A couple of weeks ago I went over to a meeting of the local Doll Collectors’ Club to talk about preservation issues. I was in for a treat! Yes, Halloween and Thanksgiving are past now, but  I am thankful that these creatures are only dolls and not alive. I am sincerely hoping they won’t come and haunt my dreams, ever. The theme of the meeting was “Off the Wall Dolls”, the really weird dolls, that is.

There were 13 people present at the meeting, and all of them had lots of questions about how to best preserve their many many dolls. A variety of materials were involved: plastics, paper/clay compound, textiles, wood, paper, leather. I came armed with a bag full of archival supplier catalogs and product samples, ready to  advise on storage options. As in all collecting, it is important to preserve original packaging that the dolls came in.
In most cases I ended up recommending archival boxes and buffered tissue. If the doll packaging was already opened, the doll could be taken out of its original packaging and wrapped in buffered or unbuffered tissue.

 

The original packaging could also be wrapped in tissue. Then both things could go into an archival box and packed with balled up tissue to fill up the empty spaces in the box. Another solution is to use an archival polyethylene zip-locked bag for storing the doll. A sheet of Volara foam or Ethafoam can be inserted into the bag for support.

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My favorite dude

This is the transparent middle-aged man. He even has little audio transmission holes on the back on his head, so apparently he used to have a sound component and batteries were meant to be inserted someplace. If only we knew what he used to say!

Hello to all!

This will be my last blog for the Preservation Department, not just for 2016, but going forward. Earlier this year, my department (Digital Initiatives,) broke away from the Preservation Department and teamed up with Digital Repository to become a new department, DSI (Digital Scholarship Initiatives.) So… Good-bye old…hello new!

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog space and how I’ve utilized it during the years that I have been writing for it. Except for one, maybe two posts, they have all been about designing webpages and the challenges I have faced in creating them. I have to say I have learned as much about that process writing down my experiences as I have in creating the actual pages. Someone doesn’t really understand their position until they have to explain it to someone else. I haven’t always been good explaining my job to others, but the act of expressing those challenges on paper has allowed me to also teach myself, and in effect, become more confident of my skills. Sounds weird, but true.

In looking back over my blog posts over the years, I am struck at how constant is change. At one point in my blog writing, I noticed that as soon as I finished writing a blog about Dreamweaver webpage development, I was immediately thrown into developing and transferring our webpages to Drupal. From this constant change process, I have learned that I feel a lot more comfortable designing webpages…even when my comfort level is no longer safe. I mean to say that I have lived in such a constant upheaval environment in regards to designing web pages and the software that we use, over the last few years, that when I am no longer under constant stress of transferring to a new “something”, I feel empty and like: “what do I do know?” But do not worry gentle reader; my new supervisor has taken care of that.  Which is great for me. Instead of treading water, now I feel more in my element than ever before. (When things are flying at me a hundred miles per hour is the only way I feel I am functioning. And besides…times travel so much faster when hands are busy having fun!)

It amazes me that in a span of nine months, what started out as one little site called Digital Collections, way back in the early-mid 2000’s, and was a constant for many years, has morphed and bloomed into a larger site with Digital Collections just one of the sites underneath the umbrella called Digital Initiatives; the last half of the year has found me creating supplemental sites to compliment this new site. Every specialty will have it’s new home (Yearbooks, Online Exhibits, etc.)

But that’s just the future as envisioned in November 2016. Who knows what more changes are in store. All I know for sure is that one must buckle in and get set for a fun-filled bumpy ride into the future. I know I’m going to enjoy it. I hope you have learned as much from reading my blog posts as I have from writing them. It’s been real. Thanks for tagging along with my adventures.

 

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Hi, I’m Jake Thompson and I have been working as a student assistant in the Scholarly Publishing Services unit since earlier this summer. My work mostly consists of uploading historic or back issues of student publications into the Iowa State University Digital Repository. Currently, we are working in collaboration with Special Collections to upload some of the earlier volumes of the historic student publication, The Iowa Homemaker.  Once completed, The Iowa Homemaker will be accessible to anyone around the world  on the Digital Repository’s website.

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Digitized page from the magazine

The Iowa Homemaker was founded by the Home Economics Club in 1921.  It was the first magazine on Iowa State campus written by women for women.  The Iowa Homemaker covers a wide range of issues from “Canning Early Fruits and Vegetables” to “Can a Homemaker be a Citizen?”  It contains the excited energy of women trying to find their place in early twentieth century Iowa, and it offers a unique perspective on the history of Iowa State.  Familiar names like Beyer, Buchanan, and Cessna author article after article.  In 1926 the publication celebrated the grand opening of Mackay Hall, the new home of the College of Home Economics.  In 1943, nationwide tension is captured in the magazine’s numerous calls to aid in the war effort.  While this was a publication for homemakers in name, over time it began outgrowing that title and instead reflected women’s increasing interests outside of the home.

Ethel Cessna Morgan, Iowa State College Class of 1904

Ethel Cessna Morgan, Iowa State College Class of 1904

Ethyl Cessna Morgan was one of many women authors who wrote for the Iowa Homemaker magazine. One of her articles was about modernization of marriage. Ethyl taught at the Department of Economics. Among her achievements was being elected the President of the Ames League of Women Voters.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.