Conservation


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Frame still of ‘The Champion’ with ‘burnt-in’ opening title

When you’re going to digitally preserve a film (or a film series or an entire film collection), the important first step is to gather information on your film. Is your film 16mm, 35mm, 8mm, or 9.5mm, etc.? Is it color or black-and-white? Do you have the original negative, or only a print? Is the magnetic soundtrack available? If you only have an optical soundtrack, is it a negative or the positive? The list goes on – and the information can get pretty granular – but to keep this post simple, I’ll focus on the basics for a single film with an exciting title: The Champion.

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Frame still of ‘The Champion’ A-Roll (16mm Reversal)

The Champion was filmed in 1971 by Jim Doran, a student in the Department of Speech and Telecommunicative Arts at ISU. It features wrestling prodigy Dan Gable, whose wrestling career at ISU produced an impressive 117-1 record. He was also a two-time national champion and a gold medalist in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany. So clearly, The Champion is a significant record for preservation in ISU Special Collections and University Archives.

We found for the picture elements, trims, an edited work print, A-B Rolls, and combined prints. With all the different versions held, how do we pick the best one for preservation?

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Frame still of ‘The Champion’ B-Roll(16MM reversal)

With 16mm reversal film, filmmakers developed the A-B roll negative cutting system. After finalizing the final cut using a workprint they would then cut the master materials into two individual rolls, the ‘A’ roll and the ‘B’ roll. The A-B roll alternates between shots and opaque leader, completely in-sync. This pattern was called ‘checker boarding’. You can (and should) verify that all elements are in-sync by running each film through a gang synchronizer to ensure that the same number of frames are on each element. When you have A-B (and possibly C-D) rolls of 16mm film in your collection, treat them as your master negatives.

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1/4″ final mix sound track under a magnetic viewer with 60 hertz pilot tone

With the soundtrack, you might see optical tracks titled ‘A wind’ and ‘B wind’, a 16mm magtrack (the magnetic track), or a ¼” final mix master magtrack.  I chose to digitize the ¼” final mix master magtrack. There are a variety of reasons to choose the magtrack over the optical track whenever possible, but the most important reason is fidelity. Optical tracks are vulnerable to scratches, dust, and dirt that sound like pops and clicks when they’re transferred. Optical tracks have also been mixed with the Academy Curve in mind, so they contain attenuation of 18 decibels at 8Khz. Not to mention the poor signal to noise ratio, as a result, they don’t have the highest possible sound quality. The ¼” final mix, if it’s available, will be your highest quality soundtrack. The only issue you have to be aware of is sync(pilot tone). Keeping your sound perfectly in-sync with the picture is more difficult than you might think! (But that’s another post.)

So…the end result of scanning the A-B roll and digitizing the 1/4 “final mix soundtrack for The Champion is here. Compare that to our older, SD telecine version here. Hope this brief introduction to A-B roll film preservation was helpful. Cheers.

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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.

Around Iowa State University campus you will see many works of art created by Christian Petersen.  Petersen emigrated from Denmark to the United States at the age of nine with his family.  At Newark Technical School he learned die-cutting, sculpting designs into metal models, and then in 1920 apprenticed with sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson learning the beaux-arts style used in sculptures honoring war heroes.

After the Great Depression under President Franklin D. Roosevelt the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) was created for artists to work on strictly supervised projects for the American Public and he was invited by Grant Wood to come to Iowa State College and worked on two funded projects, the murals for the college library and a fountain for the Dairy Industry Building.  Petersen was Iowa’s PWAP only professional sculptor and was able to make his assignment into permanent employment.  Petersen became one of the best Regionalist artists with works from the 1930s and 1940s embracing the Midwest culture and history.  Christian Petersen was the nation’s first permanent campus artist-in-residence at Iowa State College and taught classes from 1934 through to his retirement in 1955.

Recently I received three archival boxes with Christian Petersen’s sculpting tools and needed to construct one box to house all items.  Chisels, a wooden mallet, a vase, a magnifier, and several Italian Caselli sculpting tools were the items Petersen used to create his sculptures.  I have my own set of Caselli tools I use in fine work at the Preservation Lab but they are nothing compared to the master’s tools.  I constructed a light weight box using corrugated blue board with trays at different levels.

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Today Morrill Hall’s Christian Petersen Art Museum houses his works of art, which can also be found all across the Iowa State University campus.

The end of the year is nearing and things are winding down – oh wait – are they really? For some maybe but for others it is the end of the year push trying to meet deadlines and wrapping things up before the holidays.

How are we wrapping up the year in the ISU Preservation Lab?

Mindy Mc.: Assessing (and removing staples) collections to digitize and wrapping up 2 digital projects.

Mindy Mo.: Getting caught up on general collections repair.

Jim: Making LOTS of wedges and mounts for an upcoming exhibit.

Sonya: Working on the constant flow of Special Collections items coming through the lab.

 

And finally we want to wish Drew well on his graduation! We have had the privilege of having him as a student employee for 3 years! He has had many duties with us and really got to experience preservation as a whole – from working on book repair, doing marking & binding, and working on digitizing numerous collections. We will miss you Drew!

 

From all of us here at the ISU Preservation Lab – Happy Holidays!

 

 

Since I have been working more on artifact rehousing, some of the items I receive are very interesting pieces and I like to do a little investigating on them while making new enclosures.  Recently the 1827 General Geddes Sword  came into my hands looking for a new enclosure.

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James Lorraine Geddes was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 19, 1827 and migrated to Canada in 1837 then returning to Scotland in 1843.  After studying at the British military academy in India and serving he was awarded the title Colonel of the Canadian cavalry.  From there he moved to Vinton, Iowa to farm and teach at a country school.  Upon the start of the Civil War he resigned from school to become a Private (1861) in Company D of the Iowa 8th Infantry the after several promotions to Brevet Brigadier General (1865).  Geddes was a prisoner of the Confederate Army and after release went to Mississippi and Texas then landing in Memphis, Tennessee as he became Provost-Marshall until he resigned from service on June 30, 1865.

Geddes

Geddes returned to Vinton to become Superintendent of the Iowa Institution for the Education of the Blind (1867-1868) then ventured to Iowa Agricultural College (later Iowa State University) as Steward (1870-1882)  and Professor (1871-1883) of Military Tactics and Engineering.  During his time on campus Geddes also served as Acting President (1877-1878), Treasurer (1880-1883), and Treasurer, Records, and Land Agent (1885-1887) until his death February 21, 1887.  Geddes served this university and country well and was respected by many.

Below is General Geddes’ 1827 Sword in its new housing enclosure cradled in protective Volara and now resides in the Special Collections and University Archives at the Parks Library at Iowa State University.

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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!

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

 

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