt, over time, as the map gets moved, opened, closed or simply expands and contracts with changes in the environment, can abrade the paper fibres and cause them to break, weakening the whole.  Think of how scratchy sand between your toes is…it’s a little like that. So as much of the grime as possible needs to go.

But the map has variety of dirt (rust, soot?, mud?) in different areas – each of those areas will need a unique approach, based on the type of dirt and the strength of the paper underneath it.

So before starting, I needed to test how the map would react to different types of cleaning – and figure out what is the most time effective way to remove the most dirt.

It’s always easiest to start with dry cleaning on areas of strong paper.

There are several different ways to dry (vs. wet) clean paper. First, a brush and vacuum. This gets up the largest and loosest bits of dirt – things like dust bunnies and spider webs. We use a special HEPA filtered vacuum that has a “variable speed control” meaning we can use a very small amount of suction so we don’t end up pulling the paper into the nozzle (which we cover with net, just in case…) But this doesn’t work well for dirt trapped in the structure of the paper. For that type of dirt we need other means.

So we turn to eraser crumbs, which are literally what they sound like – tiny little pieces of eraser. Specifically, these are ground up white Staedler Mars Plastic eraser crumbs.

testing ground eraser crumbs

testing ground eraser crumbs

They are rolled over the surface of the paper, using a brush or gentle finger pressure, and pick up dirt and grime that is lying on and near the surface.

I tested to see how many times I’d have to repeat this to get as much dirt as possible. It turned out to be three. There was not a huge amount of visual change but the crumbs tell the story!


You can see, in the top left corner, the series of dark, medium, and pale crumbs from each pass over the test area.

Another method is a latex sponge – latex is what is known as a molecular trap, tiny bits of dirt get pulled in and stuck in its structure.

The sponge is rubbed gently across the surface each time in a different direction.

The sponge is rubbed gently across the surface each time in a different direction.

These sponges are very effective but more abrasive then vacuum or eraser crumbs.

The test sponges on the right show it would take five passes to thoroughly clean an area.

The test sponges on the right show it would take five passes to thoroughly clean an area.

So I am always careful to check for any visible changes to the map surface.

For particularly stubborn areas, a block eraser can be used – but this is also done with care since rubbing (never back and forth!) can cause the paper to heat and distort, and at this point, because the adhesive has degraded, pressure can cause the separation of the paper and backing.


Just to the left of the block eraser is a grey line, on the left is clean, on the right is not.

So, even though it can be very effective block cleaning is riskiest to the map.

The top right corner had black marks - which could be from the bar, or from something blowing into the roll crevices when in storage.

The top right corner had black marks – which could be from the bar, or from something blowing into the roll crevices when in storage.

After cleaning with eraser crumbs, latex sponge and black eraser.

After cleaning with eraser crumbs, latex sponge and block eraser.

As it turns out for the top 2/3 of the map, I will use a mix of vacuum, eraser crumb, latex sponge and block eraser as needed. Cleaning treatment for the badly damaged and stained lower third will be something totally different (and hopefully exciting!!)





Along the top edge, where the metal bar had been attached, the paper curled and had  sharp folds from how it was held in place. In the area where the bar bent (the top left corner of the image) there were wrinkles and tears.


When the bar was first removed, the paper wanted to stay in the rounded shape it had taken for the past number of decades – in order to gently ease the curl, light weights were laid along the length – you can see the Plexiglas rectangles holding the paper down along the top edge here.   I left the weights there for a couple of weeks, and the paper fortunately relaxed without needing any moisture added. After the large curl had relaxed, I  addressed the folded creases – these required carefully applying distilled water to the folds and then weighting them in place.


These stayed in place until the paper had dried. The number of creases and how tight the folds were meant that I had repeat the process in a few areas a couple of times to get everything to unfold and lie flat. Now that this is done and dried, and the cleaning tests done I will proceed with cleaning all of the top two-thirds, front and back.

Stay tuned!


Removing the bar


Hartshorn’s New Groove Tin Roller

The map was found attached to a large metal pole or tube. According to the sticker attached near the middle it is a patented self-rolling system for pulling the map up and down when in use. The fact that the sticker was still present was both awesome!…and not-so-good.

Awesome because it gave the instructions for how the map had been attached, making it much easier to know how to remove it without having to actually cut along the entire length of the piece. Cutting the map loose would be a drastic option that would only be considered if all other options failed but with the pole being both bent and corroding it was put forward as a possibility. The bend was causing crushing and tearing to the paper when it was rolled and the rust was transferring to the paper.


The bend, showing the creasing to the paper as it wraps around the roller.


Rust transferred from the roller during storage

The sticker was not-so-good because it was obviously made of an acidic material and caused some staining (acid burn) on the map where it was in contact.


A rectangle of staining along the top edge where the sticker rested against the paper.

Even having the instructions didn’t mean it was really easy to get the map loose, it involved using several tools and fiddling carefully back and forth to get the flat pins loose. One, of course, was right in the middle of the bent section and getting that loose involved prying apart the metal and bending it outward until the groove was open enough to be accessed.


Me, using various tools to pry apart the bar and pull the pin loose.


With the roller separated the curl needed to be addressed.

Once the paper was freed from the roller there was a large curl left behind, as well as wrinkles and folds to the paper along the top edge. The curl was weighted gently and over a week it relaxed significantly. As for the folds and wrinkles: flattening those out is the next order of business!



Paper Conservation

So as we launch into the project I thought I’d spell out some more specifics of what I’ll be doing.

The first thing I do with any object is a condition report. That means I look closely at the object, figuring out what it is made of and how it was put together; I also do research on the manufacturer or the specific history of the object. Then I take photos, overall and close up, and measurements noting where there is damage or problem areas. For the map, it is so big and fragile that the Firefighters’ Museum took the photos, you can see here how their photographer, Orlo, did that.Orlo1

Knowing the materials and condition is key to understanding what an object needs and what is possible to do during a treatment. The item’s specific history also informs treatment because sometimes you may not want to repair damage that was created on purpose – for example the stickers on the map – in another situation we might remove them but here they are key to this object’s significance and need to be preserved.

After the condition report and research are finished I then create a treatment proposal.

The proposal outlines what I think will be the steps I take to conserve the item. Old items are notorious for behaving in unexpected ways so it’s rare that you make it all the way through a treatment without any changes, so in treatment proposals you see “possibly”, “if needed”, and other qualifiers used often.

For the map my treatment proposal is this:

Remove the metal rod along the top edge.

Dry clean – this could include a combination of things like dusting with soft brushes, rolling eraser crumbs over the surface, wiping with eraser sponges, block erasers, or scraping off ‘gunk’ with a scalpel.

testing drycleaning the map with an Absorene sponge

Testing dry-cleaning the map with an Absorene sponge

After dry cleaning, treatments can go different ways – some treatments will finish here but others need more extensive work.

For the map I am going to:

Remove accretions – along the top of the map where it was wrapped around the bar there are stains and some ‘crusty’ areas that seem to be rust, these need to have any extra material scraped away and possibly treated with chemicals. Rust (iron) corrodes paper and needs to be removed as much as possible.

Mending is the next step, rips, tears, and cracks are pasted together and supported with second paper layer.

A tear approximately 20.5 in. from top edge and 82 in. from left edge.

A tear approximately 20.5 in. from top edge and 82 in. from left edge.

Starch pastes (wheat or rice), are types of glue that have been used for centuries and found to be stable and will not yellow. Paste is used with Japanese paperJapanese paper is made from plant fibres that are very long and strong so that the papers can be very thin – many are nearly invisible when they are pasted – but they have the strength to support even much heavier Western papers.

Washing is generally next, but because the map is a blueprint and sensitive to water we won’t be trying to fully wash it. However, there are areas especially along the bottom edge with dark tidelines (areas where water has caused the paper to darken or washed dirt away) and I will be testing to see if I can use water to reduce the appearance of those lines.

Tidelines in the lower right corner.

Tidelines in the lower right corner.

There are still other steps that might follow – like full or partial lining – the map is already mounted onto a fabric backing but is separating in large areas, mostly along the heavily damaged bottom third. Depending on what happens as I treat those areas I may decide that rather than repairing small sections individually it makes more sense to hold them all together with a Japanese paper lining instead or in addition to mends.

Final steps might include inpainting, are there areas where the conservation work is obvious that need to be ‘hidden’ a little bit?

And always: are there steps that need to be repeated?

Treatments are a constantly changing process where there is daily reevaluation of the decision process and the outcomes. At any point the decision can be made to halt the process as too dangerous to the object or to take a different direction as new information about how the paper reacts to different actions is observed.

Take care,


Introducing Our Paper Conservator


My name is Lee Oldford Churchill, I’m the paper conservator who is working on ‘fixing’ the map. Not many people know what a conservator is or does so I’ll give you a brief rundown.DSC_4816

Basically, a conservator’s job is to try to make ‘stuff’ (aka: ‘artifacts’, ‘objects’, ‘items’ and sometimes ‘works’) last as long as possible.

I have a Master of Art Conservation (M.A.C.) degree with a specialization in paper conservation; so I work with collections that are comprised mainly of cellulosic materials (aka: paper) but paper is included in a surprising array of objects. People expect things like books, drawings, prints, and photographs, but many old fashioned storage chests, dolls, jewellery boxes, even some clothes (like hats!) have ‘paper bits’.  Other conservators work with other materials, some people specialize in paintings and work with oil or acrylic on canvas, or archeological materials like dinosaur bones, other work on historic textiles.

Things I think about when starting a project are the size (this map is HUGE!), how old the piece is (1920’s), how it was made (blueprint with handwritten additions), and what its made of (in this case, most likely, tree pulp). All of these things will affect what I can do and how easy it will be.

BUT every object is different and one of the coolest things about doing a conservation treatment is that you can never tell exactly what is going to happen – so there are always “what the heck?!” moments (but hopefully not too many!)

As I work on the map I’ll be writing to tell you about what I’m doing, why and a little bit of how! Check back regularly to see how it’s all going.