Tools & Equipment


This past week a new exhibit opened in Parks Library’s Special Collections and University Archives reading room. It is called “For Married Students”: Building a Community in Pammel Court, 1946-1978. The exhibit tells the story of a housing development that was built on Iowa State University grounds to accommodate  student veterans of WWII  and their young families, as part of the GI bill.

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The Preservation Department staff worked hard to fabricate mat board exhibit mounts for the items to be displayed. Jim Wilcox and I set out to make a simple slanted mat board book cradle. We were attracted to using mat board because it is easy to manipulate and recycle afterward.  It turned out the task was not actually that simple! The slanted cradle needed to be quite strong to withstand the weight of the heavy book.

We looked at an article that provided details for construction of a cloth covered slanted cradle. (Andersen, Jennifer, Cloth Covered Book Cradles, Abbey Newsletter, Volume 17, Number 7, December 1993, http://cool.conservation-us.org/byorg/abbey/an/an17/an17-7/an17-715.html).

This is an excellent design, which has been used by many institutions for years,  but we still hoped to find a solution that was a little less labor-intensive.

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We started with the tried and true model of two wedges on a base, using museum-grade mat board and double-sided 3M 415 tape. Then Jim added another wedge to the bottom of the base to slant the cradle forward.

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A small triangular ledge is built into the base, it keeps the book from sliding  off the cradle. The tricky part was to keep this ledge securely attached to the rest of the cradle. The answer was…..drum roll….wait for it –  yes, book cloth! Not so revolutionary after all, I know!

But in this version, the book cloth is almost entirely concealed in between the various parts of the cradle. Pale tan Cotlin book cloth was attached to the cradle itself and to the wedge base that elevates the cradle, then wrapped around the ledge. Cloth is only exposed on that narrow triangular support ledge on the front of the cradle.

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I used PVA to adhere the book cloth to the mat board and let the cradle off-gas for 2 weeks prior to installing it into the exhibit case.

Aside from the fun and excitement with the cradle, I became acquainted with a wonderful piece of equipment – the rotary cutter. We had lots of exhibit labels to cut out and the rotary cutter was excellent for making 90 degree cuts without the combined effort of lining up the paper, holding down the ruler and minding the scalpel. A plastic bar holds down your paper and a sharp blade makes the perfectly straight cut for you. It’s like a mat cutter for paper! The roatry cutter comes in a large size too, so for lightweight materials it can be a good alternative to a board shear.

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Learn more about our new exhibit by checking out the links below.

Publicity article:

http://www.inside.iastate.edu/article/2017/01/19/pammel

Article about curating the exhibit:

http://www.iowastatedaily.com/ames247/article_e6b0e76c-bc29-11e6-83b2-c72d80011232.html

Photos from the exhibit reception:

http://www.iowastatedaily.com/ames247/collection_884277bc-ddfe-11e6-9272-6f8ae44f9de6.html#1

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The time had come, our trusty ol’ guillotine could no longer be called trusty since a part had been recalled which made our machine not usable. This beast had been with the lab for quite sometime and had been used almost daily. We were a bit sad to see it go but it’s time had come.

Our old guillotine

Our old guillotine

Skip ahead 4+ months and we finally received our new Titan 265. We were all very excited at it’s arrival! It took 4 guys a full day to disassemble the old guillotine, haul it out and bring in and assemble the new one.

Disassembling the old guillotine.

Disassembling the old guillotine.

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Assembling the new machine.

Assembling the new machine.

The new machine has a digital screen which is new to us. We have the option of turning the dial to set the gauge on where to cut or we can punch the number in on the screen. And it can do the math for us if needed – for example – if we are wanting to cut streamers from a stack of 8.5×11 paper we can type in 8.5/5 and it will cut 5 equal stacks for us! So neat! This one is also quite a bit quieter than our last one which our ears thank us for.

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Training was really quite simple, with the new touch screen most of it is self explanatory. We were all anxious to give it a try!

Getting trained on the new machine.

Getting trained on the new machine.

Hilary giving it a try.

Hilary giving it a try.

We have only had it for a couple of weeks but we have already put it to good use chopping away – here’s hoping for many more years with Mr. Titan!

 

 

And now for something completely different. Normally, I stick with the script on my portion of the blogs, but I came across this interesting tweet today:

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Maybe true, maybe not…but it got me to thinking about how far we have come and how far we have to go when it comes to technology. My dad is always complaining about how computers always mess up everything. How things were so much simpler when a good old pen and paper is all you need to write; and why can’t people today pick up the phone to call instead of texting and FaceTiming/Skyping, (he still refuses to do the latter, but he no longer owns a landline phone.) I always take a deep breath and hold out my hands, palms up, moving them back and forth much like an imaginary scale and say: “Dad: Horse, Car, Horse, Car.” When I was a kid he use to tell me how much his dad was upset when the horses got replaced by cars. His dad would say: “Why horses: so much simpler; they can go through the tightest spots, and grass is free!” I don’t think Dad has made my connection between his father’s consternation, and his own lamentations.

The same can be said with technology today, I suppose, but it’s the same concept: keep up or fall behind. As one technology or advancement passes, another takes its place. And this includes the instruments we use to get there. Instead of a pencil, straight-edge and tons of rubber cement to put a newspaper or magazine together, it’s going all online. This is how websites started, and this is how it’s still going. It’s hard to imagine when I was in college, most of these things were in their infancy. There were no smartphones. No hand-held device where you could push a button and spend your money for instant gratification. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but there does need to be a balance. Holding on to the past isn’t the right answer, but abandoning all concepts of the past isn’t the way either.

Once a year, at about this time, I go through my desk and completely clean it out, including wiping down the inside and throwing out anything that doesn’t look like it belongs; I take home things that have accumulated over the year and generally try to tidy up my area. But today! Today I came across this gem:

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This is an old-timey 100% Horse Hair Sterilized Drafting Brush. This thing and I go back. Way back. In fact, way back past even me. This very brush is the brush Dad used when he went to State and took drafting courses. So, you know it’s O-L-D! I used this brush on more than brushing eraser poo away…I used it whenever I had anything I was done rubber-cementing or crayoning, or even weaving ends. This thing was, or rather is, slick to use to clean off debris from a desk, or drafting table. I don’t know if these things are even relevant anymore in this era of everything-can-be-done-on-a-computer; but it certainly took me back to the good old days. I can remember rooms in the Design College that were filled with machines that you could insert a paper and on one side little dotted rubber cement backing came out. Then you had to carefully cut out the area you needed (on a self-healing cutting mat…I still have mine…that thing is awesome, too!) and use a rubber roller to smooth out the air pockets. I’m going to bet that graphic designers over there use the computer for their layout and designs now. In my last year of college, they were only starting to use computer programs and I took every class I could (much to the chagrin of some of my friends: “why would you need computer classes for graphic design?”) At that time, everything you wanted to do was hand coded in. There were no “mouses” and easy, click-the-button instructions to these programs. You had to tell the computer what to do by writing it all out and C:> everything.  Oh, how that brush brought back memories. But now, I’m going to pass it on. My son, Ian, is at the perfect age to use it. He’s not a traditional artist. He’s a woodcarver. The brush will come in handy for cleaning wood shavings up from his work table. He’ll get as much use from it as I did. And perhaps, one day, he’ll be able to carry on the tradition with the next generation.

Even if I know that the only

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Ian ever touched (or probably will touch) was a toy he had as toddler, I know that a third generation of sweeping eraser/rubber cement/wood shavings poo, will be carried on in that little brush. And holding onto a few small items like that…those are good things to hold onto. The past “use-to-do’s” might be done differently today, but a little brush can always be used… if nothing else, to brush away the dust of yesterday.

I work in a department that has very little IT support, and as web development is constantly in a state of change, I need to do my own research to stay ahead of the curve. One of the best free* sites to learn about all things related to web development is www.w3schools.com. Our department also has unlimited access to www.lynda.com, but that’s not available for some. Plus, www.lynda.com gets bogged down in lessons and tutorials which can go on for hours, when sometimes a quick brush-up or how-to is all that’s needed. This allows me to get right back into my web page and implement my new idea. The site w3schools has quick, clear, easily defined answers which allow me to explore within each development tool. It has both tutorials and reference lists for HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, PHP, and JQuery. The site also includes a section on web certificates, and contains an interactive color picker. What am I talking about? This site is very interactive! Not only can you read about each tool/technique, but also with its sandboxing of examples, you can try out the tools for yourself and see live results. If that’s not enough to get you started, there are over a thousand examples to peruse in your own time. This website makes it so easy that a very beginner to an advanced web designer can utilize it to its greatest potential. Best of all, it is constantly being updated. A very active and knowledgeable forum rounds out the website, so when you are still confused about actions and code writing, answers are just a click away.

* to obtain Web Certificates from this site, there is a fee involved. All other resources are free.

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As you can see, the site is very well laid-out and easy to navigate. Going into the HTML section:

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It’s kind of hard to see in this example, but on the left side menu, you have a step-by-step html guide (starting at the very basic and moving progressively to more advanced techniques,) to HTML. In the middle of the page, is examples, and a “Try It Yourself” button. When you click on the “Try It Yourself” button, it opens to the sandbox:

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Entering new code in between the <h1></h1> tag, and clicking on See Results box:

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This makes learning intuitive and fun. Each sandbox page opens in it’s own window, so going back to where you were is as simple as closing the window. Let’s go back to the HTML page. Further down the HTML page, you can see:

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There are links to HTML examples, or take a HTML Quiz (more than likely to help one prepare for the Web Certification that the site provides.) Clicking on the HTML Tag Reference link takes you to:

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This is very handy, as it shows all the HTML tags and also which are new or not supported in HTML5. I find the references pages very helpful when I’m updating my pages, especially as I move over to HTML5. Again, you can then use the left vertical menu to go to the specific page your interested in (this one being HTML; the other reference pages match the tool you are exploring.)

I have only dipped into the very basics of the website. The thing with this particular website is that it can get overwhelming and/or addictive. There is so much useful information here that I find myself spending way too much time on it, getting distracted from my own work. In that way, it is like www.lynda.com, but then I do not have to sigh my way through parts of a tutorial that I don’t need. Here, I can jump around and fiddle on code until I feel I understand it completely. It’s not the only site available that offers tutorials and sandboxing, but www.w3schools.com is about as thorough a website on learning these tools that I have discovered.

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Recently we received a Special Collections brown leather book titled Familiar Lectures on Botany, Practical, Elementary, and Physiological by Mrs. Almira H. Lincoln (1842).  As I was adding this book to our departmental inventory, I noticed a couple of areas with “leafy” items pressed in between some pages.  So, after discussing treatment with our conservator, Melissa Tedone, we agreed that I should note the page numbers where the ephemera was located and encapsulate each item with the Minter welder.

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Well a “couple of pieces of ephemera later” ended up being 38 items with a lot more documentation and encapsulating on my part.  And if you haven’t worked with dried plant material between two pieces of Mylar and static electricity, you will find it a real challenge. It’s very hard to control the leaves, flowers, and seeds, as they go where they want.  Careful handling on my part with tweezers and a microspatula got them where I wanted them on a backing of University Products Permalife text weight 70# paper, and enclosed between Mylar and welded together.

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I was very pleased with the finished project and it will be much easier for future visitors to handle and look at the ephemera.  However, I will never say just “a couple” again when referring to ephemera!

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Some of the tools we rely on in the Conservation Lab look a lot like everyday items you probably have around your house.

Irons

Top: lining iron from Talas. Bottom: modern iron for more traditional ironing tasks.

We sometimes use an iron for applying large-scale heat-set tissue and adhering linings on robust flat paper items. We also use it to iron the wrinkles out of our gray wool photodoc backdrop, and to smooth out toned, air-dried textile or bookcloth.  We use a blow-dryer to dry toned tissue quickly during color-matching, and sometimes to hasten the drying of spine linings on General Collections materials.

Blowdryers

Since our ancient, brown Vidal Sassoon blow-dryer has been showing its age, we decided it was time for an upgrade.  We also decided to purchase a more modern iron with steam for tasks like ironing the photodoc backdrop cloth. The iron we have from Talas works beautifully for linings because it is compact, heavy, and sensitive to fine temperature adjustments.  However, its naked metal body heats up all over, making it a bit of a hazard for more mundane ironing tasks, and it doesn’t steam.

These are the sorts of odd lab purchases that makes our Purchaser look slightly askance at us upon delivery, but they really are necessary tools for our everyday work!

 

1091map1As our regular readers know, the 1091 Project is a collaboration between Iowa State University Library and our conservation colleagues at Duke University Libraries. Well, this week, thanks to Kevin Driedger of the Library of Michigan, we have been participating in the 5 Days of Preservation project, a week-long collaboration among preservation professionals and institutions across the nation.  Kevin’s idea was simple but powerful: use social media to post a photo each day for five days of whatever preservation looks like for you that day.  Kevin then collected all those posted images in one place, the 5 Days of Preservation Tumblr blog. The collected photos showcase an impressive range of preservation activities that really illustrate the rich diversity of our  field.  So, this week, I encourage you not only to pop over to Preservation Underground for their 1091 post, but also to check out #5DaysOfPreservation, via Tumblr, Facebook, and/or Twitter. And kudos to Kevin for a fun and informative project!

Here is a quick recap of our ISU Library Conservation Lab posts for the week:

 

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MONDAY: Preservation looked like this humidified and flattened Depression-era letter.

 

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TUESDAY: Preservation looked like our student employee, Nicole, repairing books from the General Collection.

 

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WEDNESDAY: Preservation looked like professional photography lamps set up in front of our magnetic wall for imaging large-format architectural drawings.

 

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THURSDAY: Preservation looked like committee work for the AIC Sustainability Committee. Melissa and her fellow committee members are performing their annual link maintenance this month on the sustainability pages of the AIC Conservation Wiki.

 

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FRIDAY: Preservation looked like Preservation Assistant Mindy working on the departmental budget (a *very* important part of preservation indeed!)

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