By MARY ELIZABETH HAUDE
In 1942 in the midst of World War II, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen.
George C. Marshall sent a large globe to both President Franklin Roosevelt
and Prime Minister Winston Churchill as Christmas gifts from the U.S.
Army. The U.S. Office of Strategic Services had compiled the maps,
and the Weber Costello Co. constructed the globes. It is reported that
12 to 15 of these globes were produced between 1942 and 1955.
The Roosevelt globe is now in the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, N.Y., and Churchill's globe is at Chartwell, the Churchill family home in Kent, England. The copy of the globe at the Library of Congress—which is one of the items in the exhibition "Churchill and the Great Republic"—was once located in the U.S. House of Representatives and now is held by the Library's Geography and Map Division. The division also has a complete set of the original 1942 globe gores (the paper segments containing a map's information that are pasted onto a globe's core during its construction).
The globe measures 50 inches (127 centimeters) in diameter, 13 feet in circumference, and reportedly weighs 750 pounds. It consists of two interlocking halves made of bent bands of wood over which the printed paper gores are pasted. The globe sits inside a circular steel base; rubber balls fitted into steel cups in the base allow it to be easily rotated in any direction.
The unmounted gore sheets measure 48 by 36 inches (120 by 90 centimeters). They are printed in colored ink on large sheets of medium-weight paper. The colors of printing ink include blue-green, various shades of yellow, buff and brown-black. A surface sheen is visible on the globe, suggesting that the mounted gores were covered with a low-gloss coating or varnish.
The condition of the globe before conservation treatment indicated that it had been heavily used since its manufacture in 1942. Areas of printed text had been worn away over time, and missing areas of paper, some containing information, exposed bare white spots on the globe. Parts of the paper were torn and lifted away from the globe's core making them vulnerable to further detachment and loss. Numerous streaks of a heavy, black, paint-like substance, which completely obscured the text in some places, were found in many areas. Minor surface abrasions and heavy scratches also marred the paper's surface. In addition, it was clear that the globe's mounted gores had yellowed over time when compared to the brightly colored unmounted gores. This deterioration could have been caused by the varnish, long-term exposure to light or other factors.
The first and most important objective of the conservation treatment was to stabilize the globe to prevent further damage. Given the globe's historical significance, however, the conservator also wanted to reduce the visual distractions caused by damage over time so that the globe could once again be viewed and appreciated.
Much of the conservation treatment of the globe was relatively straightforward: the lifted areas of paper were pasted back down to the globe's core; the areas of paper loss were filled with inserts of other paper; the black streaks were removed so that previously obscured text could be read; and the surface abrasions and heavy scratches were minimized.
At the same time, the treatment of the globe allowed the conservator to use current digital technology in conjunction with traditional conservation techniques. The shape and large size of the globe created physical and technical challenges for the conservator as well, making it necessary at times to work from a ladder above the globe. And conservation techniques specific to flat works on paper had to be adapted for the curved, three-dimensional surface of the globe.
Because the Geography and Map Division had a complete set of the globe gores in its collection, the conservator was able to use digital images of the original gores—scanned by Colleen Cahill, digital conversion coordinator for the division—to fill in the areas of paper loss on the globe that previously contained text.
Using the scanned images, the conservator identified missing areas of text and then manipulated and printed them using Adobe Photoshop software. Because of the difference in color and brightness between the unmounted gores and the globe's mounted gores, the scanned gore images were printed with a laser printer in black ink onto a buff-colored, medium-weight paper. Both the type of ink and the paper were chosen for their long-term stability. The conservator then used traditional artist's materials to match the colors by hand.
After the images were printed and colored, all of the paper inserts were prepared for their attachment to the globe. The conservator made tracings of the losses and used them as templates for shaping the newly made paper inserts. After each paper insert was cut to the correct shape and size, the edges were beveled as thinly as possible with a small scalpel blade to make a smooth transition between the insert and the area on the globe to which it would be pasted. Next, the conservator toned the inserts using a combination of watercolors, pastels and colored pencils so that the inserts would be visually similar to the areas surrounding them.
The final steps were to burnish the replacement inserts to give a sheen to the surface of the paper similar to the sheen of the globe and then to paste the inserts to the globe with wheat starch paste. The torn, lifted parts of the globe's paper were also pasted back down to the core.
Normally, conservators cover recently pasted areas of paper with an absorbent material, such as blotter or felt, and apply a weight to absorb excess moisture; this is to ensure that the original artifact and the new material remain flat. Obviously, this traditional technique could not be used for the three-dimensional globe. Instead, the conservator manipulated the pasted-down inserts of paper with small tools to ensure that they had good contact with the globe's surface. She wicked the excess moisture by holding strips of blotter by hand over the areas until they were dry.
The conservator removed the heavy black substance from the surface of the globe by hand using a small scalpel blade. She had to exercise extreme care in order to avoid cutting or abrading the paper underneath. The reward for this effort was the revelation, in many areas of the globe, of previously hidden text.
Finally, the conservator used watercolors and small brushes to retouch areas that had been marked with minor surface abrasions and heavy scratches. Prior to the addition of color to these areas, a water-based gel solution (methyl cellulose) was applied to create an isolating layer that prevents the watercolors from wicking into the globe's paper. In addition, this isolating layer will allow the removal of the colors in the future if necessary. The goal of retouching is to achieve a visual balance with the least amount of intervention by the conservator.
A large part of the globe's history is told through its visual appearance. The yellowing of the globe signifies its age, and the worn-away parts of text bear witness to the fact that some geographic areas were of greater interest than others to those who used the globe. And, to a certain extent, the surface abrasions and scratches show the frequency with which the globe was consulted.
For these reasons, the Library's conservation specialist decided that the treatment of the large 1942 military globe should focus on stabilizing it and making it visually attractive without attempting to make the globe look completely new. Thus, it was not cleaned to remove the overall yellowing, nor were worn areas covered with patches of new text.
The conservation treatment in the end was successful and achieved a good visual balance for this globe. Visitors to the exhibition "Churchill and the Great Republic" can now see and appreciate the great globe that was consulted so frequently by Churchill and Roosevelt on opposite sides of the Atlantic during the war.
Mary Elizabeth Haude is a senior paper conservator in the Conservation Division who carried out the conservation treatment of the 1942 globe.