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Christine Smith Files Concerning Conservation of the Wills of George Washington and Martha Washington

Identifier: MSS 16289

Scope and Contents Note

The Christine Smith Conservation files (1945-2016; 2.69 cubic feet) concern the conservation of the wills of George Washington and Martha Washington. The files contain slide photographs of each page of each will, usually with additional detail photos. Each set of before-treatment slides represents the wills as they appeared in 1998, approximately nine decades after manuscript restorer William Berwick preserved them; the after-treatment slides document the appearance of each will in 2003.

There are also photocopies of materials concerning each manuscript's preservation history, including damage during the Civil War, early restoration attempts, storage formats, and exhibition histories.

For George Washington's will, there bits of the will paper and ink (for future microscopy studies), nine microscope slides of the will's materials, specimens of the translucent paper that Mr. Berwick used to tack together the split sheets prior to silking them, the inlay/mounting paper that he used, and the double-sided mat housings that Christine Smith used. For Martha Washington's will, there are specimens of the inlay paper and silking crepeline.

Other materials included were specifications and papers concerning the new case built to house George Washington's will in 2002, written documentation on the restoration of both wills, papers about an exhibition of the wills held at Mt. Vernon, and audiovisual materials documenting or publicizing the restoration of the Washinton wills.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1945-2016

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Historical Note

Christine Smith, a conservator working for Conservation of Art on Paper, Inc. (CAPI), wrote an article in the "Winterthur Portfolio A Journal of American Material Culture" (Volume 38, Number 4, Winter 2003) describing the history of George Washington's last will and testament and the various treatments that it has undergone. Smith not only describes her contemporary treatment of the documents but also the pioneering conservation treatment of the wills of both George and Martha Washington by William W. Berwick, restorer of manuscripts, Library of Congress.


2.69 Cubic Feet (6 document boxes, 1 flat box)


These files are arranged in two series, Paper Files and Slides (Boxes 1-5) and Audiovisual Materials, Born-Digital Materials and Microscope Slides (Box 6).


Donated by Christine Smith, 20 February 2017.

Christine Smith Conservation files
Sharon Defibaugh
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States