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In 2016 the Iowa State University Library completed a six-year project to digitize an entire run of the campus yearbook, The Bomb. Comprised of nearly 45,000 pages, the digital versions are not easily searchable due to the wide variety of fonts and graphic elements used throughout the decades. Just look at the text from one page of the 1911 Bomb. The font and layout are unique, making the automated transcription process nearly impossible.

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(“Bomb 1911”, page 9)

With that in mind, in its inaugural “Unsolved Histories” Project the Iowa State Digital Initiatives Unit has launched a crowd sourcing transcription project entitled, “Transcribed the Bomb.” It is our hope that by transcribing these yearbooks a wider audience can explore and find memories of themselves, their families and friends, favorite campus moments, and world events through the Iowa State University lens. Here is how YOU can get started:

  1. Navigate to the following website: (http://yearbook.lib.iastate.edu/) You will arrive to a page that looks like this:bomb1
  2. There are two ways to start contributing. You can either click “Sign-in” to create a profile or you contribute anonymous by just clicking “start.”
  3. If you chose to make a profile you will need to navigate back to this page and click “start.”
  4. A year of the “Bomb” will appear, after clicking “contribute now” and you will be able to begin the transcription process!!!

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5. Once you start contributing you will be asked two questions before you are able to transcribe a page. The questions include: a) Is the page black? (If the page is blank, it will be skipped and you will be taken to the next page.) b) Does this page have text? (This meaning text, images with text, tables, page numbers, etc.)

6. Then you can begin transcribing!! Here are a few tips for transcribing:

  • Transcribe exactly what you see
  • Use [Image(s)] to indicate if there is image or images
  • Hand-drawn or illustrations should be treated as text rather than images
  • Transcribe captions or image titles
  • Do not transcribe text found on clothing, pennants, sings, or other sources within the image.

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(Here is a view of the transcription Page)

7.Once completed you can review the text and then submit the page

8.Repeat the steps to transcribe more ISU moments!

If you need more help you can find an interactive tutorial, examples and printable instructions on the ISU Library Guide Page: http://instr.iastate.libguides.com/transcribe or feel free to contact us at any time at: digital@iastate.edu.

Good luck and happy transcribing!!

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One of the items that was used for the current Special Collections and University Archives ISU Pammel Court exhibit (designed by the History 481x class) is this little book. For the exhibit they wanted to show both the cover and one of the interior pages displayed as one piece.

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With a quick sketch I came up with this:

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I then had to think about how to hold the book up so it didn’t slide off the display wedge.

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And then I had to figure out the dimensions….hmmmm…..

I drew out the 45 degree template and put the spine of the book along the diagonal. I went up about ¾ of the way and dropped a line down to the base. That gave me the measurements for the angled front piece, the back and the base.

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I extended the base measurement out to make the lip that holds the book.

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Then transferred all those measurements to a scrap piece of scrap board. Base, front, back, base with extension, face for book stop wedge, the piece the book will rest against, and the inner base to tape down.

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I took those measurements and laid them out on the mat board and scored the lines about ¾ of the way through on what will be the bottom side of the base and added a piece of double stick tape to hold the book stop and inner base to the larger base.

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And removed the little bit that wasn’t needed.

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Double stick tape was used to hold the lip and the bottom pieces of the book support together after the book stop had already been folded and taped down.

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This is what the final piece looked like from the side…

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and from the front with a copy of the selected page.

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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.

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:

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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.

One of the best things about being a conservator is learning new treatment methods and materials. This allows you to expand your knowledge and develop preferences. During my time as a Lennox Intern, I have had the chance to broaden my skills by learning three new treatment methods.

The first new treatment I learned is the re-adhering of flaking emulsion on glass plate negatives. Working with a small brush and in small increments, I brushed a 5% solution of gelatin in deionized water on the glass, and then gently pressed the emulsion to the glass. In theory, this is a fairly straightforward treatment. In practice, it proved to be difficult. The emulsion is highly reactive to moisture. Thus, when coming in contact with the gelatin adhesive, it behaved erratically. It was difficult to re-adhere the pieces of emulsion seamlessly, resulting in space between two pieces of emulsion. The end results are not perfect visually, but the emulsion is now adhered well to the glass, reducing any risks of losing any delaminated pieces.

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A section of emulsion before and after re-adhesion.

Brushing on the gelatin solution.

Brushing on the gelatin solution.

The second new treatment I learned is the re-building of board corners, a technique often done on books which have corners that have snapped off. Some of the photographs in the Van Zandt collection (read my previous post on this collection here) are adhered to backing boards. This was typically done at the photography studio, and all of the backing boards have inscriptions. This means that removing the board would remove historic information, and as a result, repair of the boards with snapped corners was our chosen treatment method. Melissa taught me two ways of building up boards: (1) delaminating layers of archival board until it is the right thickness; and (2) adhering archival board and paper together to build up the right thickness. Then, the newly-made board corners are split and pared, the object’s backing board is split, and they are fit together. I found this to be a fun process, and enjoyed learning a bit about book conservation techniques.

A board edge made of archival board being fitted into the backing board of a photograph.

A board edge made of archival board being fitted into the backing board of a photograph.

The final new treatment method I will discuss is the use of TekWipe during the washing of a panoramic photograph, which had a significant tideline. I thought this would be a great opportunity to test out a new-to-me material, using the open blotter sandwich method. My set up for this open sandwich was, starting from the bottom: a sheet of Mylar, blotter, wet TekWipe, the object (recto-side up), Photo-Tex tissue, and Plexi. This method meant that the soluble degradation materials would move downward into the absorbent TekWipe. In the end, only a small amount of discoloration moved into the TekWipe, which did not result in much of a visual change in the object, but I did appreciate the opportunity to work with this material.

The panoramic photograph removed from the TekWipe, which shows some discoloration that has leeched out of the photograph.

The panoramic photograph removed from the TekWipe, which shows some discoloration that has leeched out of the photograph.

The opportunity to try out new techniques is incredibly valuable, and I am excited for future learning possibilities as my time at ISU comes to an end and I move on to the next position. If you’d like to keep up to date with my future conservation endeavors, please feel free to follow me on Twitter or have a look at my blog.

As I reach the end of my internship, I would like to share a brief description of some of the projects I have worked on during the last three months as well as some personal observations.  Two of the film projects I addressed were the re-housing of the Alexander Lippisch Films Collection and the condition assessment of the general Film Collection located in the film vaults. For my first task involving the Lippisch Films, the goal and workflow were quite straightforward. The majority of the 306 films (in most cases roughly 100 ft.) were stored in their original metal cans or cardboard boxes. They were also in their original reels, which was often a Tenite reel that had decomposed, covering the film with a white powder. Finally, they were stored in groups of approximately 20 objects per box inside large, archival boxes.

A decomposed Tenite reel.

A decomposed Tenite reel.

My work with this collection consisted in transferring all films from their original plastic or metal reels into 3-inch plastic cores. This is the best way to keep film, because it avoids the potentially damaging pressure that a reel might produce, and it also prevents the extreme curling that is caused by 2-inch cores. In addition, protective head and tail leaders were added to all films and then stored in adequate 16mm archival plastic cans.

The Lippisch Films in their original reels.

The Lippisch Films in their original reels.

The Lippisch Films transferred into 3-inch cores and re-housed.

The Lippisch Films transferred into 3-inch cores and re-housed.

Even though I didn’t have the time to thoroughly inspect, clean and repair all films, I was able to provide them with minimal stabilization and remove as much non-archival tape as I could. The tape had damaged the adjacent areas, producing stains, silver mirroring and other chemical reactions.

Film had been secured with non archival tape

Film had been secured with non archival tape.

Tape being removed. The tape has damaged the emulsion.

Tape being removed. The tape has damaged the emulsion.

Finally, a selection of films was prepared for digitization. The digitization projects currently being carried out at Special Collections have access purposes only. This means that the image quality of the files produced is good enough for research and access but does not meet the standards of long-term digital preservation.

Another issue I addressed was testing the decomposition level of the acetate films. Since its inception, motion picture film has been manufactured with three different plastic bases. The first utilized base was cellulose nitrate, discontinued around 1951 due to its extremely high flammability. Nitrate was eventually replaced by cellulose acetate which is still being used today. The third, polyester, also continues to be used, particularly for theatrical release prints. Unfortunately, acetate has proven to be chemically unstable and is prone to chemical decay, especially when it is not stored in the appropriate conditions of temperature and relative humidity (40 Fº and 30-50% RH). This type of decomposition is known as vinegar syndrome, in reference to the strong odor produced by acidic gases liberated by the decaying films.
The Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology developed an important tool, A-D Strips, which helps determine the extent of chemical decay in acetate-based collections. This is achieved through the use of indicator papers that measure the pH in films. During my internship, I tested the collection with the help of students and Special Collections staff. The results and the data collected will allow us to understand how the chemical condition of the collection evolved and decide what are the most urgent actions to be carried out within a thorough preservation plan.

A film without noticeable physical changes. Before re-housing.

A film without noticeable physical changes. Before re-housing.

Severely decayed film.

Severely decayed film.

In summation, I would like to share some thoughts about my experience as a film preservationist who learned some paper conservation techniques, and worked for three months in a paper-based environment. Most of the differences that I perceived derive most likely from the fact that audiovisual objects are machine-dependent, as opposed to books or paper documents. This means that in order to “read” a movie or sound record a machine is needed (i.e. projector, deck, computer, etc.). This main difference with paper is reflected in the conservation treatments that the materials need in order to be preserved. With books and paper, we work on the object to make it readable and agreeable for immediate contact with our eyes. With films, we work on preparing the object to be read or processed by a machine. Anyone who works in the field of conservation understands the importance of preserving our cultural heritage in its varying facets, from the intimate value of a family photograph to those works that are considered national patrimony, or even world heritage. I am pleased to have collaborated with Iowa State University in saving valuable audiovisual documents that are part of its identity as an institution and a community.

 

72ppi-GW-photocons-materialsThanks to generous support from ISU Library’s staff development funds, I recently attended Gawain Weaver and Jennifer Olsen’s Photograph Conservation Workshop for Book and Paper Conservators, hosted by Head of Conservation Beth Doyle and her team at the Duke University Libraries Conservation Department.

Duke University proved to be a wonderful workshop location, boasting a spacious conservation lab, beautifully landscaped campus, sunny weather (after that first day of rainstorms!), and lots of great eateries.

A few years ago, ISU Library hosted one of Gawain Weaver’s excellent Care and Identification of Photographs Workshops, so my expectations were pretty high for this week of study. Gawain and Jennifer did not disappoint: they came armed with an impressive arsenal of photographic materials for us to experiment on, as well as tools, specialized equipment, chemicals, and resource materials.  I appreciated their balanced approach, which included some instruction in the history of photography, the chemistry of photographic print processes and their deterioration, broad trends in the fine art photography market, the ethics of treating photographic materials, and — of course — plenty of hands-on treatment activities.

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Jennifer Olsen demonstrates filling and inpainting techniques on an albumen print.

Our group of twelve workshop participants hailed from all over the U.S., and represented institutional labs, regional conservation centers, and private practices. The workshop targets “mid-career” book and paper conservators, and assumes a solid knowledge base in paper conservation techniques.

 

Clara Ines Rojas Sebesta monitors photographs in a solvent bath under the fume hood (left). Testing methods for removing silver mirroring, including solvent-dampened swabs (right).

Clara Ines Rojas Sebesta monitors photographs in a solvent bath under the fume hood (left). Testing methods for removing silver mirroring, including solvent-dampened swabs (right).

Our hands-on instruction included some controversial “don’t try this at home” demos to impress upon us the irreversible and extreme repercussions of some types of chemical treatments, followed by dry and wet cleaning methods, silver mirroring removal techniques, separation of photographs stuck to glass, and tape removal.  We also learned to mount and unmount photographs with various types of drymount and various mechanical, heat-based, and solvent-based techniques. We practiced resin fills on albumen prints, and inpainted with watercolors. Throughout it all, Gawain and Jennifer were on hand to discuss our questions and concerns, encourage us, and share stories of their real-life photograph conservation successes and challenges.

(Left to right:) Gawain Weaver, Jennifer Olsen, and Beth Doyle.

(Left to right:) Gawain Weaver, Jennifer Olsen, and Beth Doyle.

Four days, thirty-plus pages of lecture notes, and countless hours of hands-on practice later, I will certainly not be putting any photograph conservators out of business.  On the contrary, I believe my fellow participants and I all left with a healthy respect for the risks and challenges particular to photograph conservation. Even so, I’m grateful to have spent the week in the company of talented and generous colleagues, and to have acquired some new skills and resources to help me more judiciously care for the photographs in our collections at ISU Library.

Inpainting resin fills on albument prints.

Inpainting resin fills on albumen prints.

Visit Preservation Underground to read Beth Doyle’s summary of the workshop from the perspective of the host institution.

 

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