Main Navigation

University of Utah experts help conserve Idaho’s most important document

Experts from the U's J. Willard Marriott Library perform conservation work on the Idaho State Constitution.

Preamble to the Idaho Constitution that was recently preserved at the J. Willard Marriott Library.

Download Full-Res Image

The newly refurbished Idaho State Constitution, which received conservation work at the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library (Marriott Library), is set to be unveiled by Idaho Gov. Brad Little at the Idaho State Capitol on Feb. 20, 2020.

In 2018, Layce Johnson, collections archivist at the Idaho State Archives, and Randy Silverman, head of preservation at the Marriott Library, outlined a plan to conserve the Idaho State Constitution. Penned in 1890, the document has been under the care of the Idaho State Archives for several decades. It came to the U in October 2019.

“It was an honor to have our restoration experts at the Marriott Library work on this project and support the history and legacy of the great state of Idaho,” said Ruth V. Watkins, president of the University of Utah.

The 130-year-old constitution had several issues to address: The animal-glue adhesive binding had deteriorated and the spine was starting to detach. The first two pages had warping and distortion and the red ink had bled. Pages throughout the text block were dirty and torn.

“The six-month conservation process included paper conservation—removing heat-activated lamination from the first two leaves, surface cleaning, tape removal, humidification and flattening,” said Silverman. “The book was bound in goatskin and boxed in collaboration with an outside bindery company.”

While disassembled, the original leaves were scanned by Marriott Library Digital Operations, and a high-quality reproduction was printed on 100% cotton paper.

“The opportunity for two states [Idaho and Utah] to collaborate on a project of such high historic and contemporary significance is truly remarkable,” said Little. “Our state’s constitution is

Left to Right: Randy Silverman, head of preservation at Marriott Library, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Idaho Gov. Brad Little

Download Full-Res Image

the anchor document of Idaho sovereignty and is still the guiding document in decision-making for the state.”

In addition to the conservation work on the original document, the replica of the Constitution will provide access to the document for communities across the state, allowing the 1889 Constitution to be stored in a secure, climate-controlled environment. In conjunction with a series of documentary screenings and panel discussions with legal scholars, historians, archivists and others, the Idaho Commission for Libraries will oversee a traveling exhibit that will be on display in libraries across Idaho.

“It’s always a pleasure when we can work with our neighbors on a worthwhile project,” said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. “It’s wonderful that our conservators could lend a hand in mending this important document.”

The Idaho State Historical Society has partnered with Idaho Public Television to document the entire project as a new episode of Idaho Experience, the history documentary series that explores key events and individuals that have shaped Idaho. “Idaho’s Constitution Revealed” is set to premiere March 8, 2020.