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Old 07-16-2008, 10:10 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Houston, TX
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Historical Documents/Photos/Blueprints

I rent a space for my workshop near my home (Houston, TX). Was chatting the other day with Frank, the owner of the facility about the history of the site.

Seems it was the equipment storage yard for the H.A. Lott company. They were a big construction firm that is now bankrupt - but one of their biggest claims to fame is that they built the Houston Astrodome.

Frank told me that when he bought the property out of the bankruptcy, that the big warehouse in the back (about 10,000sqft) was full from wall to wall, floor to rafters with documents.

Among those documents were many blueprints and photographs of the construction of the Astrodome and other major buildings and structures in and around the Houston area. He kept the things he thought to be of value.

He showed me some of the stuff - it's amazing. Original blueprints (not blue-lines, but documents that are mostly blue, with white lines - hand drawn) of the dome. 8x10 glossy photos of the construction in various stages, etc. They all bear the name of the "Harris County Domed Athletic Facility" (if I remember correctly). It wasn't called the Astrodome at first.

He's also got a couple of boxes of documents related to the construction - change orders, inspection reports, invoices, etc. He says that those boxes are the sum total of all the documents he could find relating to the construction!

Top on my list of concerns is document preservation. They're in boxes in a semi-conditioned space, but I did see silverfish in and among the paper goods. The blueprints appear to be in good shape, minor wear on the edges, but otherwise intact. The photos are still viable as well - at least those that I saw. Most of this stuff is 40+ years old (the dome was built from '63 to '65) and I'm concerned that it could be lost to the environment if it's not secured and preserved in some fashion.

I suggested that he remove the items from their current location to his home until we can go through them. He indicated the presence of vermin is the primary reason they're where they are. Doesn't want to introduce an entire swarm of silverfish to his home.

Could we possibly "bag & tag" the items in heavy garbage bags? I'm concerned that the blueprints might have lasted as long as they have because of their unorthodox storage method - in the open in a warm but dry warehouse. The development process of blueprints uses ammonia, if I remember correctly - could blueprints this old possibly be harmed if confined to a tightly closed space?

Could we possibly bag the stuff and introduce some sort of insecticide into the bag to kill the silverfish/roaches without causing damage to the contents?

Should we be concerned about how we handle the documents / pictures? I've got very oily skin and as a precaution will wear gloves when culling through the mess. If nothing else, I'll keep my hands clean.

Whether or not this stuff has any monetary value cannot be determined until we know for sure what we have. It's possible that the Houston Library system might be interested in them for historical archives, although it would seem very likely that they probably have their own set of prints, photos, etc. of what was once called the 7th Wonder of the Modern World.

As you can see, I've got lots of questions and few answers. Any assistance or suggestions would be welcome.

Thanks and regards

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Old 07-16-2008, 12:24 PM
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The only vermin I know of were college adult beverage consumers I hung out with but first I'd contact a pest control company and see what can be done about the silverfish. With regards to storing the photos- buy acid free paper and boxes to store them in ,placing the paper between the photographs. You can buy these at any craft store such as Michael's. If they are black and white try and keep them in a space where they aren't in direct sunlight and don't go thru extreme temperature changes- you can do a Google search. TWalgamuth might be able to tell you what to do to properly store the blueprints. Good luck.

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