This past week a new exhibit opened in Parks Library’s Special Collections and University Archives reading room. It is called “For Married Students”: Building a Community in Pammel Court, 1946-1978. The exhibit tells the story of a housing development that was built on Iowa State University grounds to accommodate student veterans of WWII and their young families, as part of the GI bill.
The Preservation Department staff worked hard to fabricate mat board exhibit mounts for the items to be displayed. Jim Wilcox and I set out to make a simple slanted mat board book cradle. We were attracted to using mat board because it is easy to manipulate and recycle afterward. It turned out the task was not actually that simple! The slanted cradle needed to be quite strong to withstand the weight of the heavy book.
We looked at an article that provided details for construction of a cloth covered slanted cradle. (Andersen, Jennifer, Cloth Covered Book Cradles, Abbey Newsletter, Volume 17, Number 7, December 1993, http://cool.conservation-us.org/byorg/abbey/an/an17/an17-7/an17-715.html).
This is an excellent design, which has been used by many institutions for years, but we still hoped to find a solution that was a little less labor-intensive.
We started with the tried and true model of two wedges on a base, using museum-grade mat board and double-sided 3M 415 tape. Then Jim added another wedge to the bottom of the base to slant the cradle forward.
A small triangular ledge is built into the base, it keeps the book from sliding off the cradle. The tricky part was to keep this ledge securely attached to the rest of the cradle. The answer was…..drum roll….wait for it – yes, book cloth! Not so revolutionary after all, I know!
But in this version, the book cloth is almost entirely concealed in between the various parts of the cradle. Pale tan Cotlin book cloth was attached to the cradle itself and to the wedge base that elevates the cradle, then wrapped around the ledge. Cloth is only exposed on that narrow triangular support ledge on the front of the cradle.
I used PVA to adhere the book cloth to the mat board and let the cradle off-gas for 2 weeks prior to installing it into the exhibit case.
Aside from the fun and excitement with the cradle, I became acquainted with a wonderful piece of equipment – the rotary cutter. We had lots of exhibit labels to cut out and the rotary cutter was excellent for making 90 degree cuts without the combined effort of lining up the paper, holding down the ruler and minding the scalpel. A plastic bar holds down your paper and a sharp blade makes the perfectly straight cut for you. It’s like a mat cutter for paper! The roatry cutter comes in a large size too, so for lightweight materials it can be a good alternative to a board shear.
Learn more about our new exhibit by checking out the links below.
Article about curating the exhibit:
Photos from the exhibit reception: