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Subject: Brass time capsule

Brass time capsule

From: Clint Fountain <cfountain>
Date: Monday, October 26, 1998
The Museum of Florida History has recently come into possession of a
box made of sheet brass, 17 5/8" X 17" X 1", which bears a plaque
inscribed with: "Transcription of the inaugural ceremonies of
GOVERNOR FULLER WARREN January 4, 1949 as broadcast by a network of
57 Florida radio stations through the cooperation of the Florida
Association of Broadcasters"  It was given to us still in its
original cardboard shipping package, but beyond the information of
shipper and addressee, the capsule and packaging has no recorded
history; no one, including the former trustees of the object, is
quite sure how it came to them.  Its appearance is serendipitous in
that we are in the process of putting together an exhibit on former
Florida Governors and their families, scheduled to open December
3rd. The exhibition planning team is considering the idea of opening
the capsule on its 50th anniversary, January 4th.

The box is made of 1/16" sheet brass with brazed corners; the top
half of the box has been soldered to the bottom half, the plaque is
attached by 4 brass screws, and the exterior was lacquered after
assembly.  The lacquer is in remarkable condition, and the brass is
still shiny after almost 50 years.  The solder line has two voids,
indicating that the capsule has never been airtight.  It is expected
that the box contains phonograph records. (Perhaps acetate, from
that period?)

The problem: how to open the box with zero probability of damage to
the contents, and with minimal damage to the container and its
coating.  (Please note: I am *not* asking for a discussion about the
propriety of opening the box; the decision of whether to open it
will be governed by several factors, one of which is the safety of
the procedure.)  It is unlikely that we will be able to cut or
chisel the solder apart without bending and scarring the brass.  Use
of sufficient heat to desolder the join is scary, given that we have
no idea of the contents or their condition, unless there exists a
device which will keep it very localized.  I remember, back in the
days of transistors and electronic hobbyists, that there was a
simple vacuum bulb which could be used to suck away liquified solder
from a part one was desoldering, and am tempted to rig a
small-diameter metal tube to a commercial vacuum cleaner to perform
that function, but I don't want experiment if there already exists
an appropriate device.

Any ideas?

Clint Fountain
Conservator
The Museum of Florida History
Tallahassee, FL

                                  ***
                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:39
                Distributed: Wednesday, October 28, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-12-39-020
                                  ***
Received on Monday, 26 October, 1998

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