When the Century Chest is opened Monday, there will still be plenty of work to be done.
Conservators from the Oklahoma History Museum will examine each item carefully and determine the best course to make sure it isn’t damaged. There are expected to be numerous photographs and documents that were rolled up when they were packed into the chest.
“These items will have hardened over time and they won’t lie like a carpet,” said Chad Williams, Oklahoma History Center research director. “You have to add moisture slowly over a period of weeks until it flattens out. And, all of that has to be done without cracking it.”
There is also a 1913 phonograph, telephone and camera in the chest. Williams said it’s possible all of those items still work.
“They were never used before, so I would assume they would,” he said. “For the phonograph, we might have to take a look at the condition of the needles.”
There are also several 1913 voice recordings made by several people who participated in the Century Chest project. Those will be played and digitized.
“We’re not sure what the record is made of,” Williams said. “It could be a wax recording, and it will depend on what type of condition the wax is in.”
The quilts in the chest will also need special attention, Williams said. The quilt with the names of church members stitched on it was likely folded.
“If it is folded, it is likely that edges have broken down over 100 years,” he said. “Wherever there is a fold, that will be the weakest point after 100 years of decay.”
Williams and the History Center won’t be working alone, however.
Some things will be sent to professional conservators. But, he also will have plenty of help thanks to a well-timed Preserving Family Treasures Road Show that will bring several conservators to Oklahoma City at the same time items from the chest are expected to be examined.