Collaboration


Left: A 4-H knit cap. Center: Iowa State Can Koozie. Right: a stereoscope with two images mounted on board.

The Artifact Collection

Organizing storage has always been a problem for museums, libraries, and archives. Space is limited and comes at a premium. Housing and archival practices must be sustainable for the collection to remain within the limits of its designated space in an organized, coherent fashion. Pressed by this need for such a prized commodity, staff are even undertaking a massive transfer of books from the general collection stacks in Parks library to an off-site storage facility. It is imperative to revise current practices for the artifacts storage area in order to provide an efficient framework for the future.

The artifact collection is no small deal. There are over 4,000 objects in the special collections storage space. These range from the typical swag bracelet you might get at an engineering college event to signed Greek Life paddles from the second half of the 20th century to surveying equipment used in the construction of Iowa State College in 1858. There is quite a range of both types of artifacts and sources. Items began being accessioned as far back as 1993—nearly 30 years!

The artifacts in the special collections stacks.

Artifact overflow on the map cases.

The artifacts occupy two aisles of rolling stacks, a back wall of stationary shelving, and are sprawled along the tops of map cases in an adjacent aisle. As the rest of the storage space hosts archival and special collections, there is no more room for the artifacts to go. This is not simply a case of having too many artifacts and not enough shelf space: many of the artifacts have been housed improperly, resulting in wasted space both inside the box and out. Small pins have been placed in much larger boxes along with wads of tissue. This tissue often conceals additional artifacts, putting them at risk for loss. Some artifacts are without proper housing or without any housing at all.

Housing Issues. Clockwise from top left: Framed certificate stored without an enclosure. Multiple boxes have made artifacts difficult to retrieve. A small pin housed in a much larger box. Artifacts stored in non-archival housing.

 

A fair few of the artifacts (nearly 300) do not have records in our museum database, Past Perfect, making them impossible to search for and retrieve. These are at high risk for dissociation, one of the ten primary agents of deterioration, as related artifacts are in separate locations, often without proper documentation linking them. This has rendered the purpose of the artifacts—to be utilized by researchers and archivists—null. At the same time, staff with extensive institutional knowledge of the artifact collection have moved on to other positions, taking some of the objects’ origin stories and associations with them.

Our goals with the artifact rehousing project was to provide documentation for all of the artifacts in the collection, and to implement a more sophisticated and effective housing system than the current method of just throwing things onto the shelf in a box.

Buttons and ribbons in box without label tags or protection.

 

Lead Processing Archivist Rosalie Gartner, Head Conservator Sonya Barron, and myself, Assistant Conservator Cynthia Kapteyn examining artifacts during a meeting.

The Process

We began surveying at the beginning of October, 2018 for 1-2 hours a day. This involved examining the item, inferring its place within the collecting scope, and brainstorming ways to categorize them during the rehousing phase. We entered this information into Past Perfect, our museum database software. As the lead on this project, I organized PastperfectLogosurvey times with colleagues and managed the various tasks involved with documenting objects and researching the collection. Additional time was spent outside of survey hours adding photos into the database as some pictures were blurry or dark, and some records did not have photographs. I utilized the project management software to converse with archivists. There we could ask questions about how seemingly arbitrary artifacts fit into our collecting scope by creating a task. I made tasks for items that needed records in the database so archivists could add them. Tasks were also used to note exact duplicates to be considered for possible deaccession by archivists, or flat, paper objects that could be added to their associated archival collections.

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A rusted horseshoe in need of a little TLC (Tender Loving Conservation!).

The main challenge at the beginning of the survey was coming up with housing categories into which we could organize the various objects. Archivists had to come to an agreement about how the objects should be grouped that also satisfied the requirements of preservation and supported ‘browseability’ by staff. In preservation, we wanted to group items by type, and, at a deeper level, subject. For instance, grouping buttons together or textiles together would result in better and more compact housing. Each type of object would then be grouped by subject, such as agriculture or 4-H—two notable collecting areas for the library. This would allow safe, effective and secure storage while supporting archivists’ ability to see a variety of related items at once.

Educational Opportunities

Throughout this process, several resources have been extremely useful. STASHc provides useful solutions to various storage situations, such as this tutorial on hanging rolled storage for oversized objects. We participated in Planning your Re:Org Project, a webinar  that helped us to reconceptualize our storage planning process through worksheets and examples that took us through the processes several institutions went through using the Re:Org method. Free additional workbooks and resources are available on the Re:Org Method page hosted by ICCROM.

 

 

 

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One of two boxes of farm crop identification seed vials.

Looking Forward

We are closing in on the final leg of the survey, after which we must organize the object records into working spreadsheets that can be used to plan the rehousing. This plan will involve calculating for rolled and hanging storage for large flat textiles and garments, and possibly incorporating vertical storage for long, thin items like surveying rulers, canes, and flat, obtuse objects such as muskrat skin stretchers.

And now for some highlights from our artifact collection…

 

4-H Dress and pins. Date of origin unknown according to donor paperwork.

 

 

 

De Vry 35MM Film Projector found in the stacks with reel still inside. Our AV and Film Preservation Specialist, Rosie Rowe, identified the film as Kodak Safety acetate.

 

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 Dr. George Washington Carver, educated in agricultural sciences at Iowa State College, was more than just a researcher and producer of peanut products. He also studied dyes and pigments. See this article by ISU professor in textiles and clothing Eulanda Sanders, and ISU alumni PhD candidate Chanmi Hwang for more information.

 

Be sure to check out a great blog post by staff in Special Collections for more neat 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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There’s still time to participate in the Preservation Statistics Survey. This is the third year this survey is being made available and we would like to increase participation to gather data that shows how preservation activities are expanding and still an essential function of research libraries and archives. Any library or archives in the United States conducting preservation activities is encouraged to participate in this survey, which is open through Friday, February 27, 2015.

For more information, visit the Preservation Statistics website:  http://www.ala.org/alcts/resources/preservation/presstats
FY2013-infographic-loFY2014 Survey questions focus on production-based preservation activities, documenting your institution’s conservation treatment, general preservation activities, preservation reformatting and digitization, and digital preservation and digital asset management activities.
The goal of the Preservation Statistics Survey, now in its third year, is to document the state of preservation activities in this digital era via quantitative data that facilitates peer comparison and tracking changes in the preservation and conservation fields over time. The Survey, a project of the Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS) of the Association of Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), is based on the Preservation Statistics survey program coordinated by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) from 1984 through 2008.

Why should your institution participate in the FY2014 Preservation Statistics Survey?

* The FY2014 Survey is significantly shorter than previous years, asking only for production data — information you already have for annual reporting or other internal planning and evaluation

* Preservation Statistics data helps you and the wider preservation community advocate for preservation programming and activities, demonstrating how programs compare to peers as well as areas of strength and need

* Your participation can help us achieve a representative body of preservation programs, which means better analysis and examination of trends in preservation programming.  To continue the Preservation Statistics Project, we need seventy-five institutions to respond to this FY14 survey

Participate today — count what you do and show preservation counts! #doyoucount

Please contact the Preservation Statistics Survey team with any questions or feedback: preservationstatistics@gmail.com

Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/preservationstatistics

 

 

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It has been a wonderful year in the ISU Library Conservation Lab. We’re grateful for the coworkers, interns, and students who helped make this a productive year, and are looking forward to another fresh start in 2015 (after a well-deserved break, of course).  We wish you all a very happy holiday season!

 

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.

 

1091map1As our regular readers know, the 1091 Project is a collaboration between Iowa State University Library and our conservation colleagues at Duke University Libraries. Well, this week, thanks to Kevin Driedger of the Library of Michigan, we have been participating in the 5 Days of Preservation project, a week-long collaboration among preservation professionals and institutions across the nation.  Kevin’s idea was simple but powerful: use social media to post a photo each day for five days of whatever preservation looks like for you that day.  Kevin then collected all those posted images in one place, the 5 Days of Preservation Tumblr blog. The collected photos showcase an impressive range of preservation activities that really illustrate the rich diversity of our  field.  So, this week, I encourage you not only to pop over to Preservation Underground for their 1091 post, but also to check out #5DaysOfPreservation, via Tumblr, Facebook, and/or Twitter. And kudos to Kevin for a fun and informative project!

Here is a quick recap of our ISU Library Conservation Lab posts for the week:

 

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MONDAY: Preservation looked like this humidified and flattened Depression-era letter.

 

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TUESDAY: Preservation looked like our student employee, Nicole, repairing books from the General Collection.

 

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WEDNESDAY: Preservation looked like professional photography lamps set up in front of our magnetic wall for imaging large-format architectural drawings.

 

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THURSDAY: Preservation looked like committee work for the AIC Sustainability Committee. Melissa and her fellow committee members are performing their annual link maintenance this month on the sustainability pages of the AIC Conservation Wiki.

 

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FRIDAY: Preservation looked like Preservation Assistant Mindy working on the departmental budget (a *very* important part of preservation indeed!)

The above letters (SOS ICPC) may not mean much to most people, but for those in the Iowa library world of preservation and conservation, they mean an opportunity to listen, learn, tour, and mingle with other library colleagues.  The 2014 SOS ICPC (the annual “Save Our Stuff” conference of the Iowa Conservation & Preservation Consortium) was held at the University of Iowa’s Main Library on June 6th.

A couple of the topics and workshops piqued my interest, so I decided to attend this year along with my ISU Library colleagues, Hilary Seo, Head of Preservation, and Whitney Olthoff, Project Archivist.

Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason and Janet Weaver.

Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason and Janet Weaver.

The Keynote Speaker was John Doershuk, State Archaeologist and Director, Office of the State Archaeologist, who discussed recent archaeological finds on the University of Iowa campus.  The University of Iowa is still making adjustments to their campus after major flooding in June 2008 and recently unearthed beads, glassware, and other artifacts of interest. They are planning upcoming future digs as well.

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Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason (far right image, center) and Janet Weaver (far right image, left).

Afterwards I went to the Iowa Women’s Archives for Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason, Curator, and Janet Weaver, Assistant Curator.  They had several interesting items to look at for housing ideas, but I was really interested in the boxing of those special items crafted by the University of Iowa’s Conservation Lab and the interesting ways their boxes accommodated them.  Kären sounded very happy to have a great team working in the Conservation Lab to come up with and construct some creative boxing ideas.

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Taxidermy Care & Cleaning with Cindy Opitz.

Next I headed to the Special Collections Classroom for Taxidermy Care & Cleaning by Cindy Opitz, Collections Manager, UI Museum of Natural History.  Cindy explained how to be cost efficient and make your own Q-tips as you can go through so many of them when cleaning exhibits.  She demonstrated the proper cleaning and low speed vacuuming techniques using brushes and screens.  It was amazing how much dirt came off of our bird specimens with our Q-tips.

Taxidermy Care & Cleaning by Cindy Opitz. The birds at top are the piece I worked on.

Taxidermy Care & Cleaning by Cindy Opitz. The birds at top are the piece I worked on.

Lastly I attended Making Custom Exhibition Supports by Bill Voss, Conservation Technician, and Brenna Campbell, Assistant Conservator, UI Libraries.  Bill demonstrated making custom mounts using his bare hands using Vivak (an alternative to thin Plexiglas), and Brenna showed us the uses of polyethylene strapping and J-Lar tape in securely holding book pages open for exhibit.

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Making Custom Exhibition Supports with Bill Voss and Brenna Campbell.

I came away with many new ideas on boxing techniques, custom exhibit supports, and cleaning taxidermy if the need be.

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