William James Barrow

A Guide to the William James Barrow Papers, 1928-1979
Call Number Mss3B2795a FA1


Main Entry:Barrow, W. J. (William James), 1904-1967
Title: Papers, 1928-1979
Size:Ca. 1,000 items (5 archival boxes)
Biographical Note:William James Barrow (1904-1967) was a pioneer in the field of paper conservation and document restoration. Although he had very little formal education and training, Barrow's work was internationally respected and he was widely recognized as the leading expert in his chosen profession. His most noteworthy contribution was the development of a process preserving documents by lamination (a process that involved placing a deacified document between two sheets of reinforced cellulose acetate).
Scope Note: Include correspondence, reports, account books, financial records, and publications of William James Barrow concerning his activities as a document restorer, working at both the Mariners' Museum in Newport News (1935-1940) and the Virginia State Library in Richmond. To a lesser extent, they also concern his directorship of the W. J. Barrow Research Laboratory, established in 1961 at the Virginia Historical Society. Researchers should be aware that additional records of Barrow's laboratories are among the Society's collections.
Provenance:Gift of the estate of Mrs. Ruth G. Barrow, through the courtesy of James A. Barrow, Williamsburg, Va., 26 September 1988.

Collection Description

The papers begin with a few items of general correspondence, consisting of letters about restoration and jobs performed for individuals. Four folders concerning Barrow's lamination process follow. Materials pertaining to the National Bureau of Standards consist of correspondence and test results documenting that agency's research. In the early 1950's the National Archives became concerned with the ink migration, brittleness, and discoloration of laminated manuscripts. Correspondence and reports relate to the Archives' decision to temporarily curtail its use of the process. Similar fears were later expressed by the Virginia State Library, causing Barrow in 1962 to investigate documents that were laminated twenty years earlier. The collection contains a report of his findings and samples of his lamination.

Research concerning print transfer primarily consists of letters with chemical companies requesting samples of substances to be used as ink softeners, facilitating the transfer of print to a better surface. In 1955 Barrow supervised the drying and preservation of the papers of Mrs. Henry R. Luce [Clare (Boothe) Luce], which has been damaged by a flash flood. This material primarily consists of letters with Mrs. Luce's secretary.

Beginning in 1957, Barrow received funding to work on several projects under the sponsorship of the Council on Library Resources. One project was a study of the deterioration of book stock. Correspondence, mostly with council president Verner Clapp, minutes of consultant's meetings, memoranda, test results, and reports document this research. One result of the study was an article for Science magazine, co-authored by Reavis C. Sproull. The collection contains rough drafts of the article concerning research on resizing and deacidification of books follow. Other CLR materials include reports and newsletters.

Correspondence with the University of California at Los Angeles concerns a chemical process developed to prevent the foxing (discoloration) of book pages. Letters from David Resnick, who invented the process, are also included. Notes, test results, questionnaires and preliminary reports concerning an American Library Association's binding project precede correspondence relating to items restored for Colonial Williamsburg.

Speeches and addresses concern restoration. Miscellaneous reports pertain to map lamination, migration of impurities in paper, the preparation of book paper, the effects of light on museum displays, and the care of books in libraries. A folder of miscellaneous test results and samples precedes a scrapbook of newspaper clippings, 1935-1936. Notes on ink and paper and a folder of biographical information, which consists of a vita and letters of introduction, follow. Box 1 concludes with obituaries and letters of sympathy, arranged alphabetically, concerning the death of William J. Barrow in 1967. A photocopy of a telegram from President Lyndon B. Johnson is included.

Box 2 contains a series of account books, 1934-1955, listing monthly expenses and income (restoration projects completed). Volumes from 1956 to 1968, as well as loose papers from the account books, are found in box 3. Accounts primarily pertain to Barrow's restoration shop at the Virginia State Library, although a few post-1961 entries concern the W. J. Barrow Research Laboratory, Inc., at the Virginia Historical Society. These volumes are followed by other financial records, including payroll books, income tax returns, accounts receivable, and checks. These loose financial records primarily concern the transitional period following Barrow's death, as his wife, Ruth G. Barrow, became more involved in the laboratories' operations. The restoration lab became the W. J. Barrow Restoration Shop and the research laboratory continued under Barrow's associates, Robert N. DuPuis and Bernard F. Walker.

Financial records continue into box 4. Publications and reprints of articles by William J. Barrow, all of which are also available in the Society's printed books collection, follow. Articles about Barrow's work and photocopies of books and articles on ink, paper, printing and bookbinding conclude this section.

Miscellany consists of two items of the Barrow Corporation, a California overalls manufacturer from whom WJB worked until the firm's bankruptcy in 1931, and sketches of coats-of-arms.


Series I. Loose Conservation and Restoration Records

Box 1:General Correspondence, 1952-1979
National Bureau of Standards, 1938-1951
National Archives, 1952-1960
Virginia State Library, 1960-1967
Cellulose acetate study, 1962
Print transfer, 1951-1959
Mrs. Henry R. Luce, 1955

Council on Library Resources:
  • Deterioration of book stock, 1957-1958
  • Reports, 1958-1959, 1971
  • Resizing and deacidification of books, 1967
  • Newsletters, 1968
UCLA, 1959-1967
American Library Association, 1960-1961
Colonial Williamsburg, 1965-1967
Speeches; miscellaneous reports and memoranda; miscellaneous test results and samples; notes on ink; notes on paper; scrapbook, 1935-1936; biographical information; obituaries; letters of sympathy.

Series II. Financial Records

Boxes 2-3:Account books, 1934-1968
Box 3:Loose material from account books; payroll books, 1966-1969; income tax returns, 1967-1969; accounts receivable, invoices and deposits, 1967-1968
Box 4:Paid bills, 1967-1968; check stub book, checks, and deposit slips (Mr. or Mrs. W. J. Barrow), 1966-1969; check stub book and checks (W. J. Barrow Restoration Shop), 1967-1968; checks, bills and receipts (Ruth G. Barrow), 1967-1968

Series III. Publications

Boxes 4-5:Pamphlets, brochures, reports, and a book (arranged chronologically by date of publication); foreign language translations; reprints of articles by Barrow; articles about Barrow; clippings and articles on restoration; clippings and articles on ink and ink marking; photocopies of articles and books on ink; photocopies of articles and books on paper; bookbinding and printing.

Series IV. Miscellany

Box 5:Barrow Corporation; coats-of-arms