I’m going to grinch about your holiday decorating. Pinterest is awash in images of “Christmas trees” made from stacked-up books. Fine. If they’re your own books, and you understand that you are causing both short-term and long-term damage to them, then fine — go for it. They’re your books. You can do what you want with them (although I would still advise against it).

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The worst offender: expect warped spines, warped pages, tears, and pages popping loose from adhesive bindings.

However, if you are a library professional, and you are using library materials to build a book tree as a display in your library, then I am calling you out.  There are a million and one ways to decorate and share your festive holiday spirit (have you looked at Pinterest lately?!) without sending your patrons the wrong message. “But we chose general collections, circulating materials!” you say. “We used that serial journal that no one ever even looks at!” you might add.  It doesn’t matter.  You’re showing everyone who walks into your library that it is o.k. not to handle borrowed library materials respectfully, because you as a library are not treating them respectfully.  You’re putting a strain on the bindings, and exposing them to acute light damage, dust and debris.  So, why shouldn’t your patrons fill those books with highlighter and pencil marks, use them as coasters, prop open their doors with them?

BookTree

At least this tree isn’t draped with string lights. However, the staggered stacking and weight distribution is still likely to warp the book boards.

Fellow book conservators and preservation professionals, we still have work to be done.  Then maybe my heart would grow three sizes, too.

I work in a department that has very little IT support, and as web development is constantly in a state of change, I need to do my own research to stay ahead of the curve. One of the best free* sites to learn about all things related to web development is www.w3schools.com. Our department also has unlimited access to www.lynda.com, but that’s not available for some. Plus, www.lynda.com gets bogged down in lessons and tutorials which can go on for hours, when sometimes a quick brush-up or how-to is all that’s needed. This allows me to get right back into my web page and implement my new idea. The site w3schools has quick, clear, easily defined answers which allow me to explore within each development tool. It has both tutorials and reference lists for HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, PHP, and JQuery. The site also includes a section on web certificates, and contains an interactive color picker. What am I talking about? This site is very interactive! Not only can you read about each tool/technique, but also with its sandboxing of examples, you can try out the tools for yourself and see live results. If that’s not enough to get you started, there are over a thousand examples to peruse in your own time. This website makes it so easy that a very beginner to an advanced web designer can utilize it to its greatest potential. Best of all, it is constantly being updated. A very active and knowledgeable forum rounds out the website, so when you are still confused about actions and code writing, answers are just a click away.

* to obtain Web Certificates from this site, there is a fee involved. All other resources are free.

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As you can see, the site is very well laid-out and easy to navigate. Going into the HTML section:

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It’s kind of hard to see in this example, but on the left side menu, you have a step-by-step html guide (starting at the very basic and moving progressively to more advanced techniques,) to HTML. In the middle of the page, is examples, and a “Try It Yourself” button. When you click on the “Try It Yourself” button, it opens to the sandbox:

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Entering new code in between the <h1></h1> tag, and clicking on See Results box:

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This makes learning intuitive and fun. Each sandbox page opens in it’s own window, so going back to where you were is as simple as closing the window. Let’s go back to the HTML page. Further down the HTML page, you can see:

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There are links to HTML examples, or take a HTML Quiz (more than likely to help one prepare for the Web Certification that the site provides.) Clicking on the HTML Tag Reference link takes you to:

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This is very handy, as it shows all the HTML tags and also which are new or not supported in HTML5. I find the references pages very helpful when I’m updating my pages, especially as I move over to HTML5. Again, you can then use the left vertical menu to go to the specific page your interested in (this one being HTML; the other reference pages match the tool you are exploring.)

I have only dipped into the very basics of the website. The thing with this particular website is that it can get overwhelming and/or addictive. There is so much useful information here that I find myself spending way too much time on it, getting distracted from my own work. In that way, it is like www.lynda.com, but then I do not have to sigh my way through parts of a tutorial that I don’t need. Here, I can jump around and fiddle on code until I feel I understand it completely. It’s not the only site available that offers tutorials and sandboxing, but www.w3schools.com is about as thorough a website on learning these tools that I have discovered.

For those of you who do any sort of preservation reformatting or digitizing you know how time consuming the quality control process can be. Our best practice would be to check completeness and initial quality of the original, especially if we are sending them to a vendor, and then to quality control page-by-page or frame-by-frame the facsimile or digital version. Maybe over time, as we become more confident in our process or the vendor’s, we may choose to do some spot checking or sampling if we are doing a large project. This is the step that is often overlooked when planning a project and budgeting staff time. It seems like such a waste of resources, especially when there are no mistakes to be found.

Well, let me tell you a little story and provide a warning. Like many academic institutions, our dissertations were sent to UMI for microfilming dating back to the 1930s. We did not receive copies because the student was required to submit two paper copies to the library (one for general collections and the other for University Archives). In 2006, we caught up with the times and moved to electronic submission of both MA theses and PhD dissertations through ProQuest’s ETD process. At that time, ProQuest made an offer to members of the Greater Western Library Alliance to digitize older theses and dissertations at a reduced cost so full-text versions could be accessed through ProQuest’s Dissertations & Theses database. Our administration decided to have all of our dissertations digitized. We sent nearly 2,000 print titles and ProQuest used an additional 12,000 microfilm titles from their holdings for the project. The majority of print titles were early dissertations that needed a little attention; graphs, charts, and photographs were re adhered, pages mended, and bindings were cut.

Because we did not receive digital copies, we never performed any post-production quality control, and also thought that since ProQuest was making these available for sale it would behoove them to be diligent and capture them accurately. Flash forward to the present. Our Digital Repository (DR) was established in 2012, giving us a place to provide open access to dissertations and theses. Administration purchased the digital dissertations from ProQuest and they are being added to the DR by our Metadata and Cataloging staff. Each title page is checked against the record to confirm that the PDF is what it claims to be. Well, so far our diligent MD and Cat staff have identified 15 ProQuest screw-ups.

Each dissertation usually begins with bibliographic information and a UMI statement indicating the text was filmed directly from the original and if anything is missing or of poor quality, it is because the author submitted it that way; although, missing pages would be noted. At first the Catalogers were finding minor problems such as no title page, the wrong title page, or missing front matter. Then they started finding parts of other dissertations added in, the wrong dissertation (sometimes from other institutions!), or, it gets better, portions of two different dissertations, neither of which were the correct dissertation, pieced together. So far it appears that all of the mistakes are coming from microfilm scans from the 1970s-90s, and since we do not hold microfilm copies, I cannot determine if the mistake is with the microfilm original or the scanning process. (ILL requests for two microfilm copies were not received by the time of this post). The incorrect digital versions we were sent are the same ones that ProQuest has made available.

Preservation is now scanning these mistakes in-house and adding them to our open access DR. In the near future, the OCLC MARC records for all ISU theses and dissertations will include the URL to the DR object without a URL to the ProQuest version. Researchers will be able to find complete and accurate representations in our DR for free.

I would suggest that if your institution has worked with ProQuest to convert microfilm versions, you may want to do some checking of your own. Maybe we should ask ProQuest if they would like to purchase correct digital files from us.

Quality control, quality control, quality control!

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In the Iowa State University Library Digital Collections, we mainly have collections of things that we have digitized here at the library, including photographs, letters, diaries and various documents.  However, born digital content, such as web pages, have also been brought together in other library digital collections.  We continue to look at these other opportunities for possible growth of our own.

The Library of Congress Digital Collections has web archiving.  Keeping old versions of web pages can be an often overlooked task.  When a web site is updated, how the old one looked could be lost forever unless there’s a policy and process in place to save the old one for historical reasons.  Sometimes there might be a temporary web page up for an anniversary or special event and when it’s over, if it’s not saved, that information could be lost.  Sometimes the content might not be that important, but someday people might want to see what the first web page of a university or department looked like to compare how things have changed.  The decisions of what to save, how to save it and make it available can be difficult and could impact every department on campus now that everybody seems to have their own web pages.

Columbia University Libraries Digital Collections includes a Human Rights Web Archive. None of the content of these web sites comes from the university.  Instead, they bring together web sites from all over the world to create a searchable collection available for research.  This extends the mission of the library to provide information by going beyond simply providing the information that exists at the institution. They search the online world instead, in order to provide various resources together in one place.

Preserving an historical record of web content could seem like a monumental task with the creation and changing of web content increasing exponentially all the time.  The sooner that policy and procedures everywhere are implemented to deal with this, the better.

One of the best things about being a conservator is learning new treatment methods and materials. This allows you to expand your knowledge and develop preferences. During my time as a Lennox Intern, I have had the chance to broaden my skills by learning three new treatment methods.

The first new treatment I learned is the re-adhering of flaking emulsion on glass plate negatives. Working with a small brush and in small increments, I brushed a 5% solution of gelatin in deionized water on the glass, and then gently pressed the emulsion to the glass. In theory, this is a fairly straightforward treatment. In practice, it proved to be difficult. The emulsion is highly reactive to moisture. Thus, when coming in contact with the gelatin adhesive, it behaved erratically. It was difficult to re-adhere the pieces of emulsion seamlessly, resulting in space between two pieces of emulsion. The end results are not perfect visually, but the emulsion is now adhered well to the glass, reducing any risks of losing any delaminated pieces.

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A section of emulsion before and after re-adhesion.

Brushing on the gelatin solution.

Brushing on the gelatin solution.

The second new treatment I learned is the re-building of board corners, a technique often done on books which have corners that have snapped off. Some of the photographs in the Van Zandt collection (read my previous post on this collection here) are adhered to backing boards. This was typically done at the photography studio, and all of the backing boards have inscriptions. This means that removing the board would remove historic information, and as a result, repair of the boards with snapped corners was our chosen treatment method. Melissa taught me two ways of building up boards: (1) delaminating layers of archival board until it is the right thickness; and (2) adhering archival board and paper together to build up the right thickness. Then, the newly-made board corners are split and pared, the object’s backing board is split, and they are fit together. I found this to be a fun process, and enjoyed learning a bit about book conservation techniques.

A board edge made of archival board being fitted into the backing board of a photograph.

A board edge made of archival board being fitted into the backing board of a photograph.

The final new treatment method I will discuss is the use of TekWipe during the washing of a panoramic photograph, which had a significant tideline. I thought this would be a great opportunity to test out a new-to-me material, using the open blotter sandwich method. My set up for this open sandwich was, starting from the bottom: a sheet of Mylar, blotter, wet TekWipe, the object (recto-side up), Photo-Tex tissue, and Plexi. This method meant that the soluble degradation materials would move downward into the absorbent TekWipe. In the end, only a small amount of discoloration moved into the TekWipe, which did not result in much of a visual change in the object, but I did appreciate the opportunity to work with this material.

The panoramic photograph removed from the TekWipe, which shows some discoloration that has leeched out of the photograph.

The panoramic photograph removed from the TekWipe, which shows some discoloration that has leeched out of the photograph.

The opportunity to try out new techniques is incredibly valuable, and I am excited for future learning possibilities as my time at ISU comes to an end and I move on to the next position. If you’d like to keep up to date with my future conservation endeavors, please feel free to follow me on Twitter or have a look at my blog.

As I reach the end of my internship, I would like to share a brief description of some of the projects I have worked on during the last three months as well as some personal observations.  Two of the film projects I addressed were the re-housing of the Alexander Lippisch Films Collection and the condition assessment of the general Film Collection located in the film vaults. For my first task involving the Lippisch Films, the goal and workflow were quite straightforward. The majority of the 306 films (in most cases roughly 100 ft.) were stored in their original metal cans or cardboard boxes. They were also in their original reels, which was often a Tenite reel that had decomposed, covering the film with a white powder. Finally, they were stored in groups of approximately 20 objects per box inside large, archival boxes.

A decomposed Tenite reel.

A decomposed Tenite reel.

My work with this collection consisted in transferring all films from their original plastic or metal reels into 3-inch plastic cores. This is the best way to keep film, because it avoids the potentially damaging pressure that a reel might produce, and it also prevents the extreme curling that is caused by 2-inch cores. In addition, protective head and tail leaders were added to all films and then stored in adequate 16mm archival plastic cans.

The Lippisch Films in their original reels.

The Lippisch Films in their original reels.

The Lippisch Films transferred into 3-inch cores and re-housed.

The Lippisch Films transferred into 3-inch cores and re-housed.

Even though I didn’t have the time to thoroughly inspect, clean and repair all films, I was able to provide them with minimal stabilization and remove as much non-archival tape as I could. The tape had damaged the adjacent areas, producing stains, silver mirroring and other chemical reactions.

Film had been secured with non archival tape

Film had been secured with non archival tape.

Tape being removed. The tape has damaged the emulsion.

Tape being removed. The tape has damaged the emulsion.

Finally, a selection of films was prepared for digitization. The digitization projects currently being carried out at Special Collections have access purposes only. This means that the image quality of the files produced is good enough for research and access but does not meet the standards of long-term digital preservation.

Another issue I addressed was testing the decomposition level of the acetate films. Since its inception, motion picture film has been manufactured with three different plastic bases. The first utilized base was cellulose nitrate, discontinued around 1951 due to its extremely high flammability. Nitrate was eventually replaced by cellulose acetate which is still being used today. The third, polyester, also continues to be used, particularly for theatrical release prints. Unfortunately, acetate has proven to be chemically unstable and is prone to chemical decay, especially when it is not stored in the appropriate conditions of temperature and relative humidity (40 Fº and 30-50% RH). This type of decomposition is known as vinegar syndrome, in reference to the strong odor produced by acidic gases liberated by the decaying films.
The Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology developed an important tool, A-D Strips, which helps determine the extent of chemical decay in acetate-based collections. This is achieved through the use of indicator papers that measure the pH in films. During my internship, I tested the collection with the help of students and Special Collections staff. The results and the data collected will allow us to understand how the chemical condition of the collection evolved and decide what are the most urgent actions to be carried out within a thorough preservation plan.

A film without noticeable physical changes. Before re-housing.

A film without noticeable physical changes. Before re-housing.

Severely decayed film.

Severely decayed film.

In summation, I would like to share some thoughts about my experience as a film preservationist who learned some paper conservation techniques, and worked for three months in a paper-based environment. Most of the differences that I perceived derive most likely from the fact that audiovisual objects are machine-dependent, as opposed to books or paper documents. This means that in order to “read” a movie or sound record a machine is needed (i.e. projector, deck, computer, etc.). This main difference with paper is reflected in the conservation treatments that the materials need in order to be preserved. With books and paper, we work on the object to make it readable and agreeable for immediate contact with our eyes. With films, we work on preparing the object to be read or processed by a machine. Anyone who works in the field of conservation understands the importance of preserving our cultural heritage in its varying facets, from the intimate value of a family photograph to those works that are considered national patrimony, or even world heritage. I am pleased to have collaborated with Iowa State University in saving valuable audiovisual documents that are part of its identity as an institution and a community.

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Recently we received a Special Collections brown leather book titled Familiar Lectures on Botany, Practical, Elementary, and Physiological by Mrs. Almira H. Lincoln (1842).  As I was adding this book to our departmental inventory, I noticed a couple of areas with “leafy” items pressed in between some pages.  So, after discussing treatment with our conservator, Melissa Tedone, we agreed that I should note the page numbers where the ephemera was located and encapsulate each item with the Minter welder.

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Well a “couple of pieces of ephemera later” ended up being 38 items with a lot more documentation and encapsulating on my part.  And if you haven’t worked with dried plant material between two pieces of Mylar and static electricity, you will find it a real challenge. It’s very hard to control the leaves, flowers, and seeds, as they go where they want.  Careful handling on my part with tweezers and a microspatula got them where I wanted them on a backing of University Products Permalife text weight 70# paper, and enclosed between Mylar and welded together.

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I was very pleased with the finished project and it will be much easier for future visitors to handle and look at the ephemera.  However, I will never say just “a couple” again when referring to ephemera!

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