Collections


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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Football is a historic tradition at Iowa State and I recently finished a project scanning football programs that range from the early 1900s to the 2010s.

I was able to use our new book edge scanner that made scanning the bound programs easy and gave us a great image. It was been an enjoyable project to see the evolution of these programs over time. From the type of paper used to make the program to the graphic design of the program, many things have changed in football programs over the last 80 years or so. There’s a lot of information shown in these programs beyond just football. While I did get to observe changes in coaching staff and players in the football programs, I also observed a lot of the growth on Iowa State’s campus. By digitizing these programs, I hope that others will be able to observe and appreciate these changes as well. Digitizing these programs is important because there may come a day where programs only exist in the digital form. If paper copies no longer exist, the physical copies we have from the past will become a rare item that will have preserved the information presented in them as well as the traditions they represent at Iowa State.

 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!

Just recently we received six volumes of the Ms. Marvel comics. These are an interesting addition to the collection here at Parks Library. It isn’t often that we receive comics like these, but there is a small collection of comics located at Parks. These six comics have been treated with a shield bind to help protect the books on the shelves.

The Superhero genera of comic books is always an interesting read. In this new series Ms. Marvel is a superhero from a new age, and the books themselves are an interesting read. Their art has a healthy amount of silly and seriousness, making the volumes a good light hearted read.

The usefulness of keeping these volumes around is often times not known. Since Iowa State has a very well-known Design college, and comics are a form a literature, multiple colleges on campus benefit from keeping up a modern collection to help students learn and understand the current techniques.

 

Sitting down in front of a computer and scanning pages one by one for hours at a time might not sound appealing, but I find it so interesting to be able to work on a project that allows these special materials to be viewed safely by many people. Recently, I have been working on a scanning project of materials from Hortense Butler Heywood. Heywood was an Iowa native who studied entomology and supported the women’s suffrage movement. A lot of the items I have seen from Heywood’s collection are personal letters, and quite a few of these letters that have small sketches on them. It’s a pretty cool aspect, because even though I will never meet Heywood, I can still see her personality come to life on paper.

It’s also fascinating to make connections with the authors of these historical items. Earlier this semester, I worked on a Pammel Court project, which happened to be where my grandparents lived while my grandpa was going to school at Iowa State. With this project, I found out that Heywood was a teacher for a couple years in Peterson, Iowa, which is where my dad grew up. Finding these little connections makes my work feel so much more personal and makes what can be mind-numbing work more enjoyable.

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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You never know what you are going to get. As an artist myself I can appreciate art books and books with unique characteristics but let me tell you that when they enter the lab we usually groan. These books are often neat and unique and creative but more often than not they just don’t hold up well. Take for instance the most recent one to enter the lab – and funny, check out the title.

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This book looked fine on the outside but when we opened it we realized the cover of this book had separated itself from the text block. A fairly easy fix by our technician and she also constructed a box for it to give it some protection since this item will be in our general collection and may get used a fair amount.

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Curious if you see items like this in your repair work and how you feel about them.

 

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