Enclosures


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!

Recently, our Lennox Foundation Intern Cynthia Kapteyn  finished working with  conservator Sonya Barron to create a portfolio for a Periodic Table found here on campus. Dr. Wolfgang Kliemann, a member of the Mathematics Department at ISU, requested that the Periodic Table be repaired and preserved so that he could use it in lectures and  demonstrations.

The Periodic Table was made by W. M. Welch Manufacturing Company in 1956.  The print  was found rolled up and stuck deep in a closet in the Ames Lab facility. It had been stored there for many years after being removed from its hanging place on the wall of Gillman Hall’s main lecture auditorium. The heavy weight paper of the print had turned brittle. The print had sustained moisture damage at some point in it’s lifetime and had a few major tears. When measured, it turned out to be H 41 ¼ in x W 57 ¾ inches. Sonya and Cynthia knew that whatever they created to house the table, it was going to have to be large.

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Lennox Foundation Intern Cynthia Katepyn, ISU conservator Sonya Barron, and Dr. Wolfgang Kliemann with the Periodic Table.

With Sonya’s input, Cynthia got to work building a portfolio that would not only house the Periodic Table, but would also work as a display support when Dr. Kliemann was using it during show-and-tells. The table was humidified and flattened and the tears were mended with a heavy-weight Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. Once the piece was repaired, hinges were adhered with paste to the reverse side.  These Japanese paper hinges were used to attach the Periodic Table to the portfolio that Cynthia had created.

The portfolio needed to be light enough to carry with ease but still sturdy enough to protect the Periodic Table from future damage. Archival foam core boards, book cloth and cloth sewingse tape were used to create a portfolio that would open and close safely for storage and display.

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Once the frame was constructed, lightweight handles and dust flaps were added. With the handles, the portfolio could be carried from location to location without the worry of needing extra help to move the large piece. After all the work was completed, Sonya and Cynthia delivered the periodic table to Dr. Kliemann, who now has it in his office in Catt Hall.

While working on this blog piece, Sonya thought it might be fun to include some photos of Gilman Hall during the era, during which the periodic table would have been in use! Cynthia found the photo below, and while we thought that we hit the jackpot and found a picture of the actual periodic table, we later realized that there is a slight difference between the lower right hand corners of the tables. However, they are very similar and it is still definitely a cool find!

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Gilman hall, 1961. Photo from Special Collections and University Archives RS 13/6/F, M Box 1053

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

 

Talking to design students about conservation of special collections

Talking to design students about conservation of special collections

A couple of months ago I hosted a tour for a College of Design class, which focused on binding and printing  design in the context of current publishing practices. Preparing for this tour prompted our technician Mindy and myself to seek out contemporary binding structures from our general collections that present preservation challenges for library professionals.

Most of these items ended up being art books. Because of innovations in the realm of  publishing, many coffee table books now feature all kinds of fancy bells and whistles, going for a unique look with an element of surprise. There is a tendency to deconstruct the traditional book form.  What that means for us here in the Preservation Department is: ENCLOSURES! These unconventional bindings and textblocks require an extra level of protection for a variety of reasons. Dear reader, behold the art book medley!

Colibri Jackets – why do we need them?
Colibri

1. The spine of a book needs all the protection it can get.
2. Fabrics and 3D elements can rub against other books on the shelf.
3. Loosely associated items: a sticky note serves as a title label.
4. Exposed board edges will delaminate extra quickly.

Boxes and pockets

Boxes_Pockets

1. Some binding structures are inherently vulnerable to handling. A 4-flap made from a lightweight board, also called a tux box, will do just fine for this delicate binding.
2. & 3.  Security is important: enclosures can help keep small desirable items from walking off the shelf.
4. The artist print that comes included with this monograph is larger than the book.
This sturdy 4-flap, called a phase box, had to be retrofitted with a spacer to keep the two items from shifting around inside.

And sometimes…
Books come to us with their own boxes, and they need a little help. Here are three examples of that, clockwise from left to right:

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  1. A collection of vintage recipes in its original box packaging. The lid of the box got ripped off. It was later hinged back on with a strip of matching book cloth.
  2. Inside the Tide box there is a soft cover paperback book. The box was not as secure as we would have liked. In addition, the ingenious colorful box  presents a real temptation for a library user to take it home. So the book got an additional clamshell box (a nice boring gray).
  3. The multiple small books contained in the tan cloth box are all identified by the same bar code, pasted onto the side of the box. There are no volume numbers present. So, each individual book within the box got its own label, even though they all say the same thing. This way the books can be better tracked if one of them gets lost.

If you see me sitting at my bench in the Preservation Lab just staring off into space, I am not daydreaming but thinking about how to tackle a work related project. Sometimes I’m jotting down notes, drawing a sketch, or making a mock item but it all pertains to book repair and box making.  We sometimes receive unique items here in the Preservation Department and then must come up with creative ways to fix or house them in protective boxes.  Below shows three mini books titled Laozi Qi Shu Qi Ren along with a laminated picture card and they are to be housed in the Cage Miniature section of the Parks Library.

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I decided to use three layers of ¼” Ethafoam, 3M double stick tape, ½” gray linen tape, and grey-white barrier board to construct a phase box with foam support for the mini books and card. The reason for the three layers of Ethafoam is because one book was much thicker than the other two along with the think laminated card and the linen tape underneath helps to release the mini books from their foam protected pockets.  There was some skill on my part to get everything lined up just right when cutting the Ethafoam with a scalpel and a little fine trimming with a scissors but I am pleased with the end product-all four items housed together in a phase box.

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I recently made a box for an old book titled The Medical and Agricultural Register, For the Years 1806 and 1807.  I like the comment on the title page “designed for the use of families.”  This book was very interesting, not only in its content, but also in what has happened to the book physically over time.

InterestingBook-01

I see that the price of 35 cents had been handwritten in ink inside both the front and back covers.

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Inside there was some moisture damage, foxing, and staining from the oily printing ink, yet the paper quality is in great shape and has a nice “feel” to it.

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This book is still in relatively good condition considering it is over 200 years old, and I can handle it without it crumbling in my hands. This is where I get a little misty-eyed thinking of how cool this book really is.  Books were made better back then with good materials and strong paper, not like the cheap books that are constructed today, which are pricey and will fall apart easily after a little use and abuse.

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What I find most interesting about this book is the information and topics it contains.  “To prevent the fatal Effects of drinking cold Water, or cold Liquors of any kind in warm Weather,”  “Case of Lock-Jaw Successfully treated with Brandy and Opium,” and “To prevent the fatal Effects of Lightning.”  Under the lightning section, it reads:

“When a person is struck by lightning, strip the body and throw buckets full of cold water over it for ten or fifteen minutes; let continued frictions and inflations of the lungs be also practiced:  let gentle shocks of electricity be made to pass through the chest, when a skillful person can be procured to apply it; and apply blisters to the breast.”

The books also contains planting and meteorological tables, cider and pickling recipes, more interesting medical treatments and advice, and the “Bill of Mortality for 1806, in 20 Towns.”  Just a wealth of information in 1806 and 1807 for a very interesting time, but it makes me happy to be alive in 2015.

 

Tux-1

When you see the work “tux” you may think of an expensive, fancy dress suit for a gentleman.  What I think of is a protective, thin box made out of 20 point tan board used to protect a fragile or uniquely structured book.

Tux-2

 

Recently we received a donation of several very old, unique books that need protective enclosures and will be housed in the Cage area.  Tux boxing is usually used on thin books where we cannot make a phase box but also a few of these books are thicker in depth and I still chose to do tux boxing because of space limitations in the Cage.  Using thinner, 20 point boards means more room on the shelves instead of making a phase box or CMI box.  Not all of these tux boxes are heading to the Cage.  One is going to the Library’s Storage Building, which also has space limitations, and another is going to the General Collection shelves and just needs a protective wrapping around it.  Other times I’ve had to make tux boxes for books that have unique or decorative covers that need protection from the books it will sit next to on the shelves. The tux wrap keeps them from rubbing together and getting damaged.

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These are nice little boxes that are easy and quick to make in just a few minutes, and provide great protection for fragile and unique books.  Think of it as a way of “dressing up” a book!

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