Tinker Swiss Cottage honored for restoration of hidden letter

Online Staff Report

Rockford’s Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum, 411 Kent St., has been presented with an Illinois Association of Museums Award of Excellence in the area of Best Practices — Collection Conservation for the restoration of a Robert Tinker letter.

Under the floorboards of a bedroom, hidden behind a few bricks, were a few letters and an envelope from Robert Tinker to his wife, Mary Tinker. The letter had been burned, torn into small pieces, and stuffed into the recesses of the floor before the passage was blocked with bricks. The words were faded and the message was too faint to read. Even the meaning of hiding the letter was unclear to the staff.

The letter was then sent to Graphic Conservation for two months to be cleaned, washed, deacidified and repaired with Japanese tissue. The finished work arrived back in the museum in excellent condition, with only a few areas of noticeable restoration.

Many museums are not required to canvas the hidden places of their museum, trying to find any of the last remnants of the family, showing the uniqueness of the artifact and the situation. If it wasn’t for Steve Litteral’s curiosity, the museum would never have been able to find the letter or learn of its contents. This hidden gem of personal, family information would have continued to deteriorate, and if someone had found the letter in the future, it could have been too late to learn the valuable information that it contained.

The staff at Tinker Swiss Cottage will receive the award at the Illinois Association of Museums Annual Conference Oct. 22.

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum was founded in 1942 and has served the Winnebago and surrounding areas through education, outreach and events. Sam Oliveri is the president of the Board of Trustees.

Posted Oct. 8, 2014

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