Historic Preservation


Here are some highlights of what we saw at Preservation Destination 2019!

On Monday our lab’s staff traveled to an event hosted by ICPC (Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium). It’s an annual get-together called Preservation Destination. A large group of us, Iowa preservation professionals, go to a place in Iowa and have behind the scenes tours of as many cultural heritage institutions as we can cram into one day. Here are some of our favorite things that we saw.

From Sonya Barron, Collections Conservator:

From left to right: 1. At the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) theater costume storage. 2. UNI Museum: a storage mount made for a saddle. 3. UNI Archives: The Rural School Collection ledgers

At the Ice House Museum we learned about how ice was preserved. Large blocks of ice were loaded into the barn-like building and stored there until the summer. Layers of saw dust had to be placed in between each ice block so that the blocks didn’t fuse together.

Every winter, the Ice House was filled up with ice to the top of the central beam. The light colored wood boards that you see on the roof show where there roof was repaired. Before the repairs these were holes!

From Cynthia Kapteyn, Assistant Conservator:

In 2008, The Cedar Falls Ice House Museum flooded. It was only inevitable, as the historic building is situated right next to the Cedar River. The disaster resulted in damage to nearly all of the artifacts in the collection, most of which were housed on the ground floor. To this day, the collections manager is still dealing with effects of the flood.

That’s where the water was in 2008.

In the picture above, conservator Sonya Barron is pointing to the spot the water rose to during the flood. To circumvent this issue in the case of a future catastrophe, the floor was raised a foot above the flood line.

From Mindy Moeller, Senior Conservation Assistant:

At the University of Northern Iowa Nathan Arndt, Assistant Director and Chief Curator of the UNI Museum at the Rod Library, gave us a very informative tour.  While at the UNI Museum, I was interested in seeing how they displayed and housed their precious and educational exhibits.  One picture that I took really stuck out in my mind as to how simple it was, easy to do, not costly, and we must use this example for the next time we are housing pins, buttons, or other small objects that can be stored together yet separated and protected. 

Small artifacts between dividers.

At the museum, they used small archival boxes and simply made “ice cube tray-like” dividers with pieces of 1/8” thick Ethafoam.  This idea could be used for any depth of an archival box to keep items apart and still have room for an identifying tag for each object. 

From Jim Wilcox, Conservation Assistant:

The raw material on the left and the mounts on the right.

The UNI Museum’s collections care and mount making room is a space with a large table, where you can work all the way around it and have all the supplies needed at hand. Like the large supply of backer rod you might find at a construction site. Why backer rod? To stabilize objects that are round at the base or nearly so and that could tip over easily. The items then could either be boxed, or stored on open shelving like this.

 

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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!

Sometimes  things in life just seem to strangely intersect.  Earlier this summer, the chair of the Library Advisory Committee, Heidi Hohmann, asked me about treating large landscape architecture plans and happened to mention the fact that Iowa State University was starting the first historic preservation program in the state.  This set off some bells in my head since someone else had just mentioned looking for opportunities in historic preservation in the state.  Although it’s not my area of expertise, even though many confuse historic preservation with library and archives preservation, it is an exciting opportunity to have like-minded folks on campus; others who will not ask why we shouldn’t just make or build a new one and who understand that there is information and history in the object itself.

This new program may be coming to campus at just the right time since the university has a wonderful example of its own that showcases why historic preservation is so important.  With some intervention by a not-for-profit organization, ISU is saving a historical structure that was once used as a geology field studies station by ISU students and researchers outside of Shell, WY.  The building was slated for destruction when the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation found out about the plans.   The historical structure is an original barrack used at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center during World War II, located between the towns of Cody and Powell, WY.  ISU acquired it in the late 1940s after the town of Gryebull no longer needed it.

Many of these barracks were sold off by the federal government after the war for $1 each to homesteaders.  Because of this, some of the 450 barracks that were built at Heart Mountain continue to exist today as outbuildings, stores, and houses.  ISU is donating the structure so that it can be returned to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center and used as part of the permanent exhibit.  The Foundation will be responsible for moving the 20 feet wide by 120 feet long barrack the 81 miles back to Heart Mountain.  In addition to being complete, the barrack is a good is candidate for historic preservation since it has had few modifications made to it over the past 70 years.  Another barrack from Heart Mountain was reassembled in Los Angeles next to the Japanese American National Museum in 1994.

Saichi, Suzuyo, and Eddie Seo in front of barrack at Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

Saichi, Suzuyo, and Eddie Seo in front of barrack at Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

For me, this effort is most significant because Heart Mountain is where my family (my grandparents, parents, aunt, and uncles) was incarcerated during the war.  The irony of the photograph above with my grandparents and my father is that my father, an American citizen along with my grandmother, is wearing a Superman sweatshirt.

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My maternal grandfather, Umitaro Ibaraki harvesting tomatoes with Hearth Mountain in the distance. Photo from Northwest College Hinckley Library Special Collections, Ethel Ryan Collection.

My family discovered a photograph of my maternal grandfather working in the fields at Heart Mountain. The photo had been made available online without identifying the man, and my family member provided the name.  A good example of how invaluable it can be to have users identify events, places, and people in photographs.  The photograph is part of the Ethel Ryan Collection which has been made available through their Heart Mountain Digital Preservation Project, which happens to powered by CONTENTdm like ISU Library’s digital collections.  This collection includes documents and photographs focusing on Heart Mountain Relocation Center.