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Department of History
East Carolina Conservation Laboratory

ECCL - East Carolina Conservation Lab LogoIwo JimaSurface Treatment of Iwo Jima mapUncovered writing on reverse side of map

Battleship North Carolina WWII Map Project

The Battleship North Carolina has an extensive collection of World War II artifacts, documents, and memorabilia associated with the USS North Carolina. Among the thousands of items is a map depicting the island of Iwo Jima during WWII. The map is a three dimensional relief map used for training purposes.


Rubber has what conservators refer to as an "inherent vice", meaning that the rubber the map is made from is causing its own deterioration. Rubber requires very special conservation considerations. The map underwent conservation at the conservation lab to insure its long term survival for future study and appreciation. It was placed into a custom made exhibit case that has an oxygen free atmosphere with special UV filters to prevent further deterioration.


Iwo Jima Map Conservation

Phases in the Conservation of the Rubber Map

The initial examination inspected the general condition of the object and verified if there were any areas of damage. The initial examination allows conservators to understand the construction details of the object and also allows them to identify any transportation concerns. The object was wrapped in many layers in order to prevent any harm coming to the object during transportation. The map showed signs of cracking (top left), sinking (top right), paint loss and delamination (bottom left) and organic residue (bottom right). The map underwent laser scanning as part of the documentation process. It was performed by Thad Wasklewicz from the ECU Department of Geography. Laser scanning is important because it accurately documents the condition of the object before and after treatment. The scanning process itself is quite quick  but processing the data take 3 to 5 times longer. When the reverse side of the map was examined an acquisition sheet was found. It provided the provenance and history of the map as well as an acquisition date. The first layer of the reverse side of the map was carefully detached. The second layer of paper on the reverse side of the map was suggested by a paper conservator. This technique worked very well and allowed us to reveal writing that was not originally visible. Map supports were developed to further the life of the object. The surface of the map was treated with a cleaning and portions that had been delaminated and had loss their paint were restored. The final step in the process was the construction of a plexiglass mount for the map which would prevent oxygen from reaching the map and further degradation.

 East Carolina University hosted a public viewing of the map at Joyner Library after its completion in 2011. It was the 66th anniversary of the landing at Iwo Jima in 1945. Presentations by Department of History faculty and the Joyner Library special collections staff were also made.