Theodore Roosevelt—African game trails Scrapbook. More photos of the album can be viewed on the Libraries' Flickr.
In honor of Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday 152 years ago today, we’re happy to announce that a scrapbook documenting his public career, made on the pages of his book African game trails (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910) has just been sent for conservation treatment.
The book itself is Roosevelt’s own description of the Smithsonian/Roosevelt African Expedition of 1909-1910, which resulted in thousands of specimens for the National Museum of Natural History. This copy was presented by Roosevelt in 1910 to his secretary at the Outlook Company, Stuart Hill, who then turned it into a scrapbook containing more than 2,000 pasted-in items relating to Roosevelt’s public career.
This unique copy of the book came to us in the Russell E. Train Africana Collection, and as you can see, it’s stuffed to the gills with newspaper clippings, photographs, drawings, letters, invitations, and miscellaneous ephemera from the early 1900s, attached to the pages of the text.
Because the glues are failing and the paper of the inserted materials is acidic and brittle, any handling causes damage, and the volume has been off-limits to readers since we acquired it. But now we have special funding from the Smithsonian’s Collection Care and Preservation Fund to give it a full conservation treatment. This involves photographing the volume in its current state to document every single page and all of the inserts; labeling each scrap as the book is taken apart; removing glues, de-acidifying the paper of the inserts, and cleaning the text pages; mounting all of the inserts on acid-free leaves; and then putting the printed text and the insert leaves back together in 3 more-reasonably sized volumes. It is estimated that this pains-taking process will take the better part of a year.
When it has been preserved in this way researchers will be able to read all of the inserted materials and form a complete picture of the book and its contents. The book and the Train Africana Collection are available for consultation in the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History, one of the Libraries' rare-book rooms, located in the National Museum of Natural History.
—Leslie K. Overstreet, Curator of Natural-History Rare Books