Weather Forecast


Technology helps preserve tattered vintage documents

The reproduction of the charter is accurate down to the golden seal.1 / 4
Ann-Marie Rose of Hager City stands with Mike Brookes of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The framed document is one Rose reconstructed using computer technology, helping preserve a 1897 piece of history.2 / 4
Ann-Marie Rose of Hager City uses a computer program to meticulously recreate a document.3 / 4
The 115-year-old charter of Local 55 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers was deteriorating. -- Photos by David Husom.4 / 4

HAGER CITY--Restoration work by local artist and photographer Ann-Marie Rose is being featured in a national magazine.

An article titled "When History Turns to Dust," which focuses on Rose's use of technology to preserve vintage documents, appeared in the November 2011 issue of the National Organized Labor Journal. The magazine also plans to publish a second story with more detail about the process.

The project caught the labor magazine's attention because Rose's most recent restoration project saved the 115-year-old charter of Local 55 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The union local, headquartered in Des Moines, Ia., found Rose on the internet when officials became concerned about the fact the 1897 document was disintegrating. The local is opening a new union hall in Des Moines and wanted to display the charter.

In the article, business manager Mike Brookes explains, "It's not just an old piece of paper. The guys know how long this local has been chartered. Now they can look at something done in 1897 and be proud every time they see it."

He found the website, contacted Rose and hand-delivered the tattered remnant to her studio in Hager City.

It was past the point where conventional repairs were possible, she said. But she has developed a technique of scanning vintage documents into her computer and creating new documents that are as close as possible to the original.

The process is more than just making a copy, Rose pointed out. She also applies her skills as an artist to recreate sections that have been severely damaged or are missing entirely.

Rose and her husband, David Husom, a photographer and professor at the University of Minnesota, have been doing fine art printing and graphics projects out of their rural Hager City home since 2000.

She has technical degrees in graphic arts and color separation/electronic imaging, in addition to a degree in imaging and design from the University of Minnesota.

"I really refined my skills with documents and difficult text issues by working for Jostens in Red Wing for six months. I was hired to convert old diplomas to new digital processes," she said. "It was a great experience."

Restoring the IBEW's charter was a challenge, she said.

The document is 16 by 20 inches, and it had suffered water damage. It was hard to read the names of the men who had signed it, and one background image of an eagle was so faded that Brookes didn't even know it was there until Rose pointed it out. Large segments had to be totally rebuilt.

The restoration, which took about six weeks, included restoring a gold seal at the bottom of the charter.

Although the result is not a legal document, the process Rose uses is increasingly accepted by museums and organizations that want to display historic documents, but don't want to risk fragile or damaged originals.

She finished off the project by taking the original frame to Master Framers of St. Paul, which restored it. The new document went into the frame and she preserved the tatted remnants of the 1897 document in archival paper.

Rose and Husom delivered both to Brookes in Des Moines.

"They were speechless" when they saw the restored charter, Rose said.

"To them, it's a legacy."