Artifacts


Text written by by Cara Stone, Instruction Librarian. Photo captions by Sonya Barron, Collections Conservator.

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Susan Vega Garcia talking to the students in the beginning of the workshop. Susan shared about books in the library that were written by Latinx writers and poets, who have a connection to Iowa.

Library staff had the pleasure of welcoming 4-H students from around the state to ISU for the 2018 4-H Maize Retreat on April 13th. In their time at the University Library, students participated in three different workshops focused on “Telling Your Story.” They worked with Sonya Barron and Susan A. Vega García to learn about preservation and sew their own memory books.

Susan Vega-Garcia offering tips on getting the needle to go into the right sewing hole.

Ana Moreno, student assistant with the Special Collections/University Archives Department, helps an 8th grade student figure out the sewing pattern.

Students hard at work

Rosie Rowe and Harrison W. Inefuku led a workshop where students crafted a story that was meaningful to them and recorded it as an audio snapshot. Rachel Seale and Cara B. Stone focused on visual storytelling in their workshop where students combined pictures, stickers, decorative tape, images from magazines, and polaroid photos to add to their memory book.

The students created the first scrapbook page in their newly constructed memory books. Many of them made their page about the experience they had in the library workshops and the new friends they made.

It was so rewarding to see these students come together from all over Iowa (Marshalltown, Tipton, Muscatine, Des Moines, and Boone, to name a few) and develop new friendships, face challenges (the consensus was that sewing is hard, but the outcomes from the sewing were cool), and gain confidence in sharing their voice and being on a college campus. After their day at the library, the students spent to rest of their weekend at the Clover Woods Camping Center to continue celebrating Latino and Native American heritage, growing as young leaders.

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Hortense Butler Heywood papers and microscope slides, early 1900’s

Hortense Butler Heywood was an entomologist who was also a prolific illustrator. A lot of her work focused on the study of dragonflies. The collection of her papers at Iowa State University Archives includes several dozen microscope slides with samples of dragonfly parts. Below are images of some slides and their extreme-zoom closeups. The slides are in fragile condition and would be tricky to view in the reading room on the light box. Digitizing them made a lot of sense. So we did it! And we loved every minute of it. A link to the complete Heywood digital collection can be found on the bottom of the  Women in Science and Engineering webpage:

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, how did we do it exactly?  My first idea was to use the camera attached to the microscope to generate an image. But, sadly, the picture was too blurry and indistinct. Plan B was to use a light box and our nice Nikon D4 SLR camera on the copy stand. The massive resolution of the image files made it possible to zoom in and see the details of the specimens. Without magnification the samples looked like tiny specs of debris. With magnification they were intriguing and presented a direct link to Ms. Heywood’s illustration work.

Organizing the slides

Making sure the slides are organized and ready to go before reformatting starts.

The photo setup

Positioning the slide so that only a minimum amount of cropping is necessary.

Digital imaging

Shooting raw files, at 600 dpi.

Mindy McCoy is editing in Photoshop

The only alteration to the raw files was to crop the images  and to save them as TIFFs.

Lawrence H. Skromme farming goods catalogs

Another digital  adventure, which promises to be ongoing for a while, is working with a comprehensive collection of ephemera related to farm machinery and equipment. The cards, pamphlets and catalogs  date from mid-1800s to early 1900s. This collection is frequently requested in the reading room by students and professors involved in courses on mechanical engineering, agricultural sciences and history of farming.

Archivists from ISU’s Special Collections have already written some blog posts about the Skromme collection: Ephemera in the Archives and Agricultural Machinery Product Literature.

Party in the front. Butcher & Gibbs Plow Co., Imperial Plows advertisement card, date unknown.

Business in the back. Butcher & Gibbs Plow Co., Imperial Plows advertisement card, date unknown.

Many of the catalogs have been used extensively in the field (literally in the field), folded and stuck into pockets, left in barns and tractors – you get the idea… And keep in mind that the paper they were printed on was never meant to last (ephemera!). Direct physical handling of this stuff basically kills it. So, this large collection was a wonderful candidate for digitization. And what fun it has been to review! See for yourselves…

Powerful lady of multi-tasking. J.M. Childs & Co., Tiger Self Dump Wheel Horse Rake advertisement card, not dated.

This image of a patriotically-clad woman riding a roaring tiger, while also managing to plow, has been very inspiring to me.

Project Management:

Clearly, these objects need to be available online so a large number of people can see them. Working on several concurrent digitization projects requires collaboration, concise and clear communication and tight organization across department lines.  Adopting a project management software tool has really enhanced our efforts.

We use Meister Task to track progress of items as they pass through the Selection-Conservation-Digitization-Metadata pipeline. The software is easy to use and visually pleasing. I will even venture to say that using the interface is somewhat intuitive.

Repairs:

What about numerous conservation repairs that are needed to stabilize the super-fragile and damaged ephemera for digitization? My strategy has been to expedite without cutting corners. Using remoistenable (pre-coated) tissue has helped save time. One benefit is the quick drying time. Another benefit is the ability to use 5 gsm or 3.5 gsm tengucho tissue with ease and expediency. The tissues are pre-coated with a mix of diluted wheat starch paste and 4M methyl cellulose, per handout from the 2009 LCCDG/ACDG session. Most of the paper that needs to be mended in this project is lightweight and fragile, so the thinner tissues are a good fit.

Applying remoistenable tissue mends. C. Altman & Co., Buckeye Annual Catalog, 1889

For  many of the pamphlets, the covers have become detached from the textblocks. Since they will be digitized on the OpticBook book-edge scanner, which also functions as a flatbed scanner, it would not make sense to reattach the pages. The materials are archival and are meant  for study purposes, not for display, so I consider toning fills to be unnecessary.

Not attaching covers to textblocks; not toning fills. Aultman, Miller & Co., Swedish Buckeye Catalog, 1899.

Some of the covers and pages that are detached are also very brittle and have numerous tears. It would take too long to mend them all and the page would still not be stable for handling because of its brittleness. Enclosing a page in a Mylar L-sleeve and calling it a day is an acceptable treatment option because the item can be scanned directly through Mylar.

Enclosing the cover in Mylar after mending significant tears; not mending numerous minor tears. C. Altman & Co., Buckeye Annual Catalog, 1889.

This is one of my favorite, most irresistible images from the Skromme Collection. The artists that worked for these companies were incredibly talented and imaginative.

A cutout advertisement made from thick card stock. Bucher & Gibbs Plow Co,. Imperial Plow advertisement card, not dated.

Plow ink! who would have thought?? Bucher & Gibbs Plow Co,. Imperial Plow advertisement card, not dated.

Preserving history of use:

As I mentioned earlier, certain signs of use are evident when examining the catalogs: fold lines, dirt, water damage, ink stains. But there are other signs as well, which I think of as “signs of life”. They are traces of people who inhabited the world with these paper objects. Even though the traces of personal history are not connected to a famous individual or a specific historic event, the altered paper objects do tell a compelling story about American farm life.

Child adds some embellishments with colored pencils  in the parent’s magazine. Charles H. Childs & Co., Riding Cultivators Catalog, 1892.

The culprit’s signature on the other side of the page. Charles H. Childs & Co., Riding Cultivators Catalog, 1892.

This advertisement booklet had blank pages inside. It was used to write down recipes for baked goods and cakes. A delicious read. Instead of using a book-edge scanner, the pages of the booklet will be photographed with a digital camera on the copy stand. The booklet will be opened and supported at 90 degrees in order to safely keep the nail in place

A page with a recipe is attached to the inside of the pamphlet, using a nail. J.M. Childs & Co., Tiger Self Dump Wheel Horse Rake memorandum book, 1884.

Sometimes  things in life just seem to strangely intersect.  Earlier this summer, the chair of the Library Advisory Committee, Heidi Hohmann, asked me about treating large landscape architecture plans and happened to mention the fact that Iowa State University was starting the first historic preservation program in the state.  This set off some bells in my head since someone else had just mentioned looking for opportunities in historic preservation in the state.  Although it’s not my area of expertise, even though many confuse historic preservation with library and archives preservation, it is an exciting opportunity to have like-minded folks on campus; others who will not ask why we shouldn’t just make or build a new one and who understand that there is information and history in the object itself.

This new program may be coming to campus at just the right time since the university has a wonderful example of its own that showcases why historic preservation is so important.  With some intervention by a not-for-profit organization, ISU is saving a historical structure that was once used as a geology field studies station by ISU students and researchers outside of Shell, WY.  The building was slated for destruction when the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation found out about the plans.   The historical structure is an original barrack used at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center during World War II, located between the towns of Cody and Powell, WY.  ISU acquired it in the late 1940s after the town of Gryebull no longer needed it.

Many of these barracks were sold off by the federal government after the war for $1 each to homesteaders.  Because of this, some of the 450 barracks that were built at Heart Mountain continue to exist today as outbuildings, stores, and houses.  ISU is donating the structure so that it can be returned to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center and used as part of the permanent exhibit.  The Foundation will be responsible for moving the 20 feet wide by 120 feet long barrack the 81 miles back to Heart Mountain.  In addition to being complete, the barrack is a good is candidate for historic preservation since it has had few modifications made to it over the past 70 years.  Another barrack from Heart Mountain was reassembled in Los Angeles next to the Japanese American National Museum in 1994.

Saichi, Suzuyo, and Eddie Seo in front of barrack at Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

Saichi, Suzuyo, and Eddie Seo in front of barrack at Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

For me, this effort is most significant because Heart Mountain is where my family (my grandparents, parents, aunt, and uncles) was incarcerated during the war.  The irony of the photograph above with my grandparents and my father is that my father, an American citizen along with my grandmother, is wearing a Superman sweatshirt.

Ibaraki

My maternal grandfather, Umitaro Ibaraki harvesting tomatoes with Hearth Mountain in the distance. Photo from Northwest College Hinckley Library Special Collections, Ethel Ryan Collection.

My family discovered a photograph of my maternal grandfather working in the fields at Heart Mountain. The photo had been made available online without identifying the man, and my family member provided the name.  A good example of how invaluable it can be to have users identify events, places, and people in photographs.  The photograph is part of the Ethel Ryan Collection which has been made available through their Heart Mountain Digital Preservation Project, which happens to powered by CONTENTdm like ISU Library’s digital collections.  This collection includes documents and photographs focusing on Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

 

It’s that time of year again, when warm spring weather signals the end of classes and brings on graduations.  This week is finals week here at Iowa State University and it will end with commencement ceremonies.  We scanned many of the earliest commencement programs from our archives and made them available online in our Digital Collections. http://cdm16001.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/search/collection/p16001coll27

Over the years, there are a variety of styles of printing and constructing the programs, with one even being held together with yarn.  Besides the programs, some include a list of commencement week activities.  It can be interesting to look back and see how things were done long ago compared to today.  You can see what kinds of music was played, the guest speakers and what they spoke about, and names of graduates and their areas of study.  One program from 1880, shown below, has an entry which reads “Shall We Encourage Irish Immigration” which is an interesting look at how some topics of popular concern have evolved over time.

Here is the front cover of a program from 140 years ago and a page of another program from 1880 tied with yarn.

cover

FlowerEphemera-01

Recently we received a Special Collections brown leather book titled Familiar Lectures on Botany, Practical, Elementary, and Physiological by Mrs. Almira H. Lincoln (1842).  As I was adding this book to our departmental inventory, I noticed a couple of areas with “leafy” items pressed in between some pages.  So, after discussing treatment with our conservator, Melissa Tedone, we agreed that I should note the page numbers where the ephemera was located and encapsulate each item with the Minter welder.

FlowerEphemera-02

Well a “couple of pieces of ephemera later” ended up being 38 items with a lot more documentation and encapsulating on my part.  And if you haven’t worked with dried plant material between two pieces of Mylar and static electricity, you will find it a real challenge. It’s very hard to control the leaves, flowers, and seeds, as they go where they want.  Careful handling on my part with tweezers and a microspatula got them where I wanted them on a backing of University Products Permalife text weight 70# paper, and enclosed between Mylar and welded together.

FlowerEphemera-03

I was very pleased with the finished project and it will be much easier for future visitors to handle and look at the ephemera.  However, I will never say just “a couple” again when referring to ephemera!

FlowerEphemera-04

The main focus of my three months here at ISU is a collection of family documents titled the Van Zandt Family Papers. The collection contains documents from 1838-1990. The Van Zandt family started out in North Carolina, with some members of the family moving to Iowa in the mid-1800s. There are a couple significant portions of the collection: correspondence during the Civil War, during which time members of the family were located in both the North and the South, and correspondence during World War I. The collection contains a variety of objects, including letters, postcards, photographs, and legal documents. The photographs are my main focus. More information about the collection can be found here.

Surface cleaning photographs in an album.

Surface cleaning photographs in an album.

My treatment of this collection is ongoing, but so far, the work I have carried out includes: surface cleaning using a soft brush to remove debris, mending tears and infilling losses on both the photographs themselves and on their backing boards, and removing accretions with a poultice made of methyl cellulose. Some of the work to still be done includes: building up areas of loss on backing boards, repairing bindings on Daguerreotypes, and treating photographic albums.

Using a methyl cellulose poultice to remove an accretion on the recto of a photograph.

Using a methyl cellulose poultice to remove an accretion on the recto of a photograph.

One issue the treatment of this collection has brought up is time management. As the internship only lasts three months, and I have other projects to complete in addition to the Van Zandt Family Papers, I knew I needed a treatment plan which would allow for various stages of completion depending on the amount of time I had available. What I came up with was a way to break down each type of treatment into levels of importance. Once the first level of importance is reached, I can go back and do the next level if time allows. This way, each photograph receives at least enough treatment to ensure its stability.

Before and after tape removal on the top, and an image of my tape removal set up in the fume cupboard.

Before and after tape/adhesive removal on the top, and an image of my tape/adhesive removal set up in the fume cupboard.

My treatment plan looks like this:

Surface cleaning:

  1. Surface clean all photographs, using only a brush (no aqueous treatment) unless otherwise needed.

Mending:

  1. Repair any tears and infill all losses on every photograph, including the backing board. This will give necessary support to areas which need it.

Tape Removal:

  1. Remove any sticky adhesive, leaving carriers as they are. This will prevent the photograph from sticking to its enclosure, potentially causing further damage.
  2. Remove all carriers, and any residue beneath the carriers.

Photo Albums:

  1. Surface clean all photographs in the album, re-adhere any photographs which have failed adhesive, and interleave the pages with photograph-safe paper.
  2. Consider removal of the photograph from the album, especially in albums which have heavily degraded the photographs. One possible solution would be to place each photograph in a Mylar enclosure, and adhere the enclosure to the spot the photograph originally was adhered.
Working on an infill for a missing corner.

Working on an infill for a missing corner.

In addition to learning more about the conservation of photographs, I am learning what it is like to juggle numerous projects with a time restriction. Taking the time to create a treatment plan like the one I have outlined has helped me organize my workflow, and has allowed me to complete the most imperative tasks first. I then have a plan in mind in the event that I have additional time to finish other treatments as well. This is a skillset, in addition to improving my bench skills, which I can carry with me throughout my career as a paper and photographs conservator.

The Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium holds a member meeting and Save Our Stuff (SOS) workshop annually.  This year the University of Iowa Libraries played host because they are celebrating 30 years of collections care.  In her June 10 blog post, Mindy highlighted the wide array of workshops she attended throughout the day including taxidermy.  Here is a little more detail on the Taxidermy Care and Cleaning workshop taught by Cindy Opitz, Collections Manager at University of Iowa’s Museum of Natural History.

photo 6

I have to admit that this is the workshop that intrigued me the most since I know nothing about caring for taxidermy specimens.  Turns out that the biggest takeaway I got from this workshop is that basic care and cleaning of these objects is not unlike textile care and cleaning.  Agents of deterioration and pest management are the same as what we have come to expect for all organic and protein-based materials.  Cindy did remind us that one concern is the presence of arsenic and pesticides and that we should wear personal protective equipment like gloves and masks.

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Supplies for making cotton swabs: skewers and cotton balls.

To start, Cindy had us roll our own cotton swabs to do gentle “enzymatic” (saliva) cleaning of the eyes, beaks, and claws, just gently rolling, not rubbing, the cotton swab over the hard surfaces.

Gentle swabbing of hard surfaces.

Gentle swabbing of hard surfaces.

We next moved onto vacuuming the fur and feathers on the bodies using a Nilfisk canister vacuum with adjustable speeds and micro tool attachments.  For fine dust and more fragile specimens, Cindy recommended vacuuming through a nylon screen.  Again, not unlike cleaning textiles.  A Nilfisk backpack vacuum was also available for us to test out, but the drawbacks of the backpack were significant; it did not have adjustable speeds and it was extremely loud.

Nilfisk backpack vacuum.

Nilfisk backpack vacuum.

Cindy also showed us a more gentle, inexpensive vacuum that we could make ourselves using an aquarium pump, Erlenmeyer flask, rubber stopper, tubing and connectors.

Aquarium-pump microvacuum.

Aquarium-pump micro-vacuum.

To me, the best part about this workshop was just having the chance to hear about something other than book and paper even though the care and cleaning was not as foreign as I thought it would be.  We already have the basic knowledge and skills from the care of other cultural artifacts, but of course, I would still call a conservator if I needed to do anything more difficult.

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