Tedone-BlotterWashing2-72ppiAfter five and a half productive and rewarding years, I will be leaving my position as Conservator at ISU Library one month from today. While I am excited to move on to a new opportunity at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library as Library Conservator and Affiliated Faculty in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, my imminent departure from ISU also opens up an exciting new opportunity here for another library and archives conservator. Wrapping up long term projects and putting together a transition plan for the ISU Conservation Lab has me in a reflective mood, so I’d like to share some of the reasons that I have found my time here so rewarding.

First and foremost are the people I have worked with at ISU Library. Head of Preservation Hilary Seo has been an accessible, responsive, but hands-off supervisor who gives me free reign to run the lab my own way.  She is also a savvy mentor with a genuine, engaged commitment to the preservation profession. Conservation Technician Mindy Moeller and Preservation Assistant Mindy McCoy (“the Mindys,” as we fondly call them) take the department’s preservation mission seriously, and are also kind and personable coworkers who make it a pleasure to come to work every day. A rotating cast of student employees, volunteers, and conservation interns have kept things interesting over the years, bringing new skill sets and fresh energy to the lab. I have also had the opportunity to work closely with wonderful Special Collections colleagues, who are just steps away on the fourth floor of the Library.

 

Our window overlooking campus.  We love working in natural light, especially when color-matching repairs.

Yes, that’s right… the ISU Library Conservation Lab is up on the fourth floor, not hidden away in a windowless basement. In addition to a large window (covered with UV film, of course) that looks out over campus, the lab boasts 3,400 square feet of well-equipped workspace, offices, and storage. It’s been a pleasure to work in this bright, spacious environment. The flexibility of the lab’s supply budget has allowed me to purchase new equipment and materials, and thus try new techniques in the lab, enhancing my experience and skill set.

For me, variety is the spice of work as well as life, and the varied job duties I have fulfilled in this position have allowed me to grow my skills in multiple directions. Administratively, I have helped to develop preservation policies; worked on the shared Iowa Regent Universities library binding contract; served as an ex officio member of the Digital Archives, Repository, and Collections (DARC) team; and supervised staff and students. One of my favorite parts of this position has been supervising the annual, twelve-week Lennox Foundation Internship for Preservation Education, Training, and Outreach.  I have spent roughly half of my time at the bench, where my treatments have addressed book, paper, photographic materials, botanical specimens, and the occasional archival object. My outreach work has taken the form of lectures, webinars, consultations for other Iowa institutions and the public, and social media activities. Finally, as an Academic Librarian, I have also served on Library committees for strategic planning, policy development, and new hiring searches.

The dynamic experiences I have had at ISU Library have helped shape me professionally, and have also helped me to define my more long-term career objectives.  The community of Ames, IA, and my Library colleagues have been very good to me, for which I am deeply grateful. I wish the same good fortune to whomever my successor here will be.

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I continue to search digital collections of other university libraries to see the interesting things that they’re doing.  Each university has unique items to feature, so it doesn’t benefit every collection to be presented in the exact same way.  New and creative ways of displaying digital content at another institution might not necessarily be a good fit for our current collections, but they could help us think about possible projects to initiate in the future.

One feature I came across is only useful if you have multiple and different versions of a document.  The University of Maryland Digital Collections includes poems by the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.  Each poem has between two and seven versions since she kept her original manuscripts as she worked from her first draft through to the final, finished poem.  They use a “Versioning Machine” which is an open source software that lets people view numbered line-by-line transcriptions of each version side-by-side for comparison.  http://www.lib.umd.edu/dcr/collections/EvFL-class/?pid=umd:2257

Besides being able to view digital images of the manuscripts, the transcriptions of those pages help a researcher see the step-by-step changes the author made.  It gives a person the ability to almost get inside the mind of the author from their first thoughts and throughout the creative process.  While this tool would not be useful for most collections, it’s a very good example of a creative way to provide specific viewing platforms for unique collections.

 

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Click image to enlarge.

One important part of my job is to train new student employees, but one of my highlights is to teach book repair skills to others such as Gloria Diez, one of our 2014 Lennox Interns.  Gloria was our intern for Audiovisual Preservation, so she had no prior book conservation experience. We designed her internship to include book repair and basic paper conservation, because these are useful skills for dealing with ephemera and other print materials when working in a film archives. Not all of our students and interns come with book repair knowledge or skills, so it can be a challenge when explaining and showing how to do a full repair to a book, or to construct a phase box.  When our students or interns have a hobby such as origami, sewing, knitting, or drawing that requires some hand skills, all the better.  And if they are a quick and eager learner like Gloria, it makes it fun for me, too.

Gloria adheres a label on a repaired book using a Teflon folder.

Gloria adheres a label on a repaired book using a Teflon folder.

We first started with the basics of simple enclosures such as pamphlets, CoLibri pockets, and encapsulation with Mylar using bookmarks, folded pamphlets, and other non-collection materials. When we worked on rebacks, recases, full repairs, and new cases, we used discarded library books so Gloria could take all her samples with her when her internship was completed, as a 3D portfolio of her repair work.  Then Gloria learned how to make phase and tux wrap boxes to house her repairs in.

Gloria uses the Minter ultrasonic encapsulator.

Gloria uses the Minter ultrasonic encapsulator.

This one-on-one time with Gloria also gave me a chance to learn a little more about her.  All Lennox Interns time must come to an end and it’s sad to see them go, but I’m glad to give a little of my talents at book repair in order to aid Gloria in her future endeavors.  Good luck Gloria!

 

Gloria's completed book repairs.

Gloria’s completed book repairs.

Gloria's custom enclosures for the repaired books.

Gloria’s custom enclosures for the repaired books.

Gloria's other treatments (pamphlet bindings, encapsulations).

Gloria’s other treatments (pamphlet bindings, encapsulations).

Custom enclosure for pamphlet and encapsulated ephemera, with foam insert.

Custom enclosure for booklet and encapsulated ephemera, with foam insert.

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There’s still time to participate in the Preservation Statistics Survey. This is the third year this survey is being made available and we would like to increase participation to gather data that shows how preservation activities are expanding and still an essential function of research libraries and archives. Any library or archives in the United States conducting preservation activities is encouraged to participate in this survey, which is open through Friday, February 27, 2015.

For more information, visit the Preservation Statistics website:  http://www.ala.org/alcts/resources/preservation/presstats
FY2013-infographic-loFY2014 Survey questions focus on production-based preservation activities, documenting your institution’s conservation treatment, general preservation activities, preservation reformatting and digitization, and digital preservation and digital asset management activities.
The goal of the Preservation Statistics Survey, now in its third year, is to document the state of preservation activities in this digital era via quantitative data that facilitates peer comparison and tracking changes in the preservation and conservation fields over time. The Survey, a project of the Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS) of the Association of Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), is based on the Preservation Statistics survey program coordinated by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) from 1984 through 2008.

Why should your institution participate in the FY2014 Preservation Statistics Survey?

* The FY2014 Survey is significantly shorter than previous years, asking only for production data — information you already have for annual reporting or other internal planning and evaluation

* Preservation Statistics data helps you and the wider preservation community advocate for preservation programming and activities, demonstrating how programs compare to peers as well as areas of strength and need

* Your participation can help us achieve a representative body of preservation programs, which means better analysis and examination of trends in preservation programming.  To continue the Preservation Statistics Project, we need seventy-five institutions to respond to this FY14 survey

Participate today — count what you do and show preservation counts! #doyoucount

Please contact the Preservation Statistics Survey team with any questions or feedback: preservationstatistics@gmail.com

Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/preservationstatistics

 

 

CLose up of the textured surface of Tek wipe, which is a nonwoven polyester and cellulose blend.

Close-up of the textured surface of Tek wipe, which is a nonwoven polyester and cellulose blend.

The AIC Annual Meeting in 2014 was abuzz with the virtues of Tek Wipe as a paper conservation material. We had been considering purchasing some as a disaster salvage supply for a while, after seeing how much cotton blotter we used up in the recovery from the Ames Flood of 2010. As the Chair-Elect of the AIC Sustainability Committee, I find the idea of an absorbent non-woven that is washable and reusable to be very appealing. Its reusability makes this material an attractive choice from both an environmental and an economic perspective. However, it wasn’t until I started hearing about other treatment uses for the material that I got over my inertia and ordered some for our lab.  Six months of experimentation later, I’m very pleased with Tek wipe’s versatility and results.

Tek wipe on a 35" wide roll.

Tek wipe on a 35″ wide roll.

Tek wipe is a highly absorbent polyester/cellulose nonwoven textile which can be ordered by the sheet or by the roll. We chose to order a roll and cut it down to sheets that are custom sized for various purposes. We have precut sheets to keep on hand for water disaster scenarios, but I have also been using it for document washing and paper mending in place of (and sometimes in addition to) cotton blotter. For mending, I have used Tek wipe in place of the small rectangles of blotter cut to fit our glass and plexi glass weights. I still sandwich Reemay or Holytex between the Tek wipe and the mend, because the Tek wipe can stick to the mend (or even the paper support itself) if allowed to dry in direct contact.

However, where Tek wipe’s versatility really shines is as a washing material.  I’ll qualify that assertion by saying my assessments are visual and anecdotal; we haven’t the time or the resources in our lab to assess the results with technical analytics (hint, hint to the conservation graduate students out there…)  I’ve been working on a project treating about twenty issues of a mid-19th century horticulture journal suffering from water and mold damage. All of the issues exhibit black and purple mold stains, as well as caked-on surface dirt and pronounced tidelines which fluoresce under UV light. Regardless of whether the tidelines are fluorescing as an indication of mold hyphae or an indication of soluble paper degradation products, reducing them has been a desirable part of this treatment. The project has therefore offered an ideal opportunity for testing out a few different washing techniques with Tek wipe.

Tidelines fluorescing under UV light.

Tidelines fluorescing under UV light.

After the initial treatment steps of HEPA vacuuming, dry cleaning, and misting with an ethanol solution, the separated folios of the horticulture journal were then washed aqueously.  I tried three different washing techniques with Tek wipe: blotter sandwich washing, slant board washing, and a combination of immersion washing combined with abbreviated blotter sandwich washing.  Tek wipe performed usefully in all three scenarios, dramatically reducing the tidelines visible in ambient light and completely removing the fluorescing compounds.  For all three washing methods, documents were dried in a blotter/Reemay stack under weight.

Blotter Sandwich Washing

For the blotter sandwich, I used Tek wipe in place of Reemay or Hollytex.  I sandwiched the document between two piece of Tek wipe, then sandwiched the ensemble between two piece of thick cotton blotter. This method worked the best to the naked eye, completely removing all visible traces of the tidelines. All fluorescing compounds were likewise removed with this method.

Slant Board Washing

In this scenario, I used Tek wipe in lieu of a fleece, but otherwise followed standard slant board washing procedures. The Tek wipe seemed to wick a bit more slowly than fleece, but the stain was reduced almost as well as blotter sandwich washing, with slight ghosting remaining. All fluorescing compounds were also removed with this method.

Immersion Washing Followed by Abbreviated Blotter Sandwich Washing

While trying the above washing methods with Tek wipe proved informative, neither method would be suitable for the scale of this project, which requires the washing of over 200 folios. So, I decided to try immersion washing in combination with a blotter sandwich lined with Tek wipe.  Following usual procedures, I washed a Reemay stack with one full issue of the journal in multiple baths of short duration (5 minutes each): two baths in deionized water, followed by two alkaline baths. Even though the water in the final bath remained clear, some visible tidelines did remain in the documents. The documents were peeled one by one from the stack and placed in a blotter/Tek wipe sandwich stack. The documents were re-misted with recalcified water after about an hour, and left for another hour in the blotter/Tek wipe stack. This method greatly reduced the tidelines, leaving behind only faint ghosting, and removing all fluorescing compounds.  I selected this method for the remainder of the project because it produced acceptable results in a more time-efficient manner.

Before (above) and after (below) immersion washing followed by abbreviated blotter/Tek wipe sandwich washing.

Before (above) and after (below) immersion washing followed by abbreviated blotter/Tek wipe sandwich washing.

Washing the Tek wipe in very warm water and then air-drying it removed the stains the material absorbed from the washing processes above, leaving it ready to be used again.

How Are You Using Tek Wipe?

Are you using Tek wipe for conservation treatments? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section.  I’m especially interested to hear if anyone has tried using Tek wipe instead of blotter in a drying stack in a treatment, rather than disaster salvage, scenario, and whether that was successful.

What do you like or dislike about the material? Have you had any particular successes or failures using it? Do you have any cautions to share?  Please join the conversation!

 

Working in the Preservation Department, one soon realizes how important our eyesight is to the tasks we need to perform.  Whether it is making repairs or doing work on the computer, the work is intense and can tire out our eyes.

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We all know that to maintain good eyes, we should wear appropriate sunglasses when outside or riding in a vehicle.  Our diet is important too, as we need to include green leafy vegetables, oily fish, eggs, nuts and beans.  If your job includes working with hazardous or airborne materials, you should wear safety glasses or protective goggles.  A trip to the optometrist or ophthalmologist once a year is a good habit to have and helps to assure that eye problems are caught soon. This is all important information which we have heard and learned throughout our lives.

There is another important step to maintaining our eyesight as we work in jobs which require intense use of our eyes and up-close work: look up and look away.  When I started working at the Iowa State University Library 38 years ago, my first supervisor told me to remember to rest my eyes.  She said I should look up about every 20 minutes and look off into the distance.  She explained that this would help to keep my eyes flexible and able to see both close up and things in the distance.  At the time, this was easy to do as the work space was open and one could easily see from one end of the long room to the other end.  Over the years, we have had much remodeling done to the office spaces, creating cubicles where each person works.  This does not always leave a good view to look up and out.  If this is the case in your office, it is good to get up and move about so you can look out.  This does not mean that you need to take a hike or daydream for several minutes, just 20 seconds every 20 minutes will do the job.

At some point, everyone will most likely need bifocals, trifocals, or reading glasses, but remembering to look up and look out will help to keep your eyes flexible and perhaps delay the addition of glasses to assist with close up work.

And now for something completely different. Normally, I stick with the script on my portion of the blogs, but I came across this interesting tweet today:

2035_1

Maybe true, maybe not…but it got me to thinking about how far we have come and how far we have to go when it comes to technology. My dad is always complaining about how computers always mess up everything. How things were so much simpler when a good old pen and paper is all you need to write; and why can’t people today pick up the phone to call instead of texting and FaceTiming/Skyping, (he still refuses to do the latter, but he no longer owns a landline phone.) I always take a deep breath and hold out my hands, palms up, moving them back and forth much like an imaginary scale and say: “Dad: Horse, Car, Horse, Car.” When I was a kid he use to tell me how much his dad was upset when the horses got replaced by cars. His dad would say: “Why horses: so much simpler; they can go through the tightest spots, and grass is free!” I don’t think Dad has made my connection between his father’s consternation, and his own lamentations.

The same can be said with technology today, I suppose, but it’s the same concept: keep up or fall behind. As one technology or advancement passes, another takes its place. And this includes the instruments we use to get there. Instead of a pencil, straight-edge and tons of rubber cement to put a newspaper or magazine together, it’s going all online. This is how websites started, and this is how it’s still going. It’s hard to imagine when I was in college, most of these things were in their infancy. There were no smartphones. No hand-held device where you could push a button and spend your money for instant gratification. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but there does need to be a balance. Holding on to the past isn’t the right answer, but abandoning all concepts of the past isn’t the way either.

Once a year, at about this time, I go through my desk and completely clean it out, including wiping down the inside and throwing out anything that doesn’t look like it belongs; I take home things that have accumulated over the year and generally try to tidy up my area. But today! Today I came across this gem:

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This is an old-timey 100% Horse Hair Sterilized Drafting Brush. This thing and I go back. Way back. In fact, way back past even me. This very brush is the brush Dad used when he went to State and took drafting courses. So, you know it’s O-L-D! I used this brush on more than brushing eraser poo away…I used it whenever I had anything I was done rubber-cementing or crayoning, or even weaving ends. This thing was, or rather is, slick to use to clean off debris from a desk, or drafting table. I don’t know if these things are even relevant anymore in this era of everything-can-be-done-on-a-computer; but it certainly took me back to the good old days. I can remember rooms in the Design College that were filled with machines that you could insert a paper and on one side little dotted rubber cement backing came out. Then you had to carefully cut out the area you needed (on a self-healing cutting mat…I still have mine…that thing is awesome, too!) and use a rubber roller to smooth out the air pockets. I’m going to bet that graphic designers over there use the computer for their layout and designs now. In my last year of college, they were only starting to use computer programs and I took every class I could (much to the chagrin of some of my friends: “why would you need computer classes for graphic design?”) At that time, everything you wanted to do was hand coded in. There were no “mouses” and easy, click-the-button instructions to these programs. You had to tell the computer what to do by writing it all out and C:> everything.  Oh, how that brush brought back memories. But now, I’m going to pass it on. My son, Ian, is at the perfect age to use it. He’s not a traditional artist. He’s a woodcarver. The brush will come in handy for cleaning wood shavings up from his work table. He’ll get as much use from it as I did. And perhaps, one day, he’ll be able to carry on the tradition with the next generation.

Even if I know that the only

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Ian ever touched (or probably will touch) was a toy he had as toddler, I know that a third generation of sweeping eraser/rubber cement/wood shavings poo, will be carried on in that little brush. And holding onto a few small items like that…those are good things to hold onto. The past “use-to-do’s” might be done differently today, but a little brush can always be used… if nothing else, to brush away the dust of yesterday.

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