About a month ago, the Preservation Lab hosted a group of students taking an upper level class in Public History. In this course the students use archival materials as primary sources for the research they are conducting, drawing from the Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Spending time in the Preservation Lab gives them a behind the scenes look at what it takes to stabilize  original materials so that they can be viewed in the reading room.


As part of a practical  introduction to preservation, I demonstrated some hands-on conservation techniques that are often used to repair archival documents. Working on a discarded photoreproduction of Marston Hall, I removed some tape with a heated spatula and mended tears using wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue.

An interesting inter-disciplinary discussion happened around a group of WWII propaganda posters that were in the lab for conservation treatment. The posters were approximately 2 feet by 3 feet. They were staple-bound into a pad that was attached to a foldable easel made of cardboard.

rs16_3_57_bt_r   rs16_3_57_bt_v

The instructor and the students talked about the use of this object as a presentation tool, a 1940’s PowerPoint presentation of sorts. The speaker could take the easel-pad  along with them to give encouraging talks to the public about wartime efforts at home. As you can see from the photos above, the top poster had gotten torn and became detached from the pad.  If I were to take this object out of its historical context and to consider only its physical characteristics, I would want to take it apart, repair it and store all the components separately. The posters would go into one folder, while the easel and the staple binding would go into a different folder. Stored in this way, the posters would be safe and easy for scholars to handle  without the assistance of an archivist or a conservator.


However, the research value of this presentation pad lies in its format, which tells the story of its use as a WWII propaganda tool. So, my approach will be to disassemble the structure, repair the components and then to reassemble the binding using thread loops in place of the damaging rusty staples. The binding will be recreated, but slightly altered  to provide more stability and longevity to the object, ensuring the preservation of both its physical self and its contextual meaning.

This class discussion brought home to me the point that historians and conservators have an important conversation to carry out. In order to adequately preserve historic collections, we need to share our distinct areas of knowledge with each other, enriching each other’s understanding of primary source materials.

Pushing the small letters on noisy plastic keys for hours upon hours is without a doubt mind-numbing work. However, transcription is much more than that! It is the process of transferring the content of a document into a more-accessible format for readers. Whether it’s text, images, illustrations, or even bold or italicized lettering, transcription captures as much detail from original documents as possible with careful observation and focused attention to produce a wholly text-based rendition of the document. You might be wondering what the point of re-typing an 1884 Iowa State University Bomb yearbook is. After all, the book has already been digitized for online access. The difference between digitizing documents and transcribing them is that certain impaired readers, such as those with eyesight difficulties, have the option to hear the transcribed content through audio applications and text recognition. Documents that are difficult to read because the ink has faded, a page has torn, or handwriting is impossible to decipher are transcribed so that their content will not be lost.


Work in progress


When I was asked to be a part of transcribing the second ever Iowa State Bomb yearbook, I didn’t expect to appreciate the process so much. My eyes did get sore day after day from peering at thousands of words on a bright computer screen, but my attentiveness was sharp. The language was hard to transfer at times because writing in the late 19th century is far different from how we write today. I did get a good chuckle in every couple of pages from the illustrations included in the Bomb. I felt good about working so hard to preserve a collection of fundamental Iowa State history so that others could enjoy it too.


Making a custom archival box for an edition of the Bomb.



Anyone reading this have a “green thumb?” Good for you!   I will be the first to admit that I do not possess gardening skills in any way, shape or form.  However, I am becoming more skilled at the “weeding out” of unbound print issues located in both the Periodical Room and the General Collection.

Now, you may think weeding means discarding (and sometimes it does – more on this later) but for me, in this instance, this is an in-depth, thorough examination of the issues held in these locations on a semiannual basis. The items pulled are ones that are often ready to be bound midyear or have been previously missed or overlooked. Doing this sweep twice a year also alerts me to seek further investigation into periodicals which may be missing, not yet received, or possibly ceased publication. I of course do regular “trimming” of these unbound journal items on a daily basis by using my “weed eater” skills (ie. previously predicted frequency patterns for pulling serials to either be bound or discarded).

I would love to hear how often you do a sweep of your collection and any tips you have on keeping your collection nicely manicured.



Shortly after I started in the Preservation Department back in October 1997 I found a book cloth in the lab that we could use for book repair.  It was called Bonded Leather Book Cloth and we had it in two colors-black and burgundy.  It had that “leather” look to it and when we had books that needed repaired, this product made the repairs look really nice and blended well with the books.  Over the years I have used this particular book cloth many times with no fail until recently.


As you can see the black book cloth now tears very easily.


I went to the stacks to see what had happened to some of the books I remembered repairing with it.  I found two Iowa State University yearbooks, the BOMB dated 1941 and 1947, where I had used the burgundy book cloth.


I had visions of books falling apart and needing to be repaired again.  To my surprise the burgundy book cloth was still holding up fairly well and just needed minor repairs.



Now is the time to dispose of this book cloth as it can no longer be used for book repairs.  If you have a supply of this book cloth and have had it on the shelf for some time you may want to check its quality now to see if it will still hold up to book repairs.

Do you remember going on field trips when you were younger? I always thought they were so fun – you got to go to fun places and see neat things (and you got to miss out on school work!). Well I STILL think they are fun so when the opportunity arises we do what we can to take one now and then.

We were lucky enough to be able to drive the short distance down to Des Moines to visit the Archival Products and LBS facilities. A couple of us had been there before but others hadn’t. It’s so neat to visit a place that makes the products we use on a daily basis! And they are happy to have visitors as well, they like to know what we think of the products they make, what would make them better, what do we wish they made. It was an enjoyable and informative trip for all!

making pamphlet binders

making pamphlet binders





machine for cutting book cloth

machine for cutting book cloth


assorted bookcloth

assorted bookcloth

Preservation’s own, Jim Wilcox, reports on his biking adventure:

During RAGBRAI XLIV 2016 ((Des Moines) Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa 44 ) July 24-30 I stopped into some of the small town public libraries in the pass through towns. Now I haven’t been to all the small town libraries yet having only done the ride 34 times so far but here are a few from this year.

Early in the week was a stop at the Villisca Public Library, population 1252 according to the 2010 Census. A building built in 1908 with only updates to mechanical systems and the addition of an elevator. A Carnegie Library that cost $10,000 to build and furnish (books not included).

You may have heard of Villisca for another reason, the still unsolved ax murder of 8 people while they slept on the night of June 10, 1912. http://www.villiscaiowa.com/index.php

Villisca Library, 1908

Villisca Library Basement

4_Villisca_Basement     2_VilliscaMainFloor
Villisca basement, and next to it the main floor collection and Mr. Carnegie

Another stop during the week was at the Humeston Library, population 494 from the 2010 Census. A town founded in 1872 it is within ¼ of a mile halfway between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

“With the increasing demand for technology and neutral gathering space for the community, the space became too small to hold a thriving and growing library.  In August of 2003 the Library Board of Trustees began a building fund in anticipation of someday building a new building to house the library.  With tremendous community support of that vision, the library opened in its new spacious location on April 26, 2008”


Humeston Library, 2008

Humeston collection

More of the Humeston collection

On to Moravia, population 665 from the 2010 Census.  ” Moravia is named for the religious faith. Moravian families left Salem, North Carolina in 1849 to start a colony in the west. Money was sent to purchase forty acres of land for a town site by several benevolent Moravian sisters. It was their wish that town lots be sold and the money be used to build a Moravian Church. The families made the long journey to Iowa and acquired many acres of land. “

“The Moravia Public Library was established in 1941.   It is situated in the center of the Moravia City Park and serves as a hub in the community.  In 1980 there was an addition built on the south side of the building.  This addition serves as a meeting place for several civic organizations, reunions, receptions and houses displays of crafts and foods during the annual Moravia Fall Festival.  In 1984 the Library was enlarged and renovated by volunteer labor, then again in 2001 the Library was increased in size by approximately half the original size.  It’s now 2,200 square feet.”

Moravia Library, the front porch was being used as a stage, something that has been done there for a long time. The building was moved to its current location by horse power and steam tractors when the school was built


Inside the Moravia Library


Nice mural in the Moravia Library

Books signed by hometown womens basketball star Molly Bolin and a Moravian Star.

The Moravian star originated in Saxony, Germany, in the two towns of Niesky and Kleinwalka in the 1830s. The stars were used as craft projects to help demonstrate geometry lessons to young boys attending Moravian school. The stars were quickly adopted by the Moravian Church as a symbol of the birth of Jesus and represented the star of Bethlehem. Traditionally, the star is hung the first Sunday of Advent and remains up until Epiphany, January 6, or the time of the coming of the Magi.”





So, lately, I have been working on a new page/site for Digital Initiatives that will eventually become the start page/site for a variety of digital sites under our department. Currently, as you may remember, this is our start page: http://digitalcollections.lib.iastate.edu/. I cannot reveal the new start page, because we are still in the process of creating it. However, I thought I’d focus on one component of the page/site that we have not previously used before: forms.

Now, before Drupal, forms were a pain in keister to create. But now, with a great support staff on hand, forms are super easy to build. Let me show you how.

Forms are a part of Drupal that needs to be “turned on,” in order to work. In our set-up they are turned off to avoid confusion. Also, keep in mind, that once it is turned on, it is available on all pages you create within your site. When it does get turn it on, the magic begins.

I created a Test page to show you how to create a form and how forms work.

It’s very similar to a non-form Drupal edit page, except for the tab just to the right of Edit says Webform.
Let’s click on that.
There are five different sections under the Webform. The first one, form component, is where you add the important parts of the form being created, such as a person’s name, email, address, connection, and comments.

Let’s create a super simple form, which includes person’s name, email, an additional textfield for funnsies, and a comment box.

First, we’ll click inside the “New component name” box, and type Name. The type is Textfield, so we’ll leave that. Now, click on the “Add” button.

Note: this is only a partial screenshot of the page that comes up. Scroll down the age to look over the other boxes you can use to manipulate this info, including making this box a required value. A required value is a value that is needed to proceed. A red star will show up next to the label. Also, on these required fields, I place in parenthesis (required). [I have recently learned that some colorblind users cannot make the distinction between red and black, so adding this helps.] Other fields that are worth looking at: Display. Here you can set the width of the component, add a placeholder in the box (like: myname@abc.com). Also check out the label display. Under this, you can change the label to be displayed above, inline, below the box; description can be displayed above the field; disable the field completely, or make it private, so only users with access can view the results. These preferences can be found on most of the component pages. For now, nothing else is needed, so scroll all the way down and click “Save component” at the bottom.

Let’s add Email now. Label it, “Email,” and change the type to “E-mail,” then tick the “Required” box. Click “Add.”

Oops. I made a mistake. I forgot to label email “Email (required)”. No sweat. Just click on “Edit” beside the Email label, and on the next page, change the title in the label name. Scroll down and click “Save component”.

In the next window, make sure short form is checked for email format, and that “Required” is ticked. You might want to tick “Unique,” under “Validations.” Scroll down to click on “Save component.”

Now, let’s add another textfield.

Here, I’m going to get goofy to show you different things you can do with the form. In this window, check to make sure “Required” is ticked.

I made the Display width 75; I added a Placeholder (to be shown inside field until user starts typing); I Prefixed the textbook with craziness, and Postfixed it with more craziness. Finally, I placed the Label Display to None.

Let’s add the comment box now. Name it “More comments (required)”; choose textarea; make it “Required”; in the next window: make Validation “Required”; and make sure Resizable is ticked under Display; scroll down and click “Save component”.

Here’s what the final super simple form looks like:

Notice that there is no red star anywhere near the “I’m glad” text field. This is something to be aware of, if you decided to hide the label. If any one of those red star areas is left blank, the user will not be able to move forward. OK? OK!

But WAIT! We’re not done yet.

Back under Webform, you can see there is a few more section to the right of Form components: Conditionals, Form validation, E-mails, Form settings. The ones to be most concerned with are E-mails, and Form settings.

Under E-Mails, add the address where you want the comments from the form to be sent to, then click “Add”. In the next page:
Make sure all the email addresses are correct. Custom email/names should be used where you what the emails to go/or what you want the emails to be from called, when the Default email/name is incorrect; E-mail from name should be that address as well. Also check to make sure E-mail header is the right page from where the email are originating. OK. Scroll to bottom, click “Save e-mail setting.”

Let’s move over to Form setting. This page is a doozy, with many options to choose from; my advice: choose wisely, little grasshopper.
First one, most important: I recommend you place a confirmation message in the first box; you have the option of using Full HTML, Filtered HTML, and Plain text. Also, you can add a re-direct page for the confirmation page. Keep the Total submissions at unlimited; make sure Status of this form is ticked for Open. (Closing prohibits further submissions by other users.)

2nd half of page:
These are all self-explanatory. Notice on the bottom under Next submission order. This number should be 1 if you have just created the form; otherwise the number will be whatever number is currently submitted for the form.

One last note: To the right of the Webform tab is a Results tab. This tab shows the results from the form on the page.
Of course, there isn’t much on here right now, but this page will list every form submitted by users, default setting is recently to oldest. Under Operations, will be additional links: View Edit Delete. You can either click on the number under #, or View under Operations corresponding to the number to see the actual submitted form.

Drupal makes it so easy to create and maintain forms. I hope they are as helpful to you as they are for us.