New York State Archives

The devastating New York State Capitol fire of 1911 incinerated much of New York’s colonial and early statehood documentary heritage. Twelve thousand pages of New York’s Dutch Colonial records, dating from 1638 to 1670, somehow escaped the blaze, but most were charred by fire.

In 2000, with support from a Save America’s Treasures grant, the New York State Archives contracted with the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia to reinforce the charred edges with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. Thanks to the efforts of these dedicated preservation professionals, these records—some of the oldest surviving European records created on the American continent—were saved.

The archives’ colonial Dutch records include the Flushing Remonstrance, one of the earliest expressions of the right to religious freedom in America; descriptions of meetings between Dutch officials and Mahican Indians; and detailed accounts of how the New Netherland colony was governed. With the documents stabilized, translators and researchers can continue their work to shed light on the lives and times of New York’s earliest European inhabitants.