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.

 

 

Endbands

Objects are invariably changed by the hands of those charged with their care. Traditions have been built on the question of how to properly repair  damaged artifacts. Some cultures have developed historic traditions like the Japanese art of Kintsugi. Bookbinders have even experimented with this idea in their personal work (See an interview about Kathy Abbott’s work) and as a collective of bookbinders in an exhibit called Tomorrow’s Past, which explores ways of rethinking conservation from the bookbinder’s perspective.

QHoratiiFlacci-KathyAbbott

Repair on Q Horatii Flacci by Kathy Abbott. Photo from an interview on the blog Herringbone Bindery. http://www.herringbonebindery.com/blog/2015/12/13/bookbinder-of-the-month-kathy-abbott-2/

Kintsugi_

Tea bowl, Korea, Joseon dynasty, 16th century AD, featuring Kintsugi. Author: Picasa. Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As conservators, however, we follow a set of professional ethical guidelines when determining the best course of action. Conservation is not a renewal—it is not restoration. Conservation seeks to make stable, make accessible, an object for use. In book and archives conservation, aesthetic is not always a point of accessibility in the way that art on paper tends to be. Books are primarily tools to impart information. However, the history of the book has many examples celebrating the importance of aesthetics, not to mention the sensibilities of the eye.

Oversized set of volumes Theatrum machinarum hydrotechnicarum (TJ144 L573th). Right side: after conservation. Left side: before conservation. Note damaged endband with losses. Only a scrap of parchment remained of the head endband.

 

So when I was deciding on how to repair two large, thick set of volumes that were from a 3-part set, I had some choices to make. Both sets of volumes were missing an endband each. They had both been bound in the same way, with the same style of stuck-on endband composed of pale creamy tan and creamy white linen thread sewn over a linen cord and through a strip of parchment. Both had tooling on the spine. Even the paper appeared to be largely from the same papermill based on the watermarks. I could remedy the loss of the original endband by constructing a conservation endband—choosing a simple pale paper over a linen core—or I could resew a stuck-on endband to mimic the current endband.

Conservation endband by ISU’s Conservator Sonya Barron.

In no way would I try to reclaim the former glory—like a localized Benjamin button phenomenon–of sewing a new-looking endband on this book. That would not be congruous with the current state of the binding. (And again, conservation is not restoration.) In conservation I aim for an inconspicuous, functional repair. I want to preserve a book’s current faded state and the methods with which it was made in order to retain the truth of the object while restoring (ha!) it’s function.

Top: First set of volumes. Original on Left and New endband on right. Bottom: Second set of volumes. New endband on Left and original on right. The second band is a little less satisfactory, but functional.

In-painting Paper repairs

There is a certain comfort and security to toning repair paper before using it in any given situation. You have complete control over the pigment’s location until it dries. If, despite having made several practice swatches, the toning job doesn’t come out exactly as desired, you can start again. Not so with in-painting.

Left side: my set-up for in-painting. The object is placed on boards to both for my ease while working as well as to keep it off the table in case of any leaks or spills. Right side: pre-toned repair paper. There is some ability to achieve a mottled effect, however one cannot situate any variation in color as precisely as in-painting will.

After my first experience with in-painting, I have come to appreciate its merits. You can mimic the variations of color found in deteriorating leather bindings more easily than if you had tried pre-toning the repair paper . I make several color mixtures matching the main hues of the leather near the repair. Another position note: the pigment will only sit on the repair paper, instead of sandwiched in between the paper and the leather on the covering boards.

imagejpeg_2

Myself in-painting the endcap using a brush sized 5/0.

In the course of my experience, I have discovered several things:

  • Wheat starch paste on top of tissue makes for a great size, and thus will inhibit the absorption of paint and cause weird tidelines, or streaks, in the acrylic pigment. See the image below. Try not to get any errant paste where you want your acrylic to go!

    Streaks seen in a layer of acrylic wash over Okawara tissue that had been coated with a layer of wheat starch paste.

  • Speckle several shades. See the image below of an outer join repair using Okawara Japanese repair paper on a leather binding.

    in-painting

    In-painting on Japanese Okawara repair paper using acrylics to achieve a mottled effect. Click the picture to view a larger version.

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    In-painting on Japanese Okawara repair paper using acrylics to achieve a mottled effect.

  • Dilute the paint with deionized water until it is slightly runny. It shouldn’t be thick like on the left side of the tissue in the example photo below of Okawara tissue. Additionally, too many layers of paint will create a plastic-like look.

    Experimenting with washes of acrylic pigment on thick Okawara Japanese repair paper.

  • Use SC6000 to achieve the amount of sheen you’d like, if required to match the sheen of the leather. You can even burnish the repair further.
  • Building up the joints with too many layers of tissue, paste, and acrylic pigment causes the paper to loose its flexibility, and increases the chance of the repairs cracking upon flexing.

 

Conservation Binding at a University of Iowa Visit

pano1

Image by Tom Jorgensen from his article, “UI Libraries’ new conservation lab merits a closer look.” https://now.uiowa.edu/2012/09/ui-libraries-new-conservation-lab-merits-closer-look

I had the chance to study some bookbinding structures at the University of Iowa Library’s Special Collections, attend their sixth annual William Anthony Conservation Lecture with Maria Fredericks, participate in a historic long-stitch class with maria Fredericks, and visit their conservation lab. It was a happily busy two days! By chance, I happened upon this awesome, simple and effective conservation binding while browsing bindings in special collections.

Diagram of the conservation binding.

As a viewer of this binding, I had no way of knowing its previous state. Did it ever have a cover? Was there any evidence at all of its previous structure? All I could know is its present state. The pamphlet was sewn to a set of endleaves with two bifolios each.

Aside from the subtle guarding of the pamphlet, no adhesive touched the little binding. It is unclear to me if the structure was sewed through existing holes. There was a cloth spine piece that lay loose against the textblock’s spine and was adhered between the pastedown and thin cover boards. The color of the covering material was an alum-tawed white.

They Hoyt Sherman Place Guest Book

Last year Sonya was contacted by a staff member from the Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines with a request to conserve the institution’s treasured Guestbook. One of the house’s most important objects in it’s collection is their Guestbook. In it you can find the signatures of many artists, musicians, writers and public figures who had attended events at the Hoyt Sherman Place. The Guest Book was started in 1914, and the latest signature Sonya could find was from 1989. The Hoyt Sherman Place, built in 1877, is now a recognized historic house and theater, and draws big crowds for its musical acts. It also houses an art gallery.
The sections of the guestbook lay loose in its damaged binding and its original green box was frayed and falling apart. Conservation was required for the volume to be safely exhibited at the Hoyt Sherman’s August VIP public event. The volume required paper repair, resewing the textblock, and reattaching the weighty, leather-covered boards.

 

The pages of the book before, during and after treatment.

Tears and losses in the textpaper were mended and filled with Japanese tissue. The sewing holes in the damaged spine folds were reinforced with Japanese tissue patch repairs so the binding could withstand resewing. The textblock was resewed on linen binder’s tape using a French link-stitch sewing technique.

 

Sonya attaching the binding to the textblock with hinges; the book after completion of work.

The spine was lined with transverse aerocotton and Japanese tissue panels, which served as the board attachment for the cover. Below, you can see the lifted pastedowns, under which the spine linings were inserted.

The binding during and after treatment.

As the volume could not fit in its original cloth case after conservation, a new box was made to house the guestbook and case separately. A cloth-covered, collapsible cradle was made by Cynthia so that the book could be displayed at a 90° angle, enabling safer handling. Once conservation was finished, we were able to arrange dropping the book off and getting our own private tour of the space.

The exterior and the reception area.

Executive Director Robert Warren with Sonya and Cynthia.

When we arrived, Executive Director Robert Warren was excited to see the final result of the conservation treatment, so we displayed the book with a brief description of the repair, and presented it on the custom cradle support. This setup would perfectly display such unique artistic signatures as the one above of “Mr Tweedy.”

The art gallery.

Our first stop on the tour was the gallery. Robert pointed out several notable paintings, including Apollo and Venus by Otto van Veen. This particular painting had been found stuffed in the back of a storeroom closet during renovations. It was badly damaged and discolored, and would undergo conservation before it could be displayed. Speculation as to why the painting was thrown in the storeroom seems to hinge on the central nude form featured in the painting and the conservative nature of early 1900s America. Read more about it here.

This massive secretary desk was meant to travel with the lawyer on his work trips. How unfortunate for his servants!

Robert showed us a lawyer’s desk, which was specially made with a mirror in the center. No, this was not for the jurisprudent to stare into his own reflection at will. Rather, it allowed him to see if anyone was approaching from behind with a look of vengeance and quite possibly a knife!

Original mural painting on the right and the modern recreation on the left.

During the renovation of the house, a conscientious team of historic preservation specialists found a square of the original mural painting when they were preparing the walls to be repainted. They decided to decorate the walls with the same design. True to principals at the heart of preservation, they left an original fragment behind, retaining a record of history and showing the changes the house had undergone.

Cynthia in one of the historic rooms on the second floor of the house

Since its foundation was first laid, the house has worn many hats. It first served as the family home to the Sherman family, built by Hoyt Sherman, a postmaster and politician. At one point, Sherman rented out his home for two years to The Sister’s of Mercy of Davenport, Iowa to host a 52-bed hospital. From 1907 onward, the Des Moines Women’s Club, whose growing membership prompted the construction of the theater in 1923, held their meetings at the house. They still operate out of the Hoyt Sherman Place to this day.

The interior of the historic theater including original Des Moines Women’s Club end panels on each row.

The theater hosts a variety of events, including rock concerts, ballet, and stand-up comedy. It is a must-see if you are ever in the Des Moines area.

Here are some highlights of what we saw at Preservation Destination 2019!

On Monday our lab’s staff traveled to an event hosted by ICPC (Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium). It’s an annual get-together called Preservation Destination. A large group of us, Iowa preservation professionals, go to a place in Iowa and have behind the scenes tours of as many cultural heritage institutions as we can cram into one day. Here are some of our favorite things that we saw.

From Sonya Barron, Collections Conservator:

From left to right: 1. At the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) theater costume storage. 2. UNI Museum: a storage mount made for a saddle. 3. UNI Archives: The Rural School Collection ledgers

At the Ice House Museum we learned about how ice was preserved. Large blocks of ice were loaded into the barn-like building and stored there until the summer. Layers of saw dust had to be placed in between each ice block so that the blocks didn’t fuse together.

Every winter, the Ice House was filled up with ice to the top of the central beam. The light colored wood boards that you see on the roof show where there roof was repaired. Before the repairs these were holes!

From Cynthia Kapteyn, Assistant Conservator:

In 2008, The Cedar Falls Ice House Museum flooded. It was only inevitable, as the historic building is situated right next to the Cedar River. The disaster resulted in damage to nearly all of the artifacts in the collection, most of which were housed on the ground floor. To this day, the collections manager is still dealing with effects of the flood.

That’s where the water was in 2008.

In the picture above, conservator Sonya Barron is pointing to the spot the water rose to during the flood. To circumvent this issue in the case of a future catastrophe, the floor was raised a foot above the flood line.

From Mindy Moeller, Senior Conservation Assistant:

At the University of Northern Iowa Nathan Arndt, Assistant Director and Chief Curator of the UNI Museum at the Rod Library, gave us a very informative tour.  While at the UNI Museum, I was interested in seeing how they displayed and housed their precious and educational exhibits.  One picture that I took really stuck out in my mind as to how simple it was, easy to do, not costly, and we must use this example for the next time we are housing pins, buttons, or other small objects that can be stored together yet separated and protected. 

Small artifacts between dividers.

At the museum, they used small archival boxes and simply made “ice cube tray-like” dividers with pieces of 1/8” thick Ethafoam.  This idea could be used for any depth of an archival box to keep items apart and still have room for an identifying tag for each object. 

From Jim Wilcox, Conservation Assistant:

The raw material on the left and the mounts on the right.

The UNI Museum’s collections care and mount making room is a space with a large table, where you can work all the way around it and have all the supplies needed at hand. Like the large supply of backer rod you might find at a construction site. Why backer rod? To stabilize objects that are round at the base or nearly so and that could tip over easily. The items then could either be boxed, or stored on open shelving like this.

Progress continues on the optical media project here in the Preservation Department. All discs in the University Lecture Series collection have been ripped and are now in the process of being permanently stored. If permissions allow, certain lectures will also be uploaded to the Special Collections’ YouTube channel.
Technically speaking, most of the time so far has been spent navigating the Ripstation, a combination hardware/software system designed to rip large number of optical discs. The collection includes more than 1000 discs, primarily formatted as CD-DA, DVD Video, or data discs. Each of these formats requires a slightly different approach to preservation, typically in the form of what software is used.

The Ripstation at ISU Special Collections.

The Ripstation at ISU Special Collections.

The majority of the discs recorded before 2010 were formatted as Compact Disc-Digital Audio (CD-DA). Because this is also the format most commercial CDs use, Ripstation’s proprietary software (also called Ripstation) was best-suited, as it is optimized for this sort of collection. Discs were ripped into two different formats for both preservation and access purposes. For preservation, the BWF 96khz/24bit format was selected for its lossless, uncompressed quality and its ability to embed desired metadata within the wrapper’s header, thus greatly reducing the chance of intellectual separation between content and metadata. For access, the .MP3 format was selected, because it is widely accepted and supported as an accessible audio format. In addition, of the available output formats, .MP3 can be most easily transcoded into an .MP4 file to upload to Special Collections’ YouTube access channel, with little risk for losing any data.

This transcoding for the access copies is handled by Adobe Media Encoder, as is uploading directly into the Lecture Series playlist. To match the access copies from the magnetic media, part of the Lecture Series collection that has already been uploaded, the desired output is an .MP4 with audio wrapped inside with a logo (YouTube only accepts video files). After upload, we apply closed captions to all files for accessibility.

An overview of the settings used in Media Encoder.

An overview of the settings used in Media Encoder.

For the DVD-Video carriers in the collection, the desired output (perhaps somewhat obviously) differs from the CD-DA carriers. After some experimentation with variants on a data validation workflow, our conclusion was that the optimal output for Special Collections’ purposes was an .ISO disc image, which can be mounted easily as an access copy for researchers.

As the project progressed, some discs we encountered were neither CD-DA nor DVD, but simply data discs onto which .MP3 or other media files had been “dragged and dropped.” These were ripped with the DataGrabber software, and their original file format was maintained.

A selection of the optical discs held in the Lecture Series Collection.

A selection of the optical discs held in the Lecture Series Collection.

What metadata Ripstation uses and where it draws them from varies by the software used, which itself varies by the format of optical disc being ripped. Ripstation’s primary software is the program of the same name, which is intended for CD-DA-formatted discs, typically commercial ones. For automatic metadata population, an internet connection is required, so Ripstation can scour private and open-source databases for the artist, album, track titles, and other relevant metadata per disc. Acquiring metadata this way would not be helpful to the project because of the singular and noncommercial nature of the content. Due to this constraint, as well as networking limitations, this particular Ripstation was left offline.

So from where could the software draw its metadata? Ripstation has accounted for this possibility in the design of the User Data feature. Typically, the names of ripped files could be an assigned structure of metadata that would look something like %D_%A_%Y . Each letter corresponds to an established metadata category, so files named according to this structure will look like “[AlbumName]_[AlbumArtistName]_[AlbumDate]”. This system also allows for user-input metadata, in the form of a .TXT file in the program folder. The User Data system, which allows up to 10 user-defined metadata categories (%0 – %9) and can be used with all Ripstation software, is what we used for this project.

Each disc file was named according to its AV number and container number, according to the information available in the masterlist. For later discs with no container number available, that value was substituted with the date of recording. Batches were named with the reference number of the collection, the container number of the first disc, the container number of the last disc, and (if CD-DA or DVD) the disc type.

Now that all 1000 discs have been ripped, the next phase is twofold: 1. Documenting the project (of which this blog post is a part) and 2. For the lectures without permissions restrictions, encoding and uploading to the Special Collection’s YouTube Channel. This process has already begun, with over 5000 minutes of audio made publicly available so far.