During a recent digital preservation meeting, our conservator, Melissa, brought up the need to safeguard our treatment documentation now that the written and photographic parts are electronic.  Currently, all documentation is managed through an Access database and stored on a networked drive.  According to the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), proper storage, backup and active management of these records is essential for long-term preservation.  The AIC Guide to Digital Photography and Conservation Documentation even provides some basic background information on hardware, software, standard practices and terminology.  Let’s just make it easy and say we want to meet National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) Levels of Digital Preservation.

So the first question to you all is:  how have you gone about doing this?  Is this an activity that you have charged your IT department or Archives with managing?  Does this process at least meet NDSA Level 1?

The Access database is a fine management tool to organize all of our treatment reports and their accompanying images, but it is not that easy to guide the user or the curator to treatment reports.  Do you use local bibliographic records to indicate the existence of treatment reports, or perhaps a content management system that links directly to treatment reports from the item records?

snippet of a treatment report

snippet of a treatment report

Finally, even though the cost of storage space continues to decrease, the cost still exists and it is not simply the cost of the storage device.  Our campus IT charges us for space which does not include digital preservation services. Considering how large TIFF and RAW (or DNG) files are, how difficult RAW files are to use and the fact that they are proprietary, have you chosen to keep all RAW files?  DNG files?  What was your rationale in making this decision?  What does the cost benefit analysis and future use of these image files look like?TR350bt04

Sharing your experience with managing electronic treatment documentation and decision making would be greatly appreciated.

 

 

1091map1As our regular readers know, the 1091 Project is a collaboration between Iowa State University Library and our conservation colleagues at Duke University Libraries. Well, this week, thanks to Kevin Driedger of the Library of Michigan, we have been participating in the 5 Days of Preservation project, a week-long collaboration among preservation professionals and institutions across the nation.  Kevin’s idea was simple but powerful: use social media to post a photo each day for five days of whatever preservation looks like for you that day.  Kevin then collected all those posted images in one place, the 5 Days of Preservation Tumblr blog. The collected photos showcase an impressive range of preservation activities that really illustrate the rich diversity of our  field.  So, this week, I encourage you not only to pop over to Preservation Underground for their 1091 post, but also to check out #5DaysOfPreservation, via Tumblr, Facebook, and/or Twitter. And kudos to Kevin for a fun and informative project!

Here is a quick recap of our ISU Library Conservation Lab posts for the week:

 

fb-LIFE

MONDAY: Preservation looked like this humidified and flattened Depression-era letter.

 

Nicole5Days

TUESDAY: Preservation looked like our student employee, Nicole, repairing books from the General Collection.

 

Photodoc5days-01

WEDNESDAY: Preservation looked like professional photography lamps set up in front of our magnetic wall for imaging large-format architectural drawings.

 

WikiLinks-5Days

THURSDAY: Preservation looked like committee work for the AIC Sustainability Committee. Melissa and her fellow committee members are performing their annual link maintenance this month on the sustainability pages of the AIC Conservation Wiki.

 

McCoy-Budget-5Days

FRIDAY: Preservation looked like Preservation Assistant Mindy working on the departmental budget (a *very* important part of preservation indeed!)

Photo Credit: http://www.schachtspindle.com/our_products/shuttles.php

Photo Credit: Schacht Spindle Co., Inc.

As retirement approaches sometime in the next 3 years, it is easy for me to weave a picture of what life will be like for me after leaving the library.  I have shelves of books all waiting to be read, a floor loom to use with the closets full of yarn I have collected over 40 years, naps to take, and hopefully travels to thread memories.  I have few problems graphing out the pattern.

It is not as easy to think about what needs to be charted at work before retirement.  I am starting with the basic plan for the plain fabric of procedures.  This will include the patterns for my work and the work done by the staff that I supervise.  This creates a good review of the processes and how they are intertwined within the section, department and library.  I have previously written procedures for most of my tasks and will be reviewing them for updating.  The procedures of the staff in Preservation Services are somewhat similar and overlap to create the completed and more unique fabric of the work in the section.  Some tasks are repetitive and move as a twill fabric.  Others are completed with more complicated repetitions, creating large overshot patterns.  This will be a good time to review and examine the fabric of our work here in Preservation Services.

So, work continues with dreams of the future and knowing that “You have to be warped to weave.”

Catt-FromDonnaToJunie

A newly acquired 1930s letter in the Carrie Chapman Catt Collection.

For the past two months, I have been preserving hundreds of newly acquired items of correspondence for the ISU Library Special Collections Department’s Carrie Chapman Catt Collection.  The collection includes handwritten and typed letters on paper ranging from high-end, monogrammed stationery to lined notebook paper to index cards; newspaper clippings; photographs; decorative stickers; pressed flowers; envelopes; and postage stamps. It’s a wonderful collection rich with evidence of daily life during the Great Depression, and has been a delight to work on in spite of the repetitive nature of the conservation work: humidify, flatten, rehouse, humidify, flatten, rehouse…

After being stored folded up in their original envelopes for 80 years, these letters require humidification and flattening before they can be safely handled by researchers. Note the letter in the lower right corner, which is very acidic and brittle.

After being stored folded up in their original envelopes for 80 years, these letters require humidification and flattening before they can be safely handled by researchers. Note the letter in the lower right corner, which is very acidic and brittle.

This collection is being treated before it is processed by our archivists, because the majority of the letters are folded up and still tucked inside their original envelopes.  Many of the letters have been written on acidic paper which is now quite fragile and could break apart simply by being unfolded without humidification. Even the items which are not brittle benefit from gentle humidification and flattening between blotter and boards in a press.  So far, I have worked through three-quarters of the newly acquired collection. I have humidified, flattened, and rehoused 448 items, and have sorted and rehoused another 281 items which did not require humidification (mostly envelopes and photographs).  A few pages required mending, and about 60 particularly fragile items required encapsulation in Mylar/Melinex; the rest of the items were re-foldered and housed in archival document boxes.

Items from the Carrie Chapman Catt Collection being flattened between blotter and boards in a press after humidification.

Items from the Carrie Chapman Catt Collection being flattened between blotter and boards in a press after humidification.

There are several challenges when working through a project of this size. One is simply time management: I can’t drop everything else to work solely on this one project, even though it is a high priority. I have done my best to schedule a minimum of 2 hours of active treatment time per day to keep the project moving forward, and at least once or twice a week, I devote nearly an entire day to it. Furthermore, humidification takes as long as it takes; it’s a process that involved a lot of  “down time.”  So, if a batch of letters needs an entire day of humidification, then I simply have to wait until they’re ready for flattening.

Another challenge is keeping the collection materials organized so as not to compromise their archival order.  My low-tech organization solution is to keep a mini-streamer with each item.  On each streamer, I write a code at the top indicating which box and original folder the item came from [for example, "B2 F4 (29)" means Item 29 from Box 2, Folder 4]. I then make abbreviated notes indicating whether the item is one page of a multi-page letter, whether it pairs with an envelope, and whether any other ephemera were grouped with it ["3 pp., no env., 1/3"]. I am very careful whenever moving items (e.g., from the humidity chamber to a blotter stack for pressing) to make sure each mini streamer stays with its correct item.  The system works well, and after the items have been rehoused, I retain the streamers so I can double-check the accuracy of the statistics I have been keeping.  In addition to the mini-streamers, I also maintain a project statistics sheet with the date, items treated that day, types of treatment, and the amount of time I spent on the project.

Envelope with 3-cent stamp from the Carrie Chapman Catt Collection.

Envelope with 3-cent stamp from the Carrie Chapman Catt Collection.

Beyond time management and organization, the biggest challenge with this type of project is to stay fresh and focused. With such repetitive treatment tasks, there is always the danger of zoning out and putting an item into the humidity chamber that cannot safely be humidified. It’s important to watch out for coated papers, highly water-soluble inks, and paper with pressure-sensitive tape on it.

I’m looking forward to wrapping up this project in the next few weeks, so this fascinating collection can be archivally processed and made available to the community.

 

As you all may know by now, we get quite a variety of books that come through our lab needing repair. Well, some need more than just repair; some come to us very dirty-looking, so we do what we can to try and clean up the covers as best as we can in addition to doing repair work. IMG_0312

We notice all types of dirty books, but see them frequently among art books and novels.

IMG_0299

IMG_0023

Now, cleaning isn’t always possible depending on the type of cover material used on the book. Most that are bound by our commercial binder are somewhat easy to clean off by just using a damp paper towel and a little elbow grease, but then there are others that have more of a fabric type of cover that we obviously can’t clean as well, if at all. We see quite a bit of rings from beverages, paint, and the like, and even tire tracks from bikes! Sure, we sometimes grumble about them, but as long as these library doors are open there isn’t a way to prevent our books from getting dirty, and at least that means they’re getting used! 

IMG_0026

The Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium holds a member meeting and Save Our Stuff (SOS) workshop annually.  This year the University of Iowa Libraries played host because they are celebrating 30 years of collections care.  In her June 10 blog post, Mindy highlighted the wide array of workshops she attended throughout the day including taxidermy.  Here is a little more detail on the Taxidermy Care and Cleaning workshop taught by Cindy Opitz, Collections Manager at University of Iowa’s Museum of Natural History.

photo 6

I have to admit that this is the workshop that intrigued me the most since I know nothing about caring for taxidermy specimens.  Turns out that the biggest takeaway I got from this workshop is that basic care and cleaning of these objects is not unlike textile care and cleaning.  Agents of deterioration and pest management are the same as what we have come to expect for all organic and protein-based materials.  Cindy did remind us that one concern is the presence of arsenic and pesticides and that we should wear personal protective equipment like gloves and masks.

photo 5

Supplies for making cotton swabs: skewers and cotton balls.

To start, Cindy had us roll our own cotton swabs to do gentle “enzymatic” (saliva) cleaning of the eyes, beaks, and claws, just gently rolling, not rubbing, the cotton swab over the hard surfaces.

Gentle swabbing of hard surfaces.

Gentle swabbing of hard surfaces.

We next moved onto vacuuming the fur and feathers on the bodies using a Nilfisk canister vacuum with adjustable speeds and micro tool attachments.  For fine dust and more fragile specimens, Cindy recommended vacuuming through a nylon screen.  Again, not unlike cleaning textiles.  A Nilfisk backpack vacuum was also available for us to test out, but the drawbacks of the backpack were significant; it did not have adjustable speeds and it was extremely loud.

Nilfisk backpack vacuum.

Nilfisk backpack vacuum.

Cindy also showed us a more gentle, inexpensive vacuum that we could make ourselves using an aquarium pump, Erlenmeyer flask, rubber stopper, tubing and connectors.

Aquarium-pump microvacuum.

Aquarium-pump micro-vacuum.

To me, the best part about this workshop was just having the chance to hear about something other than book and paper even though the care and cleaning was not as foreign as I thought it would be.  We already have the basic knowledge and skills from the care of other cultural artifacts, but of course, I would still call a conservator if I needed to do anything more difficult.

My work with the scrapbooks at Special Collections started with a condition survey of the collection. The goal of the condition survey was to evaluate a representative sample of scrapbooks to get a general idea of the condition of the overall collection. I started the process by creating an inventory of all the scrapbooks. First I searched the available databases for scrapbooks. Then I looked through the boxes of collections that have not been indexed. I ended up with an inventory of over a thousand scrapbooks from which I randomly chose over one hundred to include in the survey.

I saw a lot of different kinds of scrapbooks during this process and felt like I had a pretty good idea of all the different types of scrapbooks in the collection. I was happily surprised the other day when I opened a box of theater scrapbooks and discovered a couple of examples of the Campus Pic and Clips scrapbook.

IMG_0162

The covers have photos from the Iowa State campus on them.

IMG_0157

According to the inner insert, the price of the scrapbook included a custom-printed spine label which you could send for.

IMG_0159

Sadly it does not look like the theater students ever placed the order.

IMG_0161

 

An internet search for the Hob-B-Bookcraft Campus Pics and Clips turns up very little information and no photos. I guess that this was not their most successful product line. I’m going to assume that the college bookstore or a local stationer stocked these back in the sixties and an enterprising theater student bought a couple.

Has anyone seen one of these scrapbooks specific to their university or college? Can you share a photo?

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 816 other followers