I cannot say enough about savvy citizens who are aware of the archives and, when they find a treasure, think to donate it to the archives. Yea, for them!
The current owners of 1206 Oak St. in Kingsport were remodeling their home. When they removed some built-in book shelves, they discovered a tiny, coal-burning fireplace. Beside the chimney was a stash of letters and papers belonging to previous occupants.
The documents were COVERED in soot. The first step was to brush each piece.
Next, it was important to clean each piece of correspondence so that the postmarks would be legible. I used Absorene. It is a cross between putty and a kneadable eraser. I roll it across the document under my fingers.
Here you can see that the left side is clean and the Absorene is full of soot. Neat, right? Two of my favorite items in the collection are a ticket for a Rotary fundraiser (boxing?) and the insurance identity card (because it documents a downtown Kingsport business).