The original charter of the first state university will be displayed Jan. 27 following restoration and conservation work. The document, originally signed in Savannah in 1785, will be exhibited in observance of Founders’ Day in the main library’s Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. An overview display will be on view in the lobby of the Main Library, and a Web site created by University Archives (www.libs.uga.edu/hargrett/archives/charter2.html) recounts the charter’s history. The Web site also offers images of the document’s two pages, a transcript and a 1951 history, reprinted courtesy of The Georgia Review.
Due to its fragile condition, the charter rarely leaves the vault in the rare book library. In the late 1990s, a request to display the charter in Savannah was presented to the Hargrett’s director, Mary Ellen Brooks. When the local alumni saw its condition, they began a fund-raising drive for its conservation. Before finding a home at the UGA Libraries, the charter had been stored with other state papers and not treated reverentially.
“Prior to that time, its importance had not been recognized,” wrote John Olin Eidson, editor of the Georgia Review, in 1951. “It bears evidences of having been crumpled, soiled and wetted.”
The manuscript has now been cleaned and encapsulated in buffered film.
“They [the Northeast Document Conservation Center] adhere to the principles of historic and artistic conservation practices-to be minimalist in how you alter a document,” Brooks says. “It doesn’t look like a new document, but it is, in fact, conserved.”