Experiments


I posted pictures of this lovely contraption on the isupreservation Instagram feed a couple of months ago. This post goes into more details about the construction of it.

There must be many different ways to support an accordion book for an exhibit. Here is one idea, as envisioned and executed by Conservation Technician Jim Wilcox. This mount is made from 4-ply museum-quality mat board, adhered together with 3M 415 double-sided tape.

Conservation Assistant Jim Wilcox cutting out a paper template for the mount.

This accordion binding is a miniature artist book. The small size of the book means that it is very light, which makes it easier to manage stress on the joints and folds.

Mount without the book.
Mount with the miniature book.

The mount enables the accordion binding to be displayed open. The covers of the book sit lower than the pages, since the covers are slightly bigger than the pages on all sides.

The mount as viewed from the front and from the back.

The open pages are supported by the top-most layer of mat board, cut in a zig-zag shape. In order to create this custom shape, the profile of the pages has to be traced onto a piece of paper, with the accordion open.

These are the layers of board that went into making the mount. Hopefully my sketch and notations are not making this more confusing.

As seen in the sketch above, this particular mount was made from 4 layers of mat board. The number of layers can be adjusted depending on the book. Level 2 can be added twice if the cover has tall board squares or if the cover boards need extra support.

Board squares are the spaces at the edges of the book boards that are not covered by the pastedowns. These spaces are the difference between the size of the cover and the size of the textblock (all the pages).

For a bigger, heavier book, additional support would have to be provided for the boards in order to keep them upright. A piece of mat board the size of the cover could be inserted and secured in the slot behind the cover to prop it up.

The red arrow points to one of the cutout slots, where the book boards fit.
The space shaded in green is the extra deep recess, where each book board can be positioned

The area of green color seen in the picture above is created by one of the cutout slots, which is mentioned in the hand-drawn diagram. The book boards sink down to Level 1, the lowest level. The cutouts are made in Level 2.

Here is a common bag weight that is used in conservation labs. It’s a very helpful kind of weight because it’s flexible and has soft edges. It can mold over a spine of a book easily, or help in unrolling a rolled-up print. But these little weights have a tragic flaw…. at some point the metal beads inside start shedding through the stretchy cotton stockinette that encases them. The shedding looks like dark metallic glitter and it gets on everything, including collection materials. It is especially hard to brush off blotters.

Various sizes of bag weights. Image courtesy of Talas Online.

Annoyed by the metallic dust, I first decided to cover the weights in polyethylene, using a heat sealer. A co-worker covered his weights in scraps of Colibri polyethylene covers and sealed those on the Colibri machine. The solution worked for about 8-10 months. Then….. a problem.

The bag weight in and out of its busted lightweight polyethylene “jacket”.
This is the more durable Colibri jacket scrap covering. Note the gaping hole.

I decided to try another covering solution: sewing the bag weights into heavy weight Hollytex. Hollytex is a non-woven spunbound polyester fabric that is used for interleaving and support.

Placing the bag weight onto a rectangle of heavy weight Hollytex (0.0053″ thickness) and sewing the cover.

It helped to draw a straight pencil line to use a guide when stitching. I used Barbour sewing thread, 50 Grms. The bag weight does not have to be inside the Hollytex when you are sewing. You can just use the weight to make sure the cover fits and you have enough material to work with.

It is best to leave as little space between the stitches as possible, so that the inevitable metal shavings do not escape.
When starting on the second (long) side, it helps to pin the edges of the Hollytex together and to draw another straight line to guide your sewing. Then you just cut off the excess fabric with scissors. Viola!
As long as you can hand-stitch in a straight line, you got this! No advanced conservation skills required. Our Resident Librarian Katie Wampole is pictured working on this project.

I suppose that it is entirely possible to use a sewing machine to do this quicker. But I am not a sewing machine pro and prefer to do it by hand.

Hortense Butler Heywood papers and microscope slides, early 1900’s

Hortense Butler Heywood was an entomologist who was also a prolific illustrator. A lot of her work focused on the study of dragonflies. The collection of her papers at Iowa State University Archives includes several dozen microscope slides with samples of dragonfly parts. Below are images of some slides and their extreme-zoom closeups. The slides are in fragile condition and would be tricky to view in the reading room on the light box. Digitizing them made a lot of sense. So we did it! And we loved every minute of it. A link to the complete Heywood digital collection can be found on the bottom of the  Women in Science and Engineering webpage:

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, how did we do it exactly?  My first idea was to use the camera attached to the microscope to generate an image. But, sadly, the picture was too blurry and indistinct. Plan B was to use a light box and our nice Nikon D4 SLR camera on the copy stand. The massive resolution of the image files made it possible to zoom in and see the details of the specimens. Without magnification the samples looked like tiny specs of debris. With magnification they were intriguing and presented a direct link to Ms. Heywood’s illustration work.

Organizing the slides

Making sure the slides are organized and ready to go before reformatting starts.

The photo setup

Positioning the slide so that only a minimum amount of cropping is necessary.

Digital imaging

Shooting raw files, at 600 dpi.

Mindy McCoy is editing in Photoshop

The only alteration to the raw files was to crop the images  and to save them as TIFFs.

Lawrence H. Skromme farming goods catalogs

Another digital  adventure, which promises to be ongoing for a while, is working with a comprehensive collection of ephemera related to farm machinery and equipment. The cards, pamphlets and catalogs  date from mid-1800s to early 1900s. This collection is frequently requested in the reading room by students and professors involved in courses on mechanical engineering, agricultural sciences and history of farming.

Archivists from ISU’s Special Collections have already written some blog posts about the Skromme collection: Ephemera in the Archives and Agricultural Machinery Product Literature.

Party in the front. Butcher & Gibbs Plow Co., Imperial Plows advertisement card, date unknown.

Business in the back. Butcher & Gibbs Plow Co., Imperial Plows advertisement card, date unknown.

Many of the catalogs have been used extensively in the field (literally in the field), folded and stuck into pockets, left in barns and tractors – you get the idea… And keep in mind that the paper they were printed on was never meant to last (ephemera!). Direct physical handling of this stuff basically kills it. So, this large collection was a wonderful candidate for digitization. And what fun it has been to review! See for yourselves…

Powerful lady of multi-tasking. J.M. Childs & Co., Tiger Self Dump Wheel Horse Rake advertisement card, not dated.

This image of a patriotically-clad woman riding a roaring tiger, while also managing to plow, has been very inspiring to me.

Project Management:

Clearly, these objects need to be available online so a large number of people can see them. Working on several concurrent digitization projects requires collaboration, concise and clear communication and tight organization across department lines.  Adopting a project management software tool has really enhanced our efforts.

We use Meister Task to track progress of items as they pass through the Selection-Conservation-Digitization-Metadata pipeline. The software is easy to use and visually pleasing. I will even venture to say that using the interface is somewhat intuitive.

Repairs:

What about numerous conservation repairs that are needed to stabilize the super-fragile and damaged ephemera for digitization? My strategy has been to expedite without cutting corners. Using remoistenable (pre-coated) tissue has helped save time. One benefit is the quick drying time. Another benefit is the ability to use 5 gsm or 3.5 gsm tengucho tissue with ease and expediency. The tissues are pre-coated with a mix of diluted wheat starch paste and 4M methyl cellulose, per handout from the 2009 LCCDG/ACDG session. Most of the paper that needs to be mended in this project is lightweight and fragile, so the thinner tissues are a good fit.

Applying remoistenable tissue mends. C. Altman & Co., Buckeye Annual Catalog, 1889

For  many of the pamphlets, the covers have become detached from the textblocks. Since they will be digitized on the OpticBook book-edge scanner, which also functions as a flatbed scanner, it would not make sense to reattach the pages. The materials are archival and are meant  for study purposes, not for display, so I consider toning fills to be unnecessary.

Not attaching covers to textblocks; not toning fills. Aultman, Miller & Co., Swedish Buckeye Catalog, 1899.

Some of the covers and pages that are detached are also very brittle and have numerous tears. It would take too long to mend them all and the page would still not be stable for handling because of its brittleness. Enclosing a page in a Mylar L-sleeve and calling it a day is an acceptable treatment option because the item can be scanned directly through Mylar.

Enclosing the cover in Mylar after mending significant tears; not mending numerous minor tears. C. Altman & Co., Buckeye Annual Catalog, 1889.

This is one of my favorite, most irresistible images from the Skromme Collection. The artists that worked for these companies were incredibly talented and imaginative.

A cutout advertisement made from thick card stock. Bucher & Gibbs Plow Co,. Imperial Plow advertisement card, not dated.

Plow ink! who would have thought?? Bucher & Gibbs Plow Co,. Imperial Plow advertisement card, not dated.

Preserving history of use:

As I mentioned earlier, certain signs of use are evident when examining the catalogs: fold lines, dirt, water damage, ink stains. But there are other signs as well, which I think of as “signs of life”. They are traces of people who inhabited the world with these paper objects. Even though the traces of personal history are not connected to a famous individual or a specific historic event, the altered paper objects do tell a compelling story about American farm life.

Child adds some embellishments with colored pencils  in the parent’s magazine. Charles H. Childs & Co., Riding Cultivators Catalog, 1892.

The culprit’s signature on the other side of the page. Charles H. Childs & Co., Riding Cultivators Catalog, 1892.

This advertisement booklet had blank pages inside. It was used to write down recipes for baked goods and cakes. A delicious read. Instead of using a book-edge scanner, the pages of the booklet will be photographed with a digital camera on the copy stand. The booklet will be opened and supported at 90 degrees in order to safely keep the nail in place

A page with a recipe is attached to the inside of the pamphlet, using a nail. J.M. Childs & Co., Tiger Self Dump Wheel Horse Rake memorandum book, 1884.

CLose up of the textured surface of Tek wipe, which is a nonwoven polyester and cellulose blend.

Close-up of the textured surface of Tek wipe, which is a nonwoven polyester and cellulose blend.

The AIC Annual Meeting in 2014 was abuzz with the virtues of Tek Wipe as a paper conservation material. We had been considering purchasing some as a disaster salvage supply for a while, after seeing how much cotton blotter we used up in the recovery from the Ames Flood of 2010. As the Chair-Elect of the AIC Sustainability Committee, I find the idea of an absorbent non-woven that is washable and reusable to be very appealing. Its reusability makes this material an attractive choice from both an environmental and an economic perspective. However, it wasn’t until I started hearing about other treatment uses for the material that I got over my inertia and ordered some for our lab.  Six months of experimentation later, I’m very pleased with Tek wipe’s versatility and results.

Tek wipe on a 35" wide roll.

Tek wipe on a 35″ wide roll.

Tek wipe is a highly absorbent polyester/cellulose nonwoven textile which can be ordered by the sheet or by the roll. We chose to order a roll and cut it down to sheets that are custom sized for various purposes. We have precut sheets to keep on hand for water disaster scenarios, but I have also been using it for document washing and paper mending in place of (and sometimes in addition to) cotton blotter. For mending, I have used Tek wipe in place of the small rectangles of blotter cut to fit our glass and plexi glass weights. I still sandwich Reemay or Holytex between the Tek wipe and the mend, because the Tek wipe can stick to the mend (or even the paper support itself) if allowed to dry in direct contact.

However, where Tek wipe’s versatility really shines is as a washing material.  I’ll qualify that assertion by saying my assessments are visual and anecdotal; we haven’t the time or the resources in our lab to assess the results with technical analytics (hint, hint to the conservation graduate students out there…)  I’ve been working on a project treating about twenty issues of a mid-19th century horticulture journal suffering from water and mold damage. All of the issues exhibit black and purple mold stains, as well as caked-on surface dirt and pronounced tidelines which fluoresce under UV light. Regardless of whether the tidelines are fluorescing as an indication of mold hyphae or an indication of soluble paper degradation products, reducing them has been a desirable part of this treatment. The project has therefore offered an ideal opportunity for testing out a few different washing techniques with Tek wipe.

Tidelines fluorescing under UV light.

Tidelines fluorescing under UV light.

After the initial treatment steps of HEPA vacuuming, dry cleaning, and misting with an ethanol solution, the separated folios of the horticulture journal were then washed aqueously.  I tried three different washing techniques with Tek wipe: blotter sandwich washing, slant board washing, and a combination of immersion washing combined with abbreviated blotter sandwich washing.  Tek wipe performed usefully in all three scenarios, dramatically reducing the tidelines visible in ambient light and completely removing the fluorescing compounds.  For all three washing methods, documents were dried in a blotter/Reemay stack under weight.

Blotter Sandwich Washing

For the blotter sandwich, I used Tek wipe in place of Reemay or Hollytex.  I sandwiched the document between two piece of Tek wipe, then sandwiched the ensemble between two piece of thick cotton blotter. This method worked the best to the naked eye, completely removing all visible traces of the tidelines. All fluorescing compounds were likewise removed with this method.

Slant Board Washing

In this scenario, I used Tek wipe in lieu of a fleece, but otherwise followed standard slant board washing procedures. The Tek wipe seemed to wick a bit more slowly than fleece, but the stain was reduced almost as well as blotter sandwich washing, with slight ghosting remaining. All fluorescing compounds were also removed with this method.

Immersion Washing Followed by Abbreviated Blotter Sandwich Washing

While trying the above washing methods with Tek wipe proved informative, neither method would be suitable for the scale of this project, which requires the washing of over 200 folios. So, I decided to try immersion washing in combination with a blotter sandwich lined with Tek wipe.  Following usual procedures, I washed a Reemay stack with one full issue of the journal in multiple baths of short duration (5 minutes each): two baths in deionized water, followed by two alkaline baths. Even though the water in the final bath remained clear, some visible tidelines did remain in the documents. The documents were peeled one by one from the stack and placed in a blotter/Tek wipe sandwich stack. The documents were re-misted with recalcified water after about an hour, and left for another hour in the blotter/Tek wipe stack. This method greatly reduced the tidelines, leaving behind only faint ghosting, and removing all fluorescing compounds.  I selected this method for the remainder of the project because it produced acceptable results in a more time-efficient manner.

Before (above) and after (below) immersion washing followed by abbreviated blotter/Tek wipe sandwich washing.

Before (above) and after (below) immersion washing followed by abbreviated blotter/Tek wipe sandwich washing.

Washing the Tek wipe in very warm water and then air-drying it removed the stains the material absorbed from the washing processes above, leaving it ready to be used again.

How Are You Using Tek Wipe?

Are you using Tek wipe for conservation treatments? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section.  I’m especially interested to hear if anyone has tried using Tek wipe instead of blotter in a drying stack in a treatment, rather than disaster salvage, scenario, and whether that was successful.

What do you like or dislike about the material? Have you had any particular successes or failures using it? Do you have any cautions to share?  Please join the conversation!

 

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.

w3s

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

w3s_html1

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:

w3s_sb1

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

w3s_sb2b

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:

w3s_html2

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:

w3s_html_tagref (2)

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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