Ernest Howard Crosby, His Death Mask

Written by: Bexx Caswell-Olson

Primary Source: Wallace Conservation Lab, August 26, 2016

This plaster cast (painted bronze) was taken from the face Ernest Howard Crosby shortly after his death in 1907. When it arrived in the lab, I found it stored in the packaging it had arrived in – a cardboard box with some tissue paper and a plastic bag for padding.  I decided that something with more stability and support was needed.I pondered making a complicated box from scratch, but instead decided to modify a pre-made drop front box with slide out tray, available from Gaylord Archival.

I stuffed the mask with acid-free tissue paper to provide some support.  Then, I added a corrugated cardboard spacer to the back of the tray that help to hold Mr. Crosby in a more upright position (the back of the mask is angled rather than flat, and this seemed to be the least stressful position).  Finally, I added Volara foam to the back, bottom, and front of the tray, as well as a few pieces to the sides to prevent Mr. Crosby from moving from side to side.

The drop-front box with slide out tray makes it possible for a user to remove the item from the box for viewing without the need to handle the mask itself.

I think the new box is a big improvement!

Want to see this item in person?  Find it here.

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Bexx Caswell-Olson
Before migrating to Michigan and beginning work at the MSU Libraries Wallace Conservation Lab, Bexx Caswell-Olson was employed as a bookbinder and book conservator in private practice in Iowa City, IA. Prior to running her own business, Bexx spent nearly a decade living in the Boston area where she worked in a variety of libraries and conservation labs, including those at Harvard and MIT. She is Vice President of the Guild of Book Workers, a national organization for those working in bookbinding, book conservation, and the book arts. Bexx holds a Certificate in Bookbinding from the North Bennet Street School and a Master’s of Library Science from Simmons College. In addition to her passion for bookbinding, Bexx also has an affinity for typography, bibliomysteries, seed bead weaving, and vegan baking.