LabVoltaire1

Written by Hope Mitchell

After four wonderful years as a Student Conservation Technician here in the lab, I am leaving to start my first real “grown-up” job. While I am thrilled to have a job, I am also very sad to be leaving the people and the lab that has in many ways become a home away from home for me over the years. So, in honor of the four years I spent with the lab, I thought that I would share with you some of my favorite lessons that I’ve learned during my time in the lab.

  1. “Perfect is the enemy of good.” -Voltaire

While I glanced at this prettily framed quote almost daily, even as I was agonizing over some treatment that refused to bend to my will, I did not fully appreciate its meaning until I witnessed a new student employee doing exactly what I had been doing for years. I realized that spending so much time torturing myself over achieving perfection was an inefficient use of my time and ended up sucking all the joy out of a job that I truly loved.

  1. Nothing is beyond repair

Working in a preservation lab, you very quickly become aware that there is a whole spectrum of damage that books can undergo. This can range anywhere from well meaning use of Scotch tape on a torn page all the way to some poor book that was run over by a car. Whatever the damage may be, there is something we can do to make it better. Rather than writing off damaged goods, preservation teaches you the importance of maintaining an open-minded, creative, collaborative, and solution-oriented work environment.

  1. Food is the great equalizer

This may seem completely unrelated to working in a preservation lab, but stick with me for a minute. Over the last four years, I have had the opportunity to work with an assortment of people from all different walks of life. While these people may have been from different places, different generations, had completely different interests/goals/opinions, one thing that I have found anyone can talk about passionately (whether they are a chatty person or not) is food. I would be willing to bet that I talked about food multiple times every single day that I was in the lab, and while it probably made everyone else hungry, I attribute many of the great relationships that I have built over the years to conversations we all had about food.

Today is the first day of the 2014 Lennox Foundation Internship for Preservation Education, Outreach, and Training.  Our Lennox Interns often come during the summer months, but this year a Fall semester internship worked best for everyone. We have two Lennox interns this year, each specializing in a different aspect of preservation.

2014 Lennox Interns Nicole Monjeau (left) and Gloria Diez (right).

2014 Lennox Interns Nicole Monjeau (left) and Gloria Diez (right).

Nicole Monjeau is our Lennox Intern for Preservation of Photographic Materials. Nicole is from Minnesota, and just graduated with an MA in Paper Conservation from the Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London. Nicole also has a BFA in Photography from the College of Visual Arts, St. Paul, MN, and within the context of her paper conservation training,  focused as much as she could on photographic materials.  She also recently attended a Professional Conservators in Practice short course in photograph conservation with Susie Clark at West Dean College in Chichester, England.  Nicole will be working on photographic collections from our University Archives, including some lantern slides and glass plate negatives which could use some TLC.

Gloria Diez is our Lennox Intern for Preservation of Audiovisual Materials.  Gloria is from Argentina, and just graduated from the certificate program at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at George Eastman House. She also has a BA in Art History and Theory with specialization in Cinema Studies from the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Her goal after completing her training in the U.S. is to return to South America and work toward preserving and making accessible Latin America’s audiovisual heritage. During her internship at ISU Library, she will assess our audiovisual collections in Special Collections and University Archives and devise a detailed preservation plan for them.  In addition, Gloria will be training with me and technician Mindy Moeller in the conservation lab, where Gloria will learn basic paper and book repair techniques which may prove useful in her future work in a film archives.

We are delighted to welcome Gloria and Nicole to the ISU University Library. Be sure to check the blog for updates from the interns themselves about their projects in the coming months!

Every year in July, I try to take items to show at the Open Class at the Boone County Fair, and sometimes I’ve taken things I’ve made at work.  This year, I had four entries for the miscellaneous class: an icicle-stitch cord-bound book,  a post-bound guest book, a tool box for my specialty tools, and a bow made from book pages.

Icicle-Stitch-Binding

My icicle-stitch book had been started at a staff development day several years ago, but was never completed, so I decided it was time to finish it and make it an interesting book by attaching the cover with Bookmakers Irish hemp cords.

Post-Binding

The post-bound guest book was made right after I had to do one for work and decided I needed to do another one for practice and as a model.  It served another purpose at the All 70’s BHS Class Reunion the weekend following the county fair.  The cover of the guest book featured a copy of Boone’s matador mascot “the Toreador” and was covered in red and green bookcloth (yes, our school colors are Christmas red and green!)  I had guests sign in with red and green markers as they “oohed and aahed” over the guest book with its red and green colored ribbons and silver beads spelling out “Boone” and “Toreadors.”

ToolBox

A while back, I received my own set of Caselli spatulas and tools. I decided I needed a nice box to keep them in to protect them at work when not in use.  We don’t buy boxes here in Preservation, we make them!  The box I made has two lift out Ethafoam cushioned trays and a cushioned bottom to store my Caselli tools, a brass triangle, specialty bone folders, and other miscellaneous tools.  Of course, I used my favorite Canapetta Natural bookcloth from Talas to cover the box.

PaperBow

My last entry was a paper bow made from the pages of a discarded children’s book during a staff development day, and it can be hung on a tree or wall as an ornament.

All four entries received blue ribbons and each received good comments.  This is just another way to show off my talents from work and support the Open Class at the Boone County Fair.

DC-01

I continue to look at other university library digital collections to see what they are doing that we are not.  It can be informative to see what other people have decided is important enough to include on their websites.  Even if we don’t end up using these ideas on our own website, it’s good to know not only what other creators of digital collections are doing, but to find out what the users are seeing when they visit these websites and therefore the expectations that they might have when visiting digital collections such as ours.

One way of finding out what users want and expect is to ask them.  On the home page of the University of South Carolina Libraries Digital Collections, there is a link for a usability survey.   It is a brief survey that helps to find out who is using the digital collections (faculty, staff, undergraduates, grad students, or others); how easy the collections are to navigate; what kinds of things users are looking for; and whether users are able to find what they’re looking for.  This kind of information could be very useful in making decisions about the future of our digital collections.

Personally, I’m not a big user of social media, but it seems to have become a part of most people’s lives to some degree.  The home page of Duke University Libraries Digital Collections has a prominently featured area for both Twitter and Facebook.  This would encourage visitors to post comments on either of these social media outlets about what they’ve found and enjoyed in the digital collections.  Doing this would publicize the various contents of the digital collections to all the friends and followers of each user, which would in turn spread the word about the existence of the variety of things in the digital collections much more widely than any advertising the library could do otherwise.

Screen capture from the University of Washington University Libraries Digital Collections homepage: http://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/

Screen capture from the University of Washington University Libraries Digital Collections homepage.

There are always so many things that could be done, but there’s never enough time to do them all.  Having more staff and resources could help to do more, and having more funding would help to provide those additional staff and resources.  Every library and university, public or private, is always trying to raise money. Usually a person is more likely to donate their money if they know that it will go to something that is specifically important to them.  The home page of the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections has a red star highlighting a link to “Support Digital Initiatives,  Make a Gift.”  The link takes you directly to the university foundation and the current needs in the library digital initiatives fund.   People who visit the digital collections and find things that interest them might be more likely to donate their money if they see that it could easily go directly to benefiting this interest of theirs and not just some general university fund.

Not every good idea for one library is necessarily a good fit for every other library.  However, noticing what others are doing and seeing what reactions they get can be a good way to start a conversation locally about what we might want to do in the future.

I’ve spent most of my last few months working on a project for the new ISU Extension Collection. The basic layout sounds simple enough: create a timeline for the important dates that this particular collection focuses on. The dates were not too far apart: 1900-1924. I’ve have seen a lot of web pages that incorporated timelines and I was excited to add this new skill to my tools. I did an online search of “timelines,” and got a whole gamut of ideas and tools.  I also started to see a basic pattern to all these timelines:

 

tl0

Basic.

 

tl2

Step up.

 

More modern.

More modern.

 

High tech.

High tech.

Google also has a timeline program. It is very similar to the High Tech version, only with a light background. But, as with most of these programs, you need to upload your information and it gets stored their servers. What happens if something happens to that program in the future? Also, all of these options take up the whole webpage to display the timeline. I wanted a timeline that was incorporated into the rest of my page, a piece of a larger puzzle on the page.

I decided to get a little more creative and put a timeline on an actual image. I had the image already in hand. I just needed a part of that image turned into a timeline, while the rest of it linked to other pages. As it turns out, there is no easy way to create a timeline on image, (I suppose if you were a hardcore programmer with mad skills, you probably could knock one out.) I don’t consider myself a complete slouch when it comes to coding, but come on, it shouldn’t be that hard to make a timeline on a relatively straight, long image. I have a hard time believing I’m the first person who wants to do such a thing. Yet, with every link clicked, none of the code and options I came across showed me how to do this. I asked myself exactly what it was I wanted to do. Well, I reasoned that the closest thing I could think of was that I was trying to create a customizable popup, or mouseover or hover-over a place on an image. Searching for that, I found several javascript codes for making pop-ups over links and/or images, which looked pretty much like tooltips on steroids. Tooltip is an alt code you can put into your html to create an effect so that when you hover your mouse over an image or link, a little yellow box pops up after a short time, giving information.

ddtooltip

Example of tooltip code in action.

I have created tooltips for our drop-down menus to indicate who certain significant people are.  I have also created tooltips to give information about certain images on pages.

imgtooltip

After discovering that it might be possible to create tooltips for a timeline, I became a little more excited.  I’m not one to toot other people’s horns, but http://www.dynamicdrive.com/ has awesome, easy-to-use, customizable code. It’s all free, as long as you include their legal notice within your code. There are two other sources that I recommend for helping in creating web pages and learning programs: http://www.lynda.com/(NOTE: not a completely free site) and http://www.w3schools.com/(the best resource for html and css, with an added bonus of sandboxing to see effects). I cannot recommend these sites enough to help get you through common webpage issues.

So, here we go. Searching on the dynamicedrive.com site opened the door to some fantastic ideas to noodle on, but how could I get a timeline actually placed on the chosen image? What I ended up doing was way old school: I made an image map. However, I didn’t do it with Adobe Photoshop. I did it online with Easy Imagemap Generator (http://imagemap-generator.dariodomi.de). (Yes, that is actually its name… and yes, it is EASY.) You do, however, need to have Flash Player for this to work. After going to the webpage, there is an option to upload the image or insert the image link URL.

imgmpgn

Upon doing this, it automagically loads your image. Just click +Add Area and start clicking on the image, making boxes, circles, or polygons around the areas you want to create into links. There are also buttons on this page that are marked X Clear All, and Change Image. Every time you want a new linked area, just click on the +Add Area button and move back into the image to create a new linked area. Once you are done with with all your linked areas, you will notice the code text is displayed at the bottom.  You can have as many linked areas as you want; I believe I had around twenty linkable areas on my image.  This is a very basic example of the code text:

<img src=”url/to/your/image.jpg” alt=”” usemap=”#Map” />

<map name=”Map” id=”Map”>

<area alt=”” title=”” href=”#” shape=”poly” coords=”134,276,150,292,122,297,111,287,119,279″ />

[...]

</map>

This is the code you will need to put into your html to make the areas you created linkable for the mouse-over pop-up box. There are many things you can do with this code to create the kind of links you want. I just selected all this code and copied and pasted it over into my html following where my image was placed on the page.

Next, I headed over to dynamicdrive.com and clicked on “Links & Tooltips.” This took me to a page with several different snippets to experiment with. Notice how after the links, it lists the browser compatibility. Remember to test your code in different browsers anyway!  The one I used was suppose to work in FF, so when it didn’t, I knew I had a code error somewhere. Once I found the code I liked, I clicked on the link, and it took me to the actual code page. From there, it goes step-by-step through the process, even allowing downloading of necessary .js and .css files. My particular code did not need separate .css or .js files, so I just coped and pasted into my document. At the end of the code, there is typically a section on modifying the settings. All in all, it was a very easy way to get the code I wanted and place it in my webpage. My html code ended up looking something like this:

html-code

If you notice, since I am using an image map, I needed to tweak a few settings here and there to make the image map display the tooltip script correctly. The code I used on dynamicdrive.com was called “Cool DTML Tooltip II,” and what is there is slightly different from what I ended up using. Using it exactly as it is on that site resulted in no text popping up, even though the boxes themselves were appearing. It took me a while to figure out that i n order for the area shape to have the desired effect, I needed to put the area shape outside the ONMOUSEOVER code. (In other words, I couldn’t place it before the closing />.) Also, notice that my first area code is different from the second, and subsequent, codes. I had to do this in order for the desired effect to work in Firefox. I believe I had to do this because I had several clickable areas on one large image, instead of several smaller images all together.  Whatever the reason, I did get the effect to work in the end by altering the code in this way. I changed the color of the pop-up background and text size and style in the css. (The ddrivetip used “dhtmltooltip.”) Also, you can make the tooltip linkable. I did not do this for my timeline, but it is possible.

This is an example of the final results:

imagemap

In conclusion, I felt this was a better approach than the other official applications. It allowed me to customize the timeline to fit the needs of the project. It may not be a timeline in the strictest capacity, but I believe it satisfies the requirements for this particular collection.

Help!  There is a mouse in my house and he is building his own.  One nice fall day, I discovered the calling cards of a mouse.  He hadn’t left them in the kitchen or storage room where one would expect him to be filling up on food.  I found his trail in my extra bedroom, the room where I have my loom and all of the yarn I have stored for future projects.  Now my task was to beat him at the game, track him down, and eliminate him.

Mouse nest.

Mouse nest.

My first step was a trip to the store to buy as many mouse traps as possible and some peanut butter to use as bait.  Once back home, I loaded on the bait and set the traps, scattering them around the house, but concentrating them in the extra room.  The next day I checked the traps and found the mouse dead on the trap in my yarn closet.  He was the plumpest mouse I have ever seen.  No wonder: he had been eating the rice which filled the neck warmer I had received as a gift.

Cleaning the closet was a slow and tedious job, removing all of the yarn to vacuum up the rice and calling cards.  Amongst the yarn, the house of the mouse was found.  He had helped himself to the soft and pretty alpaca and mohair yarns, a little bit of blue, a bit of pink, some gray and white.  Small pieces taken from the middle of the skeins and pulled apart to create a fluff ball of camouflage yarn for a cozy winter retreat.

New plastic bin for yarn storage.

New plastic bin for yarn storage.

Once the closet and yarn was cleaned and sorted, I made another trip to the store to purchase clear plastic storage containers and dryer sheets, the stronger the scent the better.  With the containers being clear, it is easy to see what is stored within the tote.  The tight-fitting lid will help to keep out unwanted house guests.  The dryer sheets also help to keep the mice away when placed on the outside of the totes.

The clear plastic storage bin means there will be no surprises when the bin is opened!

The clear plastic storage bin means there will be no surprises when the bin is opened!

The most important lesson I learned is to keep the doors to the outside shut, even if it means sounding like my mother, “SHUT THE DOOR!”

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t store grain-filled items in rooms other than the kitchen or pantry.
  • When a mouse is caught, call someone to remove the trap intact with the mouse and deposit it in the trash.  If no one is available to help, a shovel will do the job to scoop up the rodent and trap and deposit all in a trash bag.
  • Store yarn in a clear plastic bin with a tight-fitting lid.  This will allow you to see what yarn is being stored and impede the path of the mouse to gain access to the soft and beautiful building materials.
  • Scented dryer sheets help to repel mice and can be placed around the closet on the outside of the totes.
  • Good storage practices are vital for safe and clean storage of yarn.
  • Shut the Door!

Some of the tools we rely on in the Conservation Lab look a lot like everyday items you probably have around your house.

Irons

Top: lining iron from Talas. Bottom: modern iron for more traditional ironing tasks.

We sometimes use an iron for applying large-scale heat-set tissue and adhering linings on robust flat paper items. We also use it to iron the wrinkles out of our gray wool photodoc backdrop, and to smooth out toned, air-dried textile or bookcloth.  We use a blow-dryer to dry toned tissue quickly during color-matching, and sometimes to hasten the drying of spine linings on General Collections materials.

Blowdryers

Since our ancient, brown Vidal Sassoon blow-dryer has been showing its age, we decided it was time for an upgrade.  We also decided to purchase a more modern iron with steam for tasks like ironing the photodoc backdrop cloth. The iron we have from Talas works beautifully for linings because it is compact, heavy, and sensitive to fine temperature adjustments.  However, its naked metal body heats up all over, making it a bit of a hazard for more mundane ironing tasks, and it doesn’t steam.

These are the sorts of odd lab purchases that makes our Purchaser look slightly askance at us upon delivery, but they really are necessary tools for our everyday work!

 

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