National Archives Launches New "Inside the Vaults" Video Short
Press Release · Monday, February 7, 2011

Washington, DC

Just in time for Valentine's Day, video features restoration of personal family heirlooms

To celebrate Mary Tomlin's 220th birthday, and just in time for Valentine's Day, the National Archives shares how family treasures - that are also permanent records - are lovingly and painstakingly preserved in the state of the art National Archives Conservation Lab in the latest "Inside the Vaults" video short, online at

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The National Archives' produced 3:16 "A Peek inside the National Archives Conservation Lab" video short goes inside this lab to see how family treasures from the Archives collection are preserved. The video features National Archives paper conservator Annie Wilker demonstrating how the National Archives gives a fragile, handmade family heirloom a facelift.

Wilker works to restore an illustrated family record from Virginia that was created in the late 1700s and records the marriage of John Tomlin and Jane Campbell in 1784, and the birth of their five children. February 9, 1791, marks the birth of Mary Tomlin, the youngest of the couple's children. This heirloom which was restored in time for Mary's 220th birthday is unique because of its multi-page format. Each of the eleven pages is richly illustrated in pen and iron gall ink, colored ink, and wash on laid paper.

Background on illustrated family records at the National Archives

Fraktur is a term for elaborate illustrated family records made in Pennsylvania German communities. They are equivalent to modern birth, marriage, and death certificates. They were often made by professional artists or by pastors living in the town, and became treasured family heirlooms. The National Archives has over a hundred of these rare and sought-after examples of folk art. Following the Revolutionary War, the government offered pensions to widows who could prove their relationship to a veteran of the war. These handmade family treasures were sent to the government to support Revolutionary War Pension applications. Jane Tomlin submitted this heirloom as evidence of her marriage to Revolutionary War veteran John Tomlin and she received an $80 a year pension. (The Tomlin document is not a fraktur, strictly speaking, because it comes from Virginia and is written in English.)

Background on "Inside the Vaults"

"Inside the Vaults" is part of the ongoing effort by the National Archives to make its collections, stories, and accomplishments more accessible to the public. "Inside the Vaults" gives voice to Archives staff and users, highlights new and exciting finds at the Archives, and reports on complicated and technical subjects in easily understandable presentations. Earlier topics include the conservation of the original Declaration of Independence, the new Grace Tully collection of documents at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, and the transfer to the National Archives of the Nuremberg Laws. The film series is free to view and distribute on our YouTube channel [].

Created by a former broadcast network news producer, the "Inside the Vaults" video shorts series presents "behind the scenes" exclusives and offer surprising glimpses of the National Archives treasures. These videos are in the public domain and not subject to any copyright restrictions. The National Archives encourages the free distribution of them.

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For Press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

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