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Fasteners: Friend or Foe?

November 5, 2018

Fastener: a [hardware] device that mechanically joins or affixes two or more objects together. In general, fasteners are used to create non-permanent joints.


Throughout the protracted journey of digitizing the Sons of the Republic of Texas Mexican Manuscript Collection, I have come across a plethora of fasteners affixed to this collection’s documents. Some of these objects have been a part of the documents since their creation. Other fasteners appear to have been periodically by one of the many sets of hands that have had a part in compiling, purchasing, processing, and handling the manuscript collection.

fastener flat lay

An assortment of typical, and not-so-typical fasteners I’ve removed from the collection.

Although applying a fastener can serve a useful function: keeping unique pages together as part of a larger object (where loose pieces of paper could be misplaced and provenance lost). Fasteners can also present a two-pronged threat. The first danger is potential physical damage such as puncturing, tearing, or creasing. Chemical damage such as staining from rust also poses a threat. Common finds include twine, straight pins, paper clips, and staples.

Of course I don’t remove every extant staple from the thousands of documents in the collection. But I do remove any fastener that has already begun to rust, shows the early signs of degradation, or is damaging the fragile paper in some way.

twine btw pages

Sometimes, twine was tied around sub-sections of documents. The issue here is that the documents could not be opened for scanning, or for a patron’s research, being so tightly bound by knotted twine. In these types of cases, I removed the flexible fasteners to both facilitate access and prevent damage.

twine zoom 2

A humorous, and not uncommon, occurrence would be when the stain of a rusted paperclip is visible on a document, adjacent to a fresh metal staple now binding its pages together. One threat of chemical damage was replaced by physical damage-unnecessary punctures.

staple paper clip zoom

Over 5,000 documents from the SRT Mexican Manuscript Collection spanning several centuries of Mexican history are available online.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 13, 2018 5:50 am

    Is that a will shown above? If so, was that a common way of “binding” them?

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