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Civil War Muster Rolls, 1860-1865

photo of a muster roll after treatmentMuster rolls were used in the Civil War when soldiers enlisted or were discharged from the Army. The Society has approximately 2000 of these muster rolls that need treatment. They are made of cotton machine-made paper with black letter press printing to which notations in iron gall manuscript ink have been added. Some time ago, perhaps 40 to 50 years, the muster rolls were repaired along broken tears and folds with pressure sensitive tape. The adhesive fromthe tape has severely discolored and stained the paper, causing the writing to be unreadable in places. The legibility of the information for research purposes is the goal. The aesthetic appearance of the muster rolls is not the primary concern as it is with a work of art.

To preserve the muster rolls and to allow the information to be read, it is necessary to remove the tape, residual adhesive, and as much of the staining as possible. One method we have used to accomplish this is to immerse the muster rolls in an organic solvent such as ethanol until the tape and adhesive can be removed and the staining is reduced. The worst tears are repaired with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. Each muster roll is then placed in a folder of polyester film, a clear inert plastic used in conservation. This protects the muster roll while it is being handled and stored. Although some of the stains remain, the information can be read and the muster rolls can be safely used for research.