I posted pictures of this lovely contraption on the isupreservation Instagram feed a couple of months ago. This post goes into more details about the construction of it.

There must be many different ways to support an accordion book for an exhibit. Here is one idea, as envisioned and executed by Conservation Technician Jim Wilcox. This mount is made from 4-ply museum-quality mat board, adhered together with 3M 415 double-sided tape.

Conservation Assistant Jim Wilcox cutting out a paper template for the mount.

This accordion binding is a miniature artist book. The small size of the book means that it is very light, which makes it easier to manage stress on the joints and folds.

Mount without the book.
Mount with the miniature book.

The mount enables the accordion binding to be displayed open. The covers of the book sit lower than the pages, since the covers are slightly bigger than the pages on all sides.

The mount as viewed from the front and from the back.

The open pages are supported by the top-most layer of mat board, cut in a zig-zag shape. In order to create this custom shape, the profile of the pages has to be traced onto a piece of paper, with the accordion open.

These are the layers of board that went into making the mount. Hopefully my sketch and notations are not making this more confusing.

As seen in the sketch above, this particular mount was made from 4 layers of mat board. The number of layers can be adjusted depending on the book. Level 2 can be added twice if the cover has tall board squares or if the cover boards need extra support.

Board squares are the spaces at the edges of the book boards that are not covered by the pastedowns. These spaces are the difference between the size of the cover and the size of the textblock (all the pages).

For a bigger, heavier book, additional support would have to be provided for the boards in order to keep them upright. A piece of mat board the size of the cover could be inserted and secured in the slot behind the cover to prop it up.

The red arrow points to one of the cutout slots, where the book boards fit.
The space shaded in green is the extra deep recess, where each book board can be positioned

The area of green color seen in the picture above is created by one of the cutout slots, which is mentioned in the hand-drawn diagram. The book boards sink down to Level 1, the lowest level. The cutouts are made in Level 2.

Often, students and the broader community may not be aware of the role preservation and special collections staff play at a university research library. Short workshops afford both parties the opportunity to learn about a new topic or gain a new skill, while collaborating with different library departments.

Such was the case in a recent two-part workshop proposed by graduate student Sang Lee from the Graphic Design department at the College of Design. Sang wanted to give her students, who primarily design on a computer, the chance to do a hands-on project. The objective of the workshop was to familiarize the students with book and box design using historical examples as well as modern objects followed by a second session learning how to make their own box.

This class was a joint effort between graduate student Sang Lee from the College of Design, Special Collection’s archivist Amy Bishop, and preservation staff, including Sonya Barron, Jim Wilcox, Mindy Moeller, and myself.

A montage of two photos. Each shows the class surrounded a table with books laid out on the table. In the first conservator Sonya Barron is holding a book and describing it. In the second archivist Amy Bishop is picking up a book she is discussing.
Conservator Sonya Barron and archivist Amy Bishop showing students and instructor Sang Lee bindings, book models, and artists books.

Sonya and Amy described various bindings including a German wooden board binding, a Cambridge panel binding of the volume Citie of God, St. Augustine, Pilgrims Progress translated to Cantonese and bound in an Asian style binding, a parchment in-boards volume titled Philosophia Botanica,  artist books in a box made using organic materials like stone and sand called Nature’s Details, a tunnel book called Falling Leaves, and many others.

The classes were a nice way, too, for staff to review some of our prized collections and share what is important or interesting about each item. The present and history repeat itself, recycling designs and creating new ones from the old. Students had a worksheet with a list of questions and tasks meant to guide them through the experience identifying the use of materials and interpreting artists’ intent.

I’ve included several of my favorite items below out of the myriad examples we laid out for the class.

Block-printed Casebindings

Below is a highly decorative block printed cloth casebinding published in 1871.

A photo of the front cover of a casebinding that has been block stamped with gold, red, and yellow. The design includes sun and moon graphics as well as leaves, wavy lines that possibly depict a river, and Tennyson's portrait.
The poetic works of Alfred Tennyson published by Harper & Brothers in a highly stylized casebinding.

Sir Humphry Repton’s Landscape Designs

The library has a facsimile of Humphry Repton’s Red Books. Humphry was an artist and self-trained 18th century landscape designer. He gained success by creating red covered bindings of his landscape designs with overlays that could be lifted to show the space before and after his work. Check out the Morgan Library’s videos on the history of the red books for more information.

A montage of two photos. The first shows a river with an irregular bank. The second photo shows the same landscape with a paper flap that was atached to the image lifted to reveal a more regular riverbank and animals wading in the river.
The transformation of a riverbed by Humphry Repton.

Pop-out Books

A class on book structure can’t be without at least one pop-up book. Here is one titled Ruckus Rodeo by Red Grooms and Barbara Haskell.

Photo of a pop-out book open to show 3D nature of book. Features a rodeo with a bull and cowboy on horse in an arena.
Ruckus Rodeo book opened out.

Wooden Board Bindings

Highly stylized historic wooden board binding as compared to a simpler modern wooden cover.

A montage of two photos. One photo is of a historic German bindings with wooden boards and a tooled cover. The other is of a modern wooden cover binding with decoration on the cover.
Left: A German style wooden boards bindings with clasps and a tooled cover. Right: a modern wooden boards binding.

Eastern Style Bindings

Special collections has several stab-bindings and accordion bindings. Here is a modern stab-binding including a traditional style wrap cover with peg closures.

A photo of a stab-bound book laying on top of a wrapper constructed in an eastern style with bone clasps attached to ribbon to hold it closed.
Talk to a Stone: Nothingness by Tetsuzan Shinagawa.

Recipe Boxes

Some items in our collection include recipe boxes with cards and dividers. The box is necessary to complete the object. Without it, the cards would not be received in the same way to the viewer.

A photo of a box with recipe cards and dividers listing food categories such as beverages, cakes, meat, and poultry.
Food Preparation Recipes by Alice M. Child. Home Economics was historically a notable department at ISU and collections include recipes, artifacts, and manuscripts on the subject.

Artist Books

My favorite artist book was this project called The Nearness of Distance, published by Eastern Air Lines in 1967. It is quite deceptive at first glance. It begins as a box masquerading as a book which, when opened, contains several folders. Each folder has attached graphics, objects, and texts to tell a story. The texts come in single sheets and pamphlets.

A montage of four photos showing the book-box closed, opened to reveal folders inside, and a folder closed and then opened.
The book-box Nearness of Distance opened to reveal folders. The first volume , Ionosphere, opened showing a letter stamped with wax.
Photo of first folder opened.
The first folder called Ionosphere opened to show a map, a letter, and a perpetual calendar.

Conservation technician Jim Wilcox modified the traditional blue-board clamshell box so the students would fold over the triangular tabs at the box corners instead of plying them apart. Previous to the class, conservation technician Mindy Moeller made double-fan adhesive books with marbled paper covers for each student.

The students constructed their boxes over the course of an hour and a half. The result was a functional clamshell box they could use as a model or inspiration for their box project.

A photo of the students working on box making at 3 sets of tables configured in circles. Instructor Sang Lee and archivist Amy Bishop look on.
Session two of the workshop. Students making boxes under the guidance of instructors.

A finished box!

A photo showing a completed box with metal clips sitting on a cutting mat with the pre-made book near it.
A well-made box constructed by one of the graphic design students below the pre-made book. The metal clips are holding the glued parts together while it dries.

As many in conservation know, objects come to a library or archive in myriad ways and conditions. Boxes, trash bags, coffee stained, mold affected, falling apart, pristine. They must be quarantined, assessed, and then brought into conservation for treatment and housing. They may even have previous repairs, as in the case of this set of badly damaged lithographs that came to us wrapped in wax paper sleeves. They are part of the John Scott Beals Civil War Papers collection.

Photo of civil war lithographs.
Image side of damaged lithographs.
Photo of paper backed civil war lithographs.
The Japanese paper backing on the verso of the prints. You can see the discolored adhesive through the paper.

As you can see, they had been lined on the back with Japanese paper adhered with some kind of discolored paste. A backing removal was necessary to remove the brittle mystery adhesive. As the backing was removed, pieces of the lithograph began to fall away in some areas. Their location was captured with my phone camera as I progressed through the removal.

The chromolithograph under magnification using a SMZ-1000 Nikon Stereomicroscope.

Using magnification I examined the print to determine that it was a chalk lithograph, as identified by the chalky, grainy black lines. An examination of the color led me at first to believe it was a standard chromolithogaph, where the color was applied by several, separate stones. However, further examination of the pinkish straight lines in the sky and the cross-hatching on the ground leads me to believe the color may have been applied by several woodblocks. Alternately, the image below supports the chromolithography technique. Could there be both? My examination of the text ink revealed an different method of application as well. The text letters had sharp, defined borders, which signified relief printing. The nature of the mass production of these prints supports the need to be able to apply custom text to a standard image.

Mysteries still remained: What did the lithograph originally look like? What was its purpose? I knew this would guide my treatment of the object after the backings were removed, so I began my research. Eventually, a search on civil war lithographs led me to a blog post by archivist Nancy Sullivan from the Historical Society of Montgomery, PA. Here were similar looking works on a much larger scale. I lined up the detached parts of the lithograph and compared it to an example in the blog. Where the pieces met, the image became congruous. The course of treatment was now clear.

Civil War Registers Lithographs, Chromolithographs, art on paper conservation.
Left: Civil War lithograph in the Historical Society of Montogmery PA collection. https://hsmcpa.org/index.php/component/k2/item/145-civil-war-lithographs Right: Our lithograph lined up before repair.

Nancy Sullivan went on to posit that the ovals on the lithograph may have sometimes been left blank for the family who purchased the item to attach a photograph. On our register, some of the ovals had printed portraits, and some had albumen photographs attached. Perhaps when the item was printed, the people filling each role were not yet assigned their role, or a portrait could not yet be drawn of them before the lithograph was made.

After the paper backing was removed mechanically with a scalpel, the separated pieces with lined up with the image side facing up. Tabs of solvent-reactivated Klucel-G coated tissue were used to hold the pieces together while the verso of the lithograph was repaired. Tears were mended with both untoned and toned Japanese tissue. Toned tissue repairs were made when the tears had minor losses. Fills were used for large losses.

Photo of the back of the lithograph showing repairs.

The verso of the lithograph with Japanese repair paper and tissue repairs.Now that the structure was repaired as a whole, it could once again be viewed as an authentic, complete work of art and history.

Photo of civil war lithograph after conservation treatment.
The civil war lithograph after conservation treatment.

Here is a common bag weight that is used in conservation labs. It’s a very helpful kind of weight because it’s flexible and has soft edges. It can mold over a spine of a book easily, or help in unrolling a rolled-up print. But these little weights have a tragic flaw…. at some point the metal beads inside start shedding through the stretchy cotton stockinette that encases them. The shedding looks like dark metallic glitter and it gets on everything, including collection materials. It is especially hard to brush off blotters.

Various sizes of bag weights. Image courtesy of Talas Online.

Annoyed by the metallic dust, I first decided to cover the weights in polyethylene, using a heat sealer. A co-worker covered his weights in scraps of Colibri polyethylene covers and sealed those on the Colibri machine. The solution worked for about 8-10 months. Then….. a problem.

The bag weight in and out of its busted lightweight polyethylene “jacket”.
This is the more durable Colibri jacket scrap covering. Note the gaping hole.

I decided to try another covering solution: sewing the bag weights into heavy weight Hollytex. Hollytex is a non-woven spunbound polyester fabric that is used for interleaving and support.

Placing the bag weight onto a rectangle of heavy weight Hollytex (0.0053″ thickness) and sewing the cover.

It helped to draw a straight pencil line to use a guide when stitching. I used Barbour sewing thread, 50 Grms. The bag weight does not have to be inside the Hollytex when you are sewing. You can just use the weight to make sure the cover fits and you have enough material to work with.

It is best to leave as little space between the stitches as possible, so that the inevitable metal shavings do not escape.
When starting on the second (long) side, it helps to pin the edges of the Hollytex together and to draw another straight line to guide your sewing. Then you just cut off the excess fabric with scissors. Viola!
As long as you can hand-stitch in a straight line, you got this! No advanced conservation skills required. Our Resident Librarian Katie Wampole is pictured working on this project.

I suppose that it is entirely possible to use a sewing machine to do this quicker. But I am not a sewing machine pro and prefer to do it by hand.

Introduction by Cynthia Kapteyn:

The preservation lab was lucky enough to gain the interest of the library’s new Resident Librarian Katie Wampole. Katie is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa’s Master of Arts in Library and Information Science. Her primary focus as a librarian is in assessment, however, as a part of the resident librarian program, she will be rotating through several departments during her first year. We were keen for her to assist us with our major artifact rehousing project, while teaching her more about what we do as a department. It has been a productive three months, and her work completing several major tasks associated with the artifact rehousing project has helped propel us further towards completion. In addition, she assisted us in completing several archival cleaning projects from special collections, and learned a few basic preservation skills along the way. We have enjoyed working with her over these last few months, and wish her well during her future rotations. So without further ado, here is Katie’s view on her time in the department:

Katie cleaning lantern slides with a soft brush under the fume hood.

0 years, 0 months, 0 days, 0 minutes.

That is the exact amount of time I had spent in a library preservation department. I know the important role that preservation activities have on library work, having a been student seeking a master’s degree in library science, but had never had the opportunity to do work in that area. That all changed when I started my first rotation as a library resident this past October with Iowa State’s preservation department.

I am thankful for them being willing to take a chance on me, despite the previously mentioned lack of experience, and found the team to be nothing but welcoming.

A large part of my preservation curriculum was assisting with the artifact project. Iowa State’s special collections contains some 4,000 artifacts which take up valued space in the archive stacks. In many cases, items can be either be rehoused together in new box or can remain in their current housing with additional protective features added. The goals for this undertaking include condensing current holdings, making housing structures safer for items, and establishing a better organization system for artifacts. Since I do library assessment work, I had a preconceived idea of surveying that incorporates digital data so doing surveying like this highlights that assessment can take on multiple forms.

My role in the artifact project involved physically pulling artifacts in the stacks to create rehousing plans as well as using Excel to do a variety of planning tasks. Namely organizing rehousing plans, linking photos, and calculating anticipated supplies. Time spent doing these kinds of tasks was familiar enough to me as space management, collection analysis, and, of course, spreadsheets are common enough across all types of library work. It may not be exciting in comparison to other types of preservation activities, but it was an area that I felt confident in lending my skills to.

Top Left and Bottom Left: Phase Box construction. Top Right: Flatback casebinding. Bottom right: Tux box and 4-flap box with a side flap.

Now on to the fun stuff (at least from my point of view) … the hands-on stuff!

Some of the first things I got to practice making were boxes. I got to make three kinds which consisted of different designs and materials. The three types include a four-flap box, a tux box, and a phase box. Cutting up the box materials afforded me my first ever opportunity to use a scalpel, which was quiet exciting. In order to practice making boxes, I brought various books all of different sizes to make different box sizes.

In my opinion, the first box was definitely the hardest attempt. I tried to make my box’s measurements too exact to the book’s measurements so while the box was functional and could close on its own, it could not do so once the book was placed inside of it. That lesson learned stayed with me when I went on to do the other two types and I tried to make the box dimensions larger to give myself more room to work with. If it would have been too large for the book, then I would have cut it down incrementally but in both instances the amount of wiggle room was just enough to give the book space to sit inside of the box without compromising its protective purpose.

I also had the opportunity to practice more routine tasks, like book repair and making mounts for exhibition items. These two activities followed the box making ones so by this point I had more experience using adhesives and cutting tools and made me feel marginally more competent. Dexterity and hand coordination, like most things, improves with experience. Books and paper often require clean cuts with a scalpel while mount board needs a lighter cut so that the board perforates, but does not completely separate.

Mindy Moeller instructing Katie Wampole on general collections repair and workflow.

Both of these tasks were very technical, in my opinion, but between the two of them I would choose repairs to be more difficult only because it had more steps and a greater time commitment. Although this could also be due to my slow work pace. Even though I will not be being doing hands-on repair such as for my “normal” job duties, I think it was helpful to understanding the repair cycle and may come in handy when assessing what collections materials should be sent to preservation based on their condition on the shelf.

Sewing was another skill that was improved during the rotation. This part was a little easier to get the hang of because I have done some light sewing in the past. Sewing with paper, however, was new to me. Going into it I was interested to see if there would be a big difference between working with cloth and paper, found that one was not necessarily more difficult than the other. But I did learn some new sewing styles that I was not familiar with which gave me greater appreciation into the amount of variation that exists in regards to the book arts. And being able to stitch in as straight of a line as possible can definitely improve the look of the final product. Some examples of things I got to work on included several pamphlets, a case-binding, and some protective covers for small weights used in the preservation department.

Lastly, I was trained in how to do basic cleaning of special collections materials. A majority of the items I worked on were images (photos, glass plates, film strips, etc) so I made use of brushes to remove debris from the photos and prints. In my imaginative mind, it felt almost like I was excavating at an archeological site to a much more controlled degree. For the dirtier items that had larger debris pieces and in some cases mold, I was trained to clean in the fume hood which was my first time ever using one. Cleaning is repetitive for the most part because it is a quick process for most of the items I handled but I actually did not mind doing it. I recognized that it was necessary for the collection and I did not do it constantly everyday so I did not get burned out from doing it.

Katie practicing mending and covering weights with Hollytex.

Though my main focus during my residency appointment is library assessment, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the preservation crew. As I briefly mentioned earlier in the post, I am also grateful for having had the opportunity to see different types of assessment in action aside from routine measures like survey distribution and statistical analysis. Work done by the preservation staff seems more in line with qualitative decision making rather than quantitative which is also a necessary component of assessment. Supplementing the two types together will make Iowa State’s library assessment practices stronger because different areas of the library bring different values to our services.

Getting to work with hands-on projects was a nice break from working on a laptop all day and gives me a better understanding of the value that having an in-house preservation department is for an institution. I did help to work on a project to create visualization for ISU’s preservation stats, so not only I am aware of their great work from a quantitative view, I now personally recognize the time and effort it takes to physically conserve and preserve a collection. Everyone I worked with in this department was highly skilled in their area and more than willing to teach me the basics. I was able to make good personal and work connections which I hope will continue during my time at Iowa State and may provide the opportunity for future assessment related collaborations.