Ephemera


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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During my first week at the library, I came across some 19th century periodicals that needed treatment because they were requested for a class. The magazine is called Demorest’s Family Magazine. The issues that I am dealing with are from 1871 to 1893.

As an occasional reader of Parents magazine in waiting rooms, break rooms and at home, my interest was piqued as to what a family magazine used to look like at the end of the 19th century. Moreover, as I was examining one of the issues, I found a small piece of stationary that had been used as a bookmark. On it was the logo of the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. The discolored portion of the stationary on the right hand side had been sticking out of the magazine, thus exposed to wear and tear, UV light and environmental pollution.

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Since I had just moved from the LA area the previous week, this seemed like a sign, so I decided to put this item on the Parks Library Preservation blog.

The Miramar Hotel stationary took my mind on a circuitous journey of thinking about the hotel and imagining what it used to look like back in the day. Thanks to Google, I did not have to wonder for long:

The original Miramar, the home of Senator John P. Jones and Mrs. Georgina Jones, 1890

The original Miramar, the home of Senator John P. Jones and Mrs. Georgina Jones, 1890

The Palisades Building, built in 1924, seen here in the 1950s

The Palisades Building, built in 1924, seen here in the 1950s

The present day Fairmont Miramar Hotel

The present day Fairmont Miramar Hotel

Throughout its history, the hotel had been frequented by such celebrities as Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow. Public figures like J.F. Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt stayed in the private bungalows. (http://www.fairmont.com/santa-monica/hotelhistory/)

Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy

Garbo, Harlow, Roosevelt and Kennedy

Present day fashionistas of Santa Monica

Present day fashionistas of Santa Monica

 

 

But I very much digress here, which is one of the guilty pleasures of looking at original objects “in the flesh” – so many associations spring to mind. Now imagine if I was an academic scholar and if this flow of information was a stream of original research ideas based on interactions with unique special collections materials! Peer reviewed articles would be flying off the press.

However, at this point let me get back to the objects to be treated: 1871-1893 issues of the Demorest’s Family Magazine…Right away, as I was examining the volumes, I became drawn in by the subject matter and was charmed by the illustrations. How did women conduct themselves in family life back then? What was important? What were the ads for? How did ladies keep themselves looking fresh and pretty? One of the answers must be “hired help”…

Here are some images from the pages of the Demorest’s Family Magazine:

Fancy a walk in the park, dear daughter?

Fancy a walk in the park, dear daughter?

Finally, a way to make your children perfect!

 

Publications like this one were often printed on thin wood pulp paper, which was not made to hold up to the test of time. Unsurprisingly, the paper had become brittle, with numerous large and small tears afflicting the pages and the covers.

In order to make the item ready for viewing by a group of students or for digitization, some stabilization repairs will need to be performed.

Small tears in the fore-edge

Small tears in the fore-edge

These will include reattaching covers and loose pages and mending the more significant tears that could cause further damage upon handling. When making repairs to thin brittle paper, it is especially important to select a mending tissue that is lighter in weight than the page being mended.

A selection of Demorest's Magazine issues from different years

A selection of Demorest’s Magazine issues

This way the mend will not be too bulky and will not cause the paper on either side of it to break. Another consideration is the level of moisture that can be introduced to paper that does not have a great deal of absorbency and strength due to being coated and/or heavily processed.

A selection of volumes from different years

A selection of volumes from different years

The mending of these pages would require a low level of moisture in the repair adhesive. And of course, protective housing enclosures will do a world of good for these limp and fragile ephemeral objects. I look forward to sharing more about the treatment of the magazines as I move forward through the steps of the process. Please stay tuned, dear readers!

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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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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.

 

Tomorrow is the last official day of National Preservation Week! If you missed the preservation webinars hosted by ALA-ALCTS this week, no need to fret: you can view the archived webinars on the ALA-ALCTS YouTube Channel, along with many other  webinars from past years.  This is a wonderful, free preservation resource available to anyone with an internet connection.  Preservation Week may be drawing to a close, but the ISU Library Preservation Department’s outreach mission continues year-round.  Contact us if you are in need of a preservation consultation.

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Preservation Week 2014: Free Webinars

Low-Cost Ways to Preserve Family Archives by Karen E. Brown

Preserving Historic Scrapbooks and Making New Ones That Last by Melissa Tedone

While growing up in Boone, Iowa, my Dad was always telling me about historical facts that had happened around Iowa.  The stories were fascinating and I am amazed today at local people who know nothing of them.  The earliest one I was told about, The Cardiff Giant, happened in 1869. Other stories included World Heavyweight Champion (1908-193) Frank Gotch, the 1881 railroad heroine Kate Shelley, the famous bandmaster and composer Karl King (1891-1971), the First Lady to President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) Mamie Doud Eisenhower, and the December 18, 1846, death of 12-year-old Milton Lott, followed by the Spirit Lake Massacre on March 8-12, 1857.

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Worn case showing damage on the spine, especially at the head cap and tail cap.

One day while I was at work in the Conservation Lab, a book was sent up for repair titled The Spirit Lake Massacre by Thomas Teakle.  The book was worn, as the case had seen better days and needed a new case built for it.  Inside, there were greasy fingerprints, lots of pencil marks, water stains, soft paper pages with tears, and an old yellowed newspaper clipping with brittle tape adhering it to a blank page in the front of the book.  Someone had felt it was important enough to add this newspaper article to the book.  Upon looking at it, I found a penciled date of 10/12/38 with a title caption reading “1857 Veteran’s Widow is Dead.”  Further investigation beyond the information provided from the newspaper clipping revealed that Mr. Frank R. Mason, who was a Second Lieutenant of Company C from Webster City, Iowa, in 1856, is mentioned in The Spirit Lake Massacre. His wife, Belle, had passed away at age 84 as the last surviving widow of any soldier on the Spirit Lake Expedition in 1857.  Frank Mason is mentioned several times in this book, so that probably explains why the clipping was attached.

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Acidic newspaper clipping and failing pressure-sensitive tape.

I decided I wanted to remove the newspaper clipping, remove the adhesive, deacidify the clipping, mend it (as it was torn in half), and then encapsulate it with our Minter ultrasonic welder.  While re-assembling the book, I then sewed the encapsulated clipping in to the book.  I then built a new case in red book cloth to finish it.  This book is special to me with its history and all the work I needed to do to it.

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Marginalia and dirty fingerprints.

However, when I decided to do my blog post on this book, I didn’t mean it to be about Frank Mason and the Spirit Lake Massacre, as you can read more about that on your own, but about Milton Lott, a 12 year old boy who was the first death among the settlers of Boone County, Iowa, and whose death was one of the key starting factors of the Spirit Lake Massacre.  I remember when I was very young my Dad would take me down by the river and show me a little grave site with a white picket fence around it.  Was it still there?

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Milton Lott’s grave site by the Des Moines River.

Last fall, on a beautiful day, I drove down by the Des Moines River to see, and there it was. There was also another sign telling about the Milton Lott Tragedy, and how Sioux Indians raided the Lott homestead while Milton’s father, Henry Lott, was gone, and young Milton ran down by the river in the snow and succumbed to the bitter cold.  When his father returned three days later, he and a search party found Milton’s frozen body.  They hid his lifeless body in a hollow log until a proper burial could take place.  Milton’s mother died a week later from stress and exposure, the first woman settler to die in Webster County.  Eventually, Milton’s father and several men headed north and murdered Indian Chief Sidominadotah and his family after seeing that they were in possession of Mrs. Lott’s prized silverware set.  Later Indian Chief Inkpaduta, brother to Sidominadotah, retaliated resulting in the Spirit Lake Massacre.

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Fifty-seven years after Milton perished, the location of his burial was identified by two remaining men, and in 1905 a permanent marker was placed close to his grave site by the river.  It was a peaceful journey to view Milton’s grave site last fall with the trees changing color, the rustling of the leaves, and the swift flow of the Des Moines River, and it got me thinking of a scared young boy trying to flee from the raid on a freezing December day in 1846.  He died alone, and I felt sad for him. I will be back one day to visit Milton again.

Some of my favorite moments at the bench are those of quiet surprise, when turning the page of a book reveals a pressed flower, or a letter unfolds to reveal a lock of hair.  These small gifts from the past interest and delight me. These mementos communicate, in their own non-textual way, the everyday moments which ultimately make up that idea we call History.

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Letter from Mary Adams to her sister, Catherine Robb.

Recently, I was assessing and stabilizing several folders of late nineteenth-century letters from the Adams Family Papers in preparation for digitization. (Look for letters from Mary Newbury Adams to be added to our Library Digital Collections in celebration of Women’s History Month, March 2014).  As I turned the pages of the letter pictured above, I noticed that its accompanying envelope seemed a bit puffy, as if something were still tucked inside. I opened it to find two swatches of fabric which are slightly crumpled but otherwise in excellent condition, sent from one sister to another in consultation over a new dress.

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Look carefully: can you see the outline of the ephemera once tucked between these pages?

Archival materials speak to us in more ways than one. Another letter from later the same year shows evidence of “acid burn,” indicating that there was once a bit of ephemera tucked inside, something acidic such as a newspaper clipping.  Whatever was enclosed has been lost, but the physical evidence of its existence remains.

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