By Sasha Griffin
Interim College Archivist, 2014
Following the rediscovery of the papyri in January 2014, Luther College worked with the University of Michigan to treat and conserve the fragile documents. While kept for decades in plastic sleeves in an acid-free, archival folder and box, the pieces were in fairly good shape. However, they were vulnerable to bending, they needed to be cleaned up, and they needed to be re-housed in stable materials. Additionally, papyrologists identified that the dates that had been associated with each piece were inaccurate. Action was needed to conserve materials and have them properly examined and identified by experts.
In June 2014, the papyrus fragments were driven to the University of Michigan Preservation & Conservation department of the University Library. Conservator Marieka Kaye inspected the papyri and found that the papyri had been aggressively adhered to white paper. Over the course of the next two weeks, Kaye removed the papyri from the plastic sleeves, reduced the adhesive using acetone, humidified the fragments, repaired fibers, mounted the fragments between glass, and labeled each fragment.
Removing the papyri from the white paper was not only important from a preservation perspective, but it also led to some discovery. In the case of P. Luther 9, it had been unknown that the back of the papyrus had writing on it. Had the adhesive not been expertly reduced and then the fragment be properly cleaned, this may have never been discovered.
Before treatment and conservation, the papyri was housed in plastic sleeves and adhered to white paper. Fragments P. Luther 4 - 6 had been glued to the same piece and side of paper.
P.Luther 4: During treatment, front side ("recto")
P.Luther 4: During treatment, back side ("verso")
P.Luther 4: After treatment, front side ("recto")
P.Luther 4: After treatment, back side ("verso")