In 2002, the Ransom Center was awarded a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the preservation, arrangement, description, and selected digitization of the B. J. Simmons costume design collection.
The Simmons collection was managed as a preservation access project. The drawings, plots, and patterns were originally stored in London. Regardless of size, papers were folded into a letter-size configuration and held together between acidic cardboards tied with cloth ribbon. Papers on the exterior of the piles had the most soot (from coal-burning London) and ravaged edges (from use and wear). Papers were surface cleaned to reduce the soot, humidified in a water chamber to relax the folds and creases of the paper, and placed in a blotter stack in a press until flat. Drawings with fabric swatches had the swatches removed during the process, and returned after flattening. Rusty pins were replaced with non-rusting stainless steel pins when appropriate. Materials were placed in folders of suitable size to allow them to be stored flat. Drawings in need of more extensive treatment were identified for future work.
The paper conservation department was able to complete work on approximately 12,500 drawings, plots, and patterns in a collection of 34,000 over a two year period. In addition, boxes for the books, geographic folios, and scrapbooks were constructed in the preservation lab.