$520 To Restore A Piece of History

On our November income statement, we showed a $520 purchase in our shopping category for heirloom restoration and promised an explanation later. Here’s the story behind that spending and why we feel that $520 is a bit of an investment in preserving both friendship and local history.

 

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Here’s part of the map – the detail on it is amazing when you consider it was made in the 1930’s!

Where Did The $520 Go?

The heirloom that we had restored was a map. Now, this isn’t just any map. It’s an old developer’s map of a nearby island that was probably printed in the 1940’s. It’s HUGE – about 10 feet long, and when we moved into our house, we spent about $600 to have it mounted and framed so we could display it as the central (well, really the only) piece of art in our living room.

At the time, $600 was a lot of money for us.  Mr. PoP was earning minimum wage and we were putting thousands into repairs on the lovely older home we had recently purchased out of foreclosure.  But we loved the piece, and we were very sad to realize this summer just how drastically it had faded in the 3 years it was mounted in the living room.

 

Why Did We Love It So Much?

For starters, it’s just such an awesome piece of art. Our home isn’t big, so when the only thing you have on the walls is a 10 foot long map that is upwards of 60 years old, it’s pretty freaking cool.

Beyond that, there’s also a lot of sentimentality involved in the map, too. It was gifted to us during our home search by a good friend, D, who had quite literally used the map as his own little monopoly board on the island. D is in his late eighties now, but during the 60 years he’d lived on that island, he’d used this exact map (this very copy!) to map out all of his land purchases over the years. This map represents so much of his personal history that we treasured the sentiment behind the gift as much as the gift itself.

 

How To Restore A Faded Map

When we first started researching what to do about the map fading, paper restoration firms that Mr. PoP tracked down online were quoting us as much as $3,000 to restore the map. But – and there’s always a but – there was no guarantee that it would work or that the map wouldn’t be destroyed in the process. Now, spending $3,000 wasn’t my idea of a good time, but the prospect of losing the map and its history forever seemed like a huge risk for that high of a price. We pulled the map off the wall and tried to find another way.

Since we love public records so much, Mr. PoP tried to locate a copy of the original map in public databases of maps, but this map was primarily meant for developers.  It was never recorded in the public records.

Eventually, through tireless research, Mr. PoP found the map. We knew our copy was probably purchased in the 1950’s and had likely been printed in the 1940’s, but Mr PoP figured out that the map was originally drawn in the 1930’s. (Incredibly long ago for this area!) Amazingly, a local surveying firm still had the original map in its storage which they had purchased from the cartographer who created it over 70 years ago. When Mr. PoP saw the original linen map rolled out onto a conference table, he admits that he almost cried with joy. =)

 

$160 to the surveying firm got us a high quality digital scan of the original map. The remaining $360 went to a local graphic designer with a print shop. He was able to take D’s original map, and scan the portions of the map that had all of D’s real estate notes. (His notes hadn’t faded nearly as much as the original ink!) The graphic designer combined them into one new digital image, and aged the digital image so the colors matched how it looked when we first got it several years ago.

The graphic designer then printed it on acid free paper that shouldn’t fade. But even if it does fade somewhat in 10 or 20 years, with the completed digital image in our possession, printing a new copy would be relatively cheap and easy. So this is definitely now a “buy it for life” purchase.

The map is now back on our wall in all its glory. Yes, technically it’s a reproduction, but we have the original copy safely tucked away for preservation as well.

A Values Based Spending Decision

For us, this $520 is not just another thing we spent money on. We feel like our spending here reflects how much we value

  1. the unique area where we live and its local history
  2. our friendships with people like D who have been so kind as to share much of what they have learned over many years with us.
What spending decision (or non-spending as the case may be) have you made lately that aligns best with your values?

 

 

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