Grants, Internships & Fellowships

Through a generous grant from the Silos & Smokestacks Agricultural Heritage Internship Grant Program, the Special Collections and Preservation Departments of the Iowa State University Library are offering a summer internship. The Silos & Smokestacks Agricultural Heritage Internship is a full-time, 10-week project position to develop a digital collection on Iowa State’s early Extension movement and create content for an interpretive website.  We will be accepting applications through Friday, April 18th.  For more information, please visit the internship website:

1091MapHappy New Year from the 1091 Project!

This time last year at Iowa State University Library, we were treating records and collection materials recovered after a water pipe burst in Special Collections during Winter Break, when the Library was closed for a week.  Luckily, this small disaster occurred late in the week, and was discovered very quickly. Even so, it was not the auspicious start to the year we would have hoped for.

Our brief respite from the below-zero temperatures of the last "polar vortex" also brought with it... more snow!  And the polar vortex is predicted to return within the next few weeks. Winter in the Midwest is always a challenge!

Our brief respite from the below-zero temperatures of the last “polar vortex” also brought with it… more snow! And the polar vortex is predicted to return within the next few weeks. Winter in the Midwest is always a challenge!

So far this year, we’re staying dry — almost too dry, as we deal with the outrageously low relative humidity that has accompanied the so-called “Polar Vortex” engulfing the Midwest and much of the country. Iowa temperatures have hovered just barely above or below “0” on the thermometer for weeks at a time this winter, and we’ve been keeping our humidifiers humming.


(L to R:) Ashley, Hope, Bree, and Fang Qi

We said goodbye to student worker Devin Koch when she graduated in December, and we are sadly anticipating more goodbyes this semester. Our longtime students Ashley Arnold and Hope Mitchell have both worked in the lab for nearly four years, and are very much a part of our lab “family.” In May, Ashley will graduate with her BA in Anthropology, and Hope will complete her MA in History. They’ll be handing over the student workflow to our new hires, Bree Planica and Fang Qi Li, both of whom have been making incredible strides in developing their handskills and repair knowledge since they were hired last August.


Northwestern Farmer and Horticultural Journal (1858)

My first major Special Collections conservation treatment project of the year is already underway, courtesy of the recent acquisition of nineteen issues of  Northwestern Farmer and Horticultural Journal.   This mid-19th century publication had spent many years stored in a barn, and suffers from all the attendant conservation challenges one would expect from being stored in a Midwestern barn through the changing of the seasons year after year.  I’ll be posting in greater detail about the project in the coming months.

Last year, we implemented a new policy approach for so-called “medium-rare” materials (in particular, 19th and early 20th century publisher’s bindings) as they come to the lab for review or repair, and this year I’ll be turning my attention to our boxing policy, to see if there is room for comprehensive improvement or streamlined processes.


Of course, we’re also excited about this year’s Lennox Foundation Internship.  We’ve just started reviewing applications, and should be making our decision over the next several weeks. As always, the candidate we select will have an impact on what projects we develop and implement this summer.

And because we work in the preservation/conservation field, we are well aware that even the best laid plans can change dramatically, as we respond to whatever disasters may arise in the year ahead.

If you haven’t yet checked in with Duke University Libraries Conservation, then head on over to Preservation Underground to find out their 2014 outlook.  And may your own outlook be bright as 2014 gets underway!

Applications for the 2014 Lennox Foundation Internship for Preservation Education, Training, & Outreach are due next week, on Thursday, January 16.  We’re interested in applications from current graduate students or recent graduates of training programs that specialize in book and paper conservation, photograph conservation, preservation administration, digital preservation, or audiovisual/film preservation. For more information and application guidelines, see Lennox Internship 2014.

Please note: We regret that we cannot offer visa support for international students. We can consider applications only from those international students who already have a work/study visa through some other means.


My State Fair outing with the Lennox Intern is one of the highlights of my job!

I had the pleasure of taking our 2013 Lennox Intern, Susanna Donovan, to the Iowa State Fair on Wednesday August 14th.  The weather was perfect for the long day we were about to encounter.  One of the highlights of my job is to spend a day with our intern, as I love showing them around the fair and sharing my knowledge of animals and exhibits.

This was Older Iowans’ Day so there were many elderly visitors traveling about the fairgrounds, either on foot or by motor carts.  One of our first stops was at the Stock Dog Trials directed by the Iowa Border Collie Association in the Outdoor Arena.  Black and white Border Collies herd (hopefully) cooperative sheep through a course at the directions given by their handler.  These dogs have a strong eye and stare down their wooly locusts.  My good friends, Ron and Kyle Kilstrom, were attending the sheep waiting for their turns on the course, and we had a nice chat about sheep.

Susanna and "Squirt"

Lennox Intern Susanna and “Squirt” the Super Bull

Next, we ventured down the hill to see the largest ram, boar, and bull, where people flock to see these huge animals.  Susanna is pictured with Squirt, the Super Bull weighing in at 3,032 pounds.  He is a Charolais breed and owned by Richard Berns of Postville, Iowa.  Of course you can’t pet Squirt, but you can pet the baby calves that come to the fair.  We even got to see baby animals after birth/hatching at the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center.  Not a place for the squeamish!

Susanna pets a baby calf.

Susanna pets a baby calf.

We spent time in the 4-H Exhibits Building where 4-Hers from all around Iowa have their best projects exhibited.  It is an honor to have your entries chosen at your local county fair to come for exhibition at the Iowa State Fair.  Many wonderful entries of foods, crafts, photography, woodworking, and more fill this large building.   It’s always a good place to get ideas for home projects.


Susanna tries out the quilting machine.

Next, we went on to the second floor of the Varied Industries Building that houses fabrics and textiles from around the state.  Many quilts of all types were displayed on the walls in a wide array of colors and patterns.   Susanna got a chance to try her hand at the quilting machine and made it look easy.

Susanna enjoys dessert first!

Susanna enjoys dessert first!

Before we had lunch we had to have dessert first, so we stopped at the Dairy Store to have one of the best ice creams on the fairgrounds.  Can you say “the creamiest ice cream?  Oh YES!”  The beef cattle were busy going in and out of the show arena next door.  It is always fun to watch them lead those massive animals around and they make it look so easy.  We also sampled the Nitro Ice Cream by Blue Sky Creamery which was developed by two Iowa State University students, Thomas (T. J.) Paskach and William (Will) Schroeder, in the spring of 1999.  The ice cream was patented in 2000 and tested at the Iowa State Fair that year.  More yummy ice cream!

Enjoying my lunch, a "cowboy cone," with baked beans and shredded beef in a waffle cone, topped with cole slaw and a potato chip!

Enjoying my lunch, a “cowboy cone,” with baked beans and shredded beef in a waffle cone, topped with cole slaw and a potato chip!

We ventured over to the Anne and Bill Riley Stage to see my neighbor, Beth Titman of Boone, receive the Iowan of the Day award sponsored by the Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products since 1997.  Beth is very involved in volunteering in her community and it was fun seeing her receive her special and very well-deserved award from Speed Herrig of Cookies BBQ Sauce fame.


Tanned ostrich leathers.

And to be work-related to books, we looked at tanned Ostrich hides in the John Deere Agriculture Building and found some interesting leg leathers.  I happened to purchase a pretty black one for a future spine for a book for fun.  The hides were very soft and came in pretty colors, but they were pricey.

We ate, we saw, we petted, and we walked a lot.  It was a very long day and I can say Susanna was definitely tired and hoped she enjoyed her time at the Iowa State Fair.

At first, most people in the United States think that I work in a forest.

“I’m not in environmental conservation. I work in the library. With books.”
–“So you are doing research about the environment?”
“No no, I am not doing research. I am working with books. To make them better. Like a doctor.”
–“Oh, okay. What kind of degree is that?…”

In France, many of my French colleagues have had to clarify that no, they do not work in the food business, since the word for conservation, restauration, shares a common root with “restaurant.” It is an international challenge, then, to have our profession be recognized for what it is.

So on some occasions, I’ve sought more creative ways to explain what I do.

“I’m a book conservator. Do you watch Dexter? Well the serial killer in the sixth season – the one who works with rare books in a museum? That’s kind of what I do.”

Or then again:

“You know that grandmother who destroyed the church fresco of Christ in Spain? Conservators do the OPPOSITE of that.”

Of course, it’s not ideal to be contextualized by a serial killer, or by a well-meaning but unqualified (and ballsy!) grandmother, but I would tell myself that at least these current cultural trends help increase exposure to our field.

Recently, though, I’ve needed no translation…

On my flight from Chicago to Des Moines, the passenger sitting next to me asked me where I was going and what I’d be doing there. I told her that I was going to start an internship in Book Conservation at Iowa State University Library.

“Oh I love books!” She said. “My sister and I read all the time!! How wonderful for you.”

And when I was visiting Iowa City, a new artist-friend asked “Oh, so do you get rid of foxing?” when I introduced myself and my line of work.

Could it be that word is spreading? Or that book lovers and artists, those more apt to be up-to-date about the dangers their favorite works are exposed to, are running rampant in Iowa?

Whatever the case, it’s been a good first week here in Ames, Iowa. I’m settling into the lab, getting to know the team, and spending quality time with a few certain baggy books.

I’ve started with treating a series of quarter leather tightback bindings from the mid-19th century. For the most part, these books are in good condition, aside from the leather spines which are deteriorating along the shoulders and have in most cases detached completely or in pieces.

Archives des Sciences Physiques et Naturelles 1857 v.35 Before Treatment

Archives des Sciences Physiques et Naturelles 1857 v.35 Before Treatment

Archives des Sciences Physiques et Naturelles 1846 v.2 Before Treatment

Archives des Sciences Physiques et Naturelles 1846 v.2 Before Treatment

For a number of these volumes, we determined that the best treatment would be housing, considering the amount of time that would be spent piecing the fragments back together (and the other exciting books that await me!)  So, Melissa suggested making Ethafoam platforms that would nestle into Tuxedo boxes and hold the fragments in place.

Archives des Sciences Physiques et Naturelles 1847 v.6

Archives des Sciences Physiques et Naturelles 1847 v.6


In the cases where the spine is intact but detached from the volume, I’ve opted to line the spine piece with Japanese tissue, leaving flanges to insert under the leather of the boards.

Archives des Sciences Physiques et Naturelles 1846 v.1

Archives des Sciences Physiques et Naturelles 1846 v.1

1846 v.1 Detail

1846 v.1 Detail

It’s been successful so far, and I’m looking forward to continuing with these volumes, and to completing the Baggy Books project.

So here’s to a good first week.  In a fair world, this conservation news would make headlines around the globe! But Dexter and Spanish grandmothers being so scintillating, I’m happy to spread my news this way, on the Preservation Department blog.

Keep it classy, Iowa.

We are delighted to welcome Susanna Donovan as the 2013 recipient of the Lennox Foundation Internship for Preservation Education, Training, and Outreach.

Iowa State University Library's 2013 Lennox Intern, Susanna Donovan.

Iowa State University Library’s 2013 Lennox Intern, Susanna Donovan.

Susanna comes to us having just graduated from the University of Paris 1 – Pantheon Sorbonne’s Conservation of Cultural Heritage Program, with a specialization in book and paper conservation.  During her conservation training, she completed internships at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, and most recently, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Originally from Tennessee, Susanna is excited to be back in the United States after her time in Europe.  Her other interests include watercoloring (she toured Austria to view the spots made famous by one of her favorite watercolorists, Rudolf Von Alt), running, and swimming.

Over the next three months at Iowa State University Library, Susanna will be wrapping up the “baggy book” project.  During a previous shifting project, over 80 volumes in Special Collections had been flagged (with polyethylene baggies) for later assessment and treatment.  Susanna will be overseeing this project from start to finish: inventorying the items; performing condition assessments; prioritizing items for stabilization, full treatment, or rehousing; performing conservation treatment and constructing complex enclosures; and delegating simple enclosures to our student employees as appropriate.  You’ll be hearing more detail about the project from Susanna herself in future posts.

It’s going to be a great summer!


Along with our wishes for a happy new year, we’d also like to say thank you to our readers for making last year such a rewarding one for us.  We appreciate your shared insights and feedback, and thank you for being part of our virtual preservation community.

2013 is already off to an exciting start, beginning with a frozen pipe which burst in the offices of our Special Collections and Archives over break.  Since I was basking in the Arizona sunshine at the time, Hilary will fill you in on the details of that escapade next Tuesday.  We’re also in the midst of our search for the 2013 Lennox Foundation Intern; if you or someone you know is planning to apply, please note the January 17 deadline.

Parks Library, Iowa State University

Parks Library, Iowa State University

As we look ahead to the rest of 2013, are there any favorite topics you would like to see us revisit?  We’ve covered topics as diverse as disaster response, conservation treatments, digitization projects, book and paper arts, commercial binding, reformatting, book reviews, conferences, sustainability, whimsical quizzes, and local preservation events.  Are there topics we’ve never discussed that you wish we would?  Guest bloggers from other departments of the Library from whom you’d like to hear?  Join our conversation!

Wishing you all a productive and fulfilling 2013!

« Previous PageNext Page »