Emilie Duncan


My two short months as the 2017 Lennox intern in the preservation lab have quickly come to an end! Even though it feels like I just started yesterday, I have had the opportunity to participate in so many projects in the lab which allowed me to stretch myself and exercise skills in many different areas. Here are a couple of the highlights:

One of my treatment projects was working on two WWI photographs with major losses.

For reference I used Victoria Binder’s article in Topics in Photographic Preservation entitled ‘Digital Fills for Photographs with Glossy Surfaces’

Ex-servicemen working on engines, before and after treatmentThese two silver gelatin photographs showing ISU’s part in post-war rehabilitation of WWI veterans were selected as part of a group of objects which will be shown in an upcoming exhibit by Special Collections/University Archives. Since the photographs will be on display, the large losses to the image area were determined to be distracting for the overall interpretation. I used Adobe Photoshop and a digital image of the photograph to create a fill for each loss that matched the surrounding image area.

Beekeeping, before and after treatment

Each fill was then printed out on glossy photo paper, which gave it a shiny finish that matched the original photograph nearly perfectly, a feature that is very difficult to reproduce manually with traditional materials. Another great feature of creating fills this way is that the color and exposure can be manipulated quickly and easily to match the original photograph exactly, cutting out a lengthy inpainting and color-matching process. One thing to be careful of while making digital fills, which was discussed at length with the curator beforehand, is that the recreation of lost information can easily go too far, verging on suggesting imagery that may not have existed. Therefore, the fills are very nondescript, focusing on light-dark contrast and overall texture instead of completion of objects or figures.

Another great blog post, “Digital Fills to the Rescue” by Rachel Pennimen, can be found on Duke University Libraries blog Preservation Underground.

Throughout my time here Sonya was working on updating the library-wide disaster response and recovery plan. These plans are a crucial part of the institutional planning, and can help significantly reduce response time and overall damage to the collections in the case of an emergency such as a flood or fire. I helped with the updating process by making sure vendor contact information was current, filling in missing sections, and sifting through extant and potential format options to pull useful information and organization ideas and put them together into a streamlined, yet thorough, plan.

Sonya and archivist Laura Sullivan recording information about priority collections in the stacks

One step toward a helpful disaster plan is identifying collection priorities, both in terms of value and sensitivity. To this end, Sonya and I did walkthroughs of Special Collections stacks with the curators to pick out certain items or collections that were especially important to the University. Knowing this information and the inherent sensitivity of the materials in the stacks can help pinpoint objects that should be salvaged first in the event of an emergency. This project taught me a lot about how disaster plans are actually built and are meant to function within a large institution like ISU Library.

My time at ISU was  busy! But I am so happy with all that I learned and accomplished over these two months, and know I will put that experience to good use in my upcoming projects!

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This program for the ISU vs. University of Minnesota football game, held on October 24, 1896, has seen better days. After being used as a scorecard, presumably by a fan who attended the game, rolled up (possibly by the same nervous fan), nibbled on by insects, and hastily put back together with two separate campaigns of pressure-sensitive tape, this object has finally arrived at the Preservation Lab for treatment prior to digitization.

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Back cover with notations

The treatment involves removing the tape holding the covers and leaves together and then reassembling the fragments and mending with tissue and wheat starch paste. The tape removal has been tricky so far, accounting for the majority of the treatment hours. Since there are two different types of tape, the ideal method for removing the carrier and reducing the adhesive residue has to be found separately for each kind.

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Removing the plastic tape carrier with a heated spatula.

The plastic carrier is removed using heat (or peeled straight off, if the adhesive is degraded enough), and then the remaining adhesive is removed from the surface of the paper using a combination of erasers, heat, and mechanical reduction using a scalpel blade. In some cases, the staining from the tape adhesive can be removed with solvents. For this archival object, however, the aesthetic outcome of the treatment is less important than the physical stabilization, and the staining will be left untreated.

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Emilie working on a few pages at a time

It was hoped that the booklet could be reassembled after mending, but it appears the individual leaves are too fragile for that level of manipulation and will be individually encapsulated in polyester sleeves.

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Encapsulated pages in a 4-flap enclosure

This program is one of hundreds in the University Archives’ ISU Dept. of Athletics Football collection that have been digitized for public viewing online. Early films of ISU football games will be showcased at a tailgating event, hosted by Special Collections and University Archives at the November 11th football game with Oklahoma State. Visitors to the library’s tent will be able to view objects from the collections, such as football programs from years past, banners, buttons, commemorative beanie hats and early photographs and learn more about the history of the University and the Athletic Department.

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During treatment: group photo of the 1896 team from the football program

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From the University Archives: image of the 1895 football team

 

 On August 8, Sonya and I attended a staff tour of the Library Storage Building (LSB) here at ISU. The offsite storage building holds mostly general collections, with a small number of lower use or larger size special collections items. The tour was a sort of “after” view of the building and storage area, although I was not here to see the “before” tour. The building had been having environmental control issues from leaks in the roof to non-functioning HVAC. “Before” pictures hanging on the wall showed how the staff had to deal with these problems with large tarps and hoses to catch and drain the water away from the collections materials and the electronics powering the compact shelving. After extensive work and repairs including a brand-new roof and HVAC system, the collections storage area now looks amazing!

It was so interesting to hear about the activities that go on behind the scenes at the LSB every day, including interlibrary loans, shelving and organizing newly arrived collections, and working to maintain order of the materials so they can be accessed easily for library users. One interesting thing that I came away with from the tour was just how much environmental control issues can affect workflows. As a conservator, my mind is always on the collections and the impact of inappropriate temperature and humidity on the physical materials. However, the leaks and other problems causes huge problems for the staff as well, who had to wear headlamps at one point just to do their jobs!

Another highlight of the tour was seeing some of the amazing collection materials on display, including trade catalogs with dyed fabric swatches, still vibrant because of the protection from light, as well as some beautiful atlases and architectural sketchbooks. So, go and explore the online catalog, because you never know what treasures are hiding in the LSB!

 

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At the bench

Hi! My name is Emilie Duncan, and I am the 2017 Lennox conservation intern. I come to Iowa from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), by way of Charlottesville, Virginia, where I just completed my third year internship at the University of Virginia Library. Although technically I do not graduate with my Library and Archival Materials Conservation degree until later in August, the completion of my internship year is a major achievement and I am viewing this internship at ISU as my first post-graduate professional position. I was drawn to this internship because of the collections here at Parks Library, which include a wide range of archival materials, rare books, and objects. I studied Historic Preservation in undergrad, and from this gained an interest in historical objects of use as well as architectural and technical drawings. This internship will allow me to gain additional experience with these types of materials in an academic library setting.

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Reviewing materials for a library exhibit with an online component

I am just getting started here at ISU, but I already have several treatment and non-treatment projects going, which I will be writing about in future posts. Part of my learning experience here will be simply understanding how the lab works and how the workflows are adapted to the specific collections and user population at Iowa State. By comparing and contrasting this information with other conservation labs I have worked in and will work in, I can gain insight that will help me make the most of my environments in the future.

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First treatment, generated by a patron’s digitization order

I am really looking forward to settling into the flow of the lab and exploring campus and beautiful Ames (although I will admit I am glad I won’t be here to experience an Iowan winter!) You will hear from me again soon!