As any book and paper conservator working in archives knows, a more diverse range of items crowds the shelves than the expected books, documents, and photographs. While the focus of our training may have been the treatment of books and paper, we often find ourselves responsible for the physical care of other artifacts as well. Globes, trophies, and medals are, perhaps, not so unusual. However, the ISU Library Special Collections and Archives also contains the wax drum of the first ABC computer, chemistry equipment, a death mask, a street sign, and a handmade marionette puppet, to name just a few of the more unusual artifacts. The Conservation Unit of the Preservation Department cares for all of these items and more. In some cases, a simple condition assessment and rehousing may suffice. Sometimes, the artifact may be cleaned or treated in-house. In other cases, we may work with contract conservators to make sure fragile or damaged items receive appropriate conservation treatment.
Most recently, we have been assessing artifacts from the Christian Petersen collection. Among the Christan Petersen “Papers” can be found several plaster models of Petersen’s larger, bronze sculptures from the 1930s and 1940s, as well as a collection of his hand tools. Right now, these items are stored in the Special Collections vault and restricted from public access. We are currently working to photodocument the condition of the items, rehouse them in display-worthy enclosures that will allow the public to access them safely, and arrange for any conservation treatment they may need.
Along with these artifacts, the Christian Petersen collection includes several linear feet of sketches, photographs, letters, and other documents. We’re excited about working with the Special Collections staff toward the goal of giving researchers the valuable gift of access to all of these materials together, in context. To see more images of the Christian Petersen collection, visit our Christian Petersen Digital Collection.
Don’t forget to visit Preservation Underground to see what interesting artifacts Beth Doyle has faced in the Conservation Lab of Duke University Libraries!