Storage


Catt-FromDonnaToJunie

A newly acquired 1930s letter in the Carrie Chapman Catt Collection.

For the past two months, I have been preserving hundreds of newly acquired items of correspondence for the ISU Library Special Collections Department’s Carrie Chapman Catt Collection.  The collection includes handwritten and typed letters on paper ranging from high-end, monogrammed stationery to lined notebook paper to index cards; newspaper clippings; photographs; decorative stickers; pressed flowers; envelopes; and postage stamps. It’s a wonderful collection rich with evidence of daily life during the Great Depression, and has been a delight to work on in spite of the repetitive nature of the conservation work: humidify, flatten, rehouse, humidify, flatten, rehouse…

After being stored folded up in their original envelopes for 80 years, these letters require humidification and flattening before they can be safely handled by researchers. Note the letter in the lower right corner, which is very acidic and brittle.

After being stored folded up in their original envelopes for 80 years, these letters require humidification and flattening before they can be safely handled by researchers. Note the letter in the lower right corner, which is very acidic and brittle.

This collection is being treated before it is processed by our archivists, because the majority of the letters are folded up and still tucked inside their original envelopes.  Many of the letters have been written on acidic paper which is now quite fragile and could break apart simply by being unfolded without humidification. Even the items which are not brittle benefit from gentle humidification and flattening between blotter and boards in a press.  So far, I have worked through about half (I think) of the newly acquired collection. I have humidified, flattened, and rehoused 448 items, and have sorted and rehoused another 281 items which did not require humidification (mostly envelopes and photographs).  A few pages required mending, and about 60 particularly fragile items required encapsulation in Mylar/Melinex; the rest of the items were re-foldered and housed in archival document boxes.

Items from the Carrie Chapman Catt Collection being flattened between blotter and boards in a press after humidification.

Items from the Carrie Chapman Catt Collection being flattened between blotter and boards in a press after humidification.

There are several challenges when working through a project of this size. One is simply time management: I can’t drop everything else to work solely on this one project, even though it is a high priority. I have done my best to schedule a minimum of 2 hours of active treatment time per day to keep the project moving forward, and at least once or twice a week, I devote nearly an entire day to it. Furthermore, humidification takes as long as it takes; it’s a process that involved a lot of  “down time.”  So, if a batch of letters needs an entire day of humidification, then I simply have to wait until they’re ready for flattening.

Another challenge is keeping the collection materials organized so as not to compromise their archival order.  My low-tech organization solution is to keep a mini-streamer with each item.  On each streamer, I write a code at the top indicating which box and original folder the item came from [for example, “B2 F4 (29)” means Item 29 from Box 2, Folder 4]. I then make abbreviated notes indicating whether the item is one page of a multi-page letter, whether it pairs with an envelope, and whether any other ephemera were grouped with it [“3 pp., no env., 1/3”]. I am very careful whenever moving items (e.g., from the humidity chamber to a blotter stack for pressing) to make sure each mini streamer stays with its correct item.  The system works well, and after the items have been rehoused, I retain the streamers so I can double-check the accuracy of the statistics I have been keeping.  In addition to the mini-streamers, I also maintain a project statistics sheet with the date, items treated that day, types of treatment, and the amount of time I spent on the project.

Envelope with 3-cent stamp from the Carrie Chapman Catt Collection.

Envelope with 3-cent stamp from the Carrie Chapman Catt Collection.

Beyond time management and organization, the biggest challenge with this type of project is to stay fresh and focused. With such repetitive treatment tasks, there is always the danger of zoning out and putting an item into the humidity chamber that cannot safely be humidified. It’s important to watch out for coated papers, highly water-soluble inks, and paper with pressure-sensitive tape on it.

I’m looking forward to wrapping up this project in the next few weeks, so this fascinating collection can be archivally processed and made available to the community.

 

Ashley (l) and Hope (r) show off their newly constructed clamshell boxes.

Ashley (l) and Hope (r) show off their newly constructed clamshell boxes.

One project we let students do when learning how to make a cloth-covered Clamshell Box is to construct a box for one of their own personal books for practice. I myself was a little rusty in making one as it had been awhile. I have made other boxes recently, but not for books, so I needed a little practice myself especially when it came to measuring.

Hope created a cloth-covered divider with a ribbon tab for lifting to separate the two books in her clamshell box.

Hope created a cloth-covered divider with a ribbon tab for lifting to separate the two books in her clamshell box.

Hope Mitchell brought in the ever-popular Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. Both of these books are very special to Hope, as they were given to her as a Christmas present by her late grandfather. This box would be a little different, as we planned to do a thin divider with a tab between the books to protect them.

Ashley's book had a narrow spine depth, so she inserted a platform to support the book and add depth.

Ashley’s book had a narrow spine depth, so she inserted a platform to support the book and add depth.

Ashley Arnold brought in a beautiful, blue felt covered book with decorative multicolor stitching of owls in a tree that was a gift from a dear friend from England. This book would need a little extra padding for protection.

I myself was working on two old volumes from Special Collections.

"Stackette" style trays made from faulty clamshell trays.

“Stackette” style trays made from faulty clamshell trays and held together with Velcro dots.

As we worked on making our boxes (as I said, it had been a while), we each made a miscalculation in our measurements and needed to start over. Hope loves green and was making a clamshell box of green book cloth and Preservation’s favorite Natural-Colored Canapetta. Her “oops” box turned into a box for special momentos. Ashley’s box started with the same green book cloth and her “oops” turned into a nice pencil tray for her desk. I was using the Natural-Colored Canapetta and my “oops” became two trays that can be attached by Velcro dot that can be used like a Stackette tray or as single trays. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like to waste things, so we all three made good use of our errors.

In the end, Hope had her green and natural box, and Ashley had her green and gray box for their special books, and the knowledge of how to make a Clamshell Box.

Special Collections has asked us to work on the scrapbooks from the ISU Theatre Department. The scrapbooks suffer from all the common ills of scrapbooks.

The support pages in many of the volumes have become so brittle that they have started to break away from the bindings. In most cases I have been able to disbind the volume so that future viewers will not be horrified that they ripped a page from the scrapbook just by turning it gently.

SplitOne

There is massive adhesive failure. When possible I have re-attached things back where they belong, but some things are a mystery so they get encapsulated and left between the pages where I found them.

Adhesive

The adhesive failure is so serious that I know that more things will fall off the next time the books are opened. As a partial solution, I’m making a four-flap for each book to keep everything as contained as possible and to minimize abrasion since multiple scrapbooks are often stored together in a box.

Fourflap

I could spend weeks on each scrapbook, but there are many of them and just one of me. And quite frankly given the condition of the supporting pages and many of the contents, it is not worth the time or effort to do a full treatment on these. In the near future, they will need to be  taken apart and put in folders.

Here is the perplexing thing. I’ve come across several pages with what we are calling “googly eyes.” The markings are in blue editor’s pencil.

GooglyEyesGooglyEyes2

I’m pretty sure that the clippings came from a clipping service. Can anyone confirm that? And does anyone know what is it with the circles? They don’t appear to be around anything specific.

 

 

 

 

 

1091map1This month’s 1091 Project addresses that bane of every library and archives conservator: mold. Whether the mold is black, white, green, magenta, or yellow, it is all treated the same way: with caution and immediate action. The mold that we deal with in the lab comes from three main sources:

  1. newly acquired items for Special Collections and Archives which are valued highly enough to make dealing with mold worth the trouble;
  2. items returning from circulation which were not cared for properly by the borrowing patrons;
  3. mold outbreaks in the collection, which could be caused by a leaky roof or water pipe, or extreme humidity in situations when the HVAC breaks down.
Aspergillus

Asexual fruiting structure of Aspergillus. http://www.atsu.edu/faculty/chamberlain/Website/Lects/Fungi.htm

The “sniff test” is a pretty reliable indicator of mold, but technician Mindy Moe rightly scolds me whenever she sees me lifting a suspect book to my nose. Mold spores, even if dormant, find the warm, moist environment of human nasal passages and lungs to be a cozy place to take up residence. Repeated exposure to mold can also lead to sensitivities and allergies which, in the most extreme cases, can induce life-threatening allergic reactions. So, we always take a little extra precaution when dealing with the fuzzy stuff. Mold can be identified by a visual inspection under magnification, especially under raking light. If a visual examination is inconclusive because the spores are in a dormant phase, or the spot is a residual stain, then the presence of mold can be confirmed by examining the item under UV light, which causes mold hyphae to fluoresce rather dramatically.

MoldFluorescingUnderUVlight

Mold hyphae fluorescing under UV light.

The minimum PPE (personal protective equipment) for dealing with mold includes glasses or goggles, a lab coat (and in general keeping as much skin covered as possible), latex or nitrile gloves, and a P95 or P100 disposable respirator.

PPEforMoldMitigation

PPE for mold mitigation.

Nilfisk

Nilfisk HEPA vacuum for mold removal.

Once personal precautions have been taken, we act. In the case of situations 1 or 2 described above, we are usually dealing with just a few items at a time. The moldy items are first isolated from the rest of the collection, and then assessed for damage. In the case of circulating items which have been returned to the Library with significant mold damage, we usually discard the item entirely and charge the patron to replace it.

In the case of Special Collections and Archives materials, we keep the moldy items quarantined until they can be vacuumed under the fume hood with a special vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter. We try to minimize the amount of moldy items we accept because our staffing levels allow us only 1 to 2 hours per week on our “mold workflow.” Items which have been treated for mold are affixed with a small label saying so, along with the date. In part this is to inform patrons about a potential health risk, and in part this helps us keep track of which items might be making repeat visits to the lab.

Situation 3, a mold outbreak in the collection, is dealt with in a slightly different manner. In the case of an active mold outbreak, the first step is not only to isolate the affected materials as quickly as possible, but also, if possible, to make the active bloom go dormant. We wrap items loosely in waxed paper and put them in one of our conservation freezers. The low temperature and humidity in the freezer will cause the mold to go dormant within a few days. Once the infestation is dormant, the items can be removed from the freezer and vacuumed — and treated further, if necessary — in small, manageable batches.

Mold-infested collection materials in the freezer.

Mold-infested collection materials in the freezer.

Meanwhile, the environmental conditions which caused the mold outbreak in the first place must be dealt with swiftly to prevent it from spreading throughout the collection. Leaking or standing water must be stopped and mopped up, while humidity and temperature levels must be brought into a safe range, and the ventilation checked.  We also have a couple of portable HEPA vacuums for vacuuming mold on-site.

Portable 3M HEPA vacuum for mold.

Portable 3M HEPA vacuum for mold.

In the case of a large mold outbreak affecting thousands of items, we would be too understaffed and under-equipped to cope, so we have vendor contracts in place to work with a professional recovery company under those circumstances.

Let’s head over to Preservation Underground to see how they feel about mold in the Duke University Libraries Conservation Department.

Light is very important to conservation labs: the right amount of the right kind of light particularly influences fine detail work and color matching. However, as anyone familiar with preservation issues knows, light is also The Enemy.  Damaging UV light may be the part of the spectrum that gets the most attention, but any light causes cumulative damage to paper-based materials over time.

LabWindow

The lab’s oversized window is coated with UV-filtering film, but all light causes some level of damage to paper-based materials.

Our lab workspace is mainly lit by overhead fluorescents with UV filters on them.  Likewise, our large, lovely window is also covered with UV-filtering film.  We store our colored tissues in flat files nearby, so it’s easy to hold them up to the window and take advantage of the natural light when selecting the right color for a repair.

Allen, Sue. American Book Covers, 1830–1900. Washington: Library of Congress, 1998. Leaflet LC 1.6/4:AM 3/2.

Allen, Sue. American Book Covers, 1830–1900. Washington: Library of Congress, 1998. Leaflet LC 1.6/4:AM 3/2.

In spite of our precautions regarding UV filters, the lab is still flooded with more light than is safe for paper-based materials over the long term, as the framed poster above regularly reminds us.  The colors have faded and shifted over time, simply from being exposed to the ambient light we need to do our daily work.

LightDamage2

Another reminder of the amount of light exposure in the lab: this archival document box we use to store lab materials has also shifted color over time!

Aware of light’s insidious and relentless power, we take whatever precautions we can when working with Special Collections and Archives materials in the lab by covering them up with an enclosure, sheet of blotter, or other light-blocker when we are not actively working on them.

As part of our responsibilities as a land grant institution, we are charged with providing education and outreach services to the public. In the lab, this charge manifests as preservation consultations for Iowa residents and institutions.  When it comes to light exposure, we strongly encourage our visitors not to display treasured, original photographs or documents from their personal collections in heavily used or brightly lit rooms. Light damage is irreversible, so the precautions are worthwhile. Originals may be stored in enclosures or in dark drawers or cabinets, and displayed only on special occasions. Alternatively, originals may be scanned and a surrogate printed for display purposes, while the original is stored safely out of the light. If originals must be displayed, then we strongly recommend framing with a UV-filtering plexi, with the caveat that this will only partially mitigate one form of light damage.

One of my duties as Preservation Assistant is to make sure our supplies are adequately stocked and organized in a way that makes them easy for preservation staff to find. There have been many times other staff hand me a piece of paper, board, or cloth and say that we need more of it, and none of us can remember what exactly it is called or where we last ordered it from. Our previous Conservator, Katherine Kelly, came up with a smart way to remind us where we ordered various supplies and what that supply was, and we still use her system today.  This method has worked very well for the supplies kept in our large cabinets.

ahomeforeverything ahomeforeverything2

Colored labels were made noting the product/item, size, color (if applicable), vendor/source, and even the catalog item number when appropriate. The color of the label lets us know the type of item at quick glance and corresponds with a printed chart that hangs on the inside of the cabinet door. These labels are adhered to magnet strips using double-stick tape which makes them easy to move around in our cabinets if we decide to do some reorganization. I can also easily take the magnet to my desk for reference when I am writing up a supply order to replenish our stock.

alittlelabel5 ahomeforeverything5

Upon first glance, this system may seem a little OCD but it really has worked quite well for our lab. What do you do to help keep your large, flat supplies organized?

Written by Suzette Schmidt, Preservation Services unit.

Iowa State University Library Periodicals Room

Iowa State University Library Periodicals Room

There are three reasons that serials are put into the Parks Library Periodical Room: 1) new serials titles have been requested by a bibliographer to be part of the Periodical Room Collection; 2) reanimated titles selected by the requesting bibliographer to go to this location (i.e. journals which had been closed, but which we are now receiving again); 3) journals being transferred to the Periodical Room from the General Collection due to space overflow issues (also at the request of a bibliographer).

Relocating-02

Transfer form with bibliographic information.

The relocation process requires three steps. First of all, I take the paperwork or information given to me and then check the computer to determine if we have additional holdings of the serial on either microfilm, which is located in the Library Media Center, or in electronic journal format.  If we do, then the shelf tag label will indicate this.

Typing the call number and title into the computer program (left); printing directly to the label maker (right).

Typing the call number and title into the computer program (left); printing directly to the label maker (right).

Secondly, I click on the P-touch icon on my computer where I format and type in the call number and title, which are then subsequently printed out by the label maker and added to the label.

Relocating-05

Labeling the shelf (left); shelf label with an “e” to indicate that the Library also holds an electronic copy of the journal (right). Labels with an “m” indicate that the Library also holds a copy of the journal on microfilm.

Lastly, these labels along with their corresponding journals are then placed onto the appropriate call number shelf in the Periodical Room.  In order to do this, there may be some physical shifting of the serials already located in the Periodical Room to make room for the incoming ones.

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