Guest Bloggers


My two short months as the 2017 Lennox intern in the preservation lab have quickly come to an end! Even though it feels like I just started yesterday, I have had the opportunity to participate in so many projects in the lab which allowed me to stretch myself and exercise skills in many different areas. Here are a couple of the highlights:

One of my treatment projects was working on two WWI photographs with major losses.

For reference I used Victoria Binder’s article in Topics in Photographic Preservation entitled ‘Digital Fills for Photographs with Glossy Surfaces’

Ex-servicemen working on engines, before and after treatmentThese two silver gelatin photographs showing ISU’s part in post-war rehabilitation of WWI veterans were selected as part of a group of objects which will be shown in an upcoming exhibit by Special Collections/University Archives. Since the photographs will be on display, the large losses to the image area were determined to be distracting for the overall interpretation. I used Adobe Photoshop and a digital image of the photograph to create a fill for each loss that matched the surrounding image area.

Beekeeping, before and after treatment

Each fill was then printed out on glossy photo paper, which gave it a shiny finish that matched the original photograph nearly perfectly, a feature that is very difficult to reproduce manually with traditional materials. Another great feature of creating fills this way is that the color and exposure can be manipulated quickly and easily to match the original photograph exactly, cutting out a lengthy inpainting and color-matching process. One thing to be careful of while making digital fills, which was discussed at length with the curator beforehand, is that the recreation of lost information can easily go too far, verging on suggesting imagery that may not have existed. Therefore, the fills are very nondescript, focusing on light-dark contrast and overall texture instead of completion of objects or figures.

Another great blog post, “Digital Fills to the Rescue” by Rachel Pennimen, can be found on Duke University Libraries blog Preservation Underground.

Throughout my time here Sonya was working on updating the library-wide disaster response and recovery plan. These plans are a crucial part of the institutional planning, and can help significantly reduce response time and overall damage to the collections in the case of an emergency such as a flood or fire. I helped with the updating process by making sure vendor contact information was current, filling in missing sections, and sifting through extant and potential format options to pull useful information and organization ideas and put them together into a streamlined, yet thorough, plan.

Sonya and archivist Laura Sullivan recording information about priority collections in the stacks

One step toward a helpful disaster plan is identifying collection priorities, both in terms of value and sensitivity. To this end, Sonya and I did walkthroughs of Special Collections stacks with the curators to pick out certain items or collections that were especially important to the University. Knowing this information and the inherent sensitivity of the materials in the stacks can help pinpoint objects that should be salvaged first in the event of an emergency. This project taught me a lot about how disaster plans are actually built and are meant to function within a large institution like ISU Library.

My time at ISU was  busy! But I am so happy with all that I learned and accomplished over these two months, and know I will put that experience to good use in my upcoming projects!

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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.

RS24_6_0_5_B1_f1_1896_BT_bk_cover

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.

Football_Program2_tape_removal

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.

RS24_6_0_5_b1_f1_1896_AT_enclosure

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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At the bench

Hi! My name is Emilie Duncan, and I am the 2017 Lennox conservation intern. I come to Iowa from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), by way of Charlottesville, Virginia, where I just completed my third year internship at the University of Virginia Library. Although technically I do not graduate with my Library and Archival Materials Conservation degree until later in August, the completion of my internship year is a major achievement and I am viewing this internship at ISU as my first post-graduate professional position. I was drawn to this internship because of the collections here at Parks Library, which include a wide range of archival materials, rare books, and objects. I studied Historic Preservation in undergrad, and from this gained an interest in historical objects of use as well as architectural and technical drawings. This internship will allow me to gain additional experience with these types of materials in an academic library setting.

WWI_1

Reviewing materials for a library exhibit with an online component

I am just getting started here at ISU, but I already have several treatment and non-treatment projects going, which I will be writing about in future posts. Part of my learning experience here will be simply understanding how the lab works and how the workflows are adapted to the specific collections and user population at Iowa State. By comparing and contrasting this information with other conservation labs I have worked in and will work in, I can gain insight that will help me make the most of my environments in the future.

Lippisch1

First treatment, generated by a patron’s digitization order

I am really looking forward to settling into the flow of the lab and exploring campus and beautiful Ames (although I will admit I am glad I won’t be here to experience an Iowan winter!) You will hear from me again soon!

On June 1, 2017, I began my 32nd year at the ISU Library. In the early years, my job morphed from a documents librarian to a Reference Librarian with instruction and collection development duties. At the turn of the century, yes the 21st one, I added oversight for the library building including safety and security to my repertoire. Then in 2008, I dropped the reference/instruction aspects to concentrate on the library spaces. Over the past three years, I have been focused on the development of our library spaces feasibility plan and now the upcoming restroom renovations.

With nearly 20 years of experience with the building, I thought I knew the library physical spaces inside and out. But during last two architect tours of the building, I discovered new places and learned interesting tidbits about the building.

During tours of the mechanical/electrical rooms, I noticed that workers used walls for their scratch paper. Various calculations and notes were written presumably for the operations of the machinery located in these spaces as shown in photographs below

20170615_093231Measurements for panels

20170615_093129More measurements

20170615_093223Simplified schematic of the electrical circuitry for a water valve

Another one of my interesting finds in a mechanical room was a set of pipes that at first glance looked like plumbing pipes. But if you know plumbing, a “y” joint is never used for joining in two pipes coming in opposite directions. So what was this set of pipes? Well, the original building had a feature that many homeowners would love to have…centralized vacuum system. The second photo shows a  capped opening in the Periodical Room.

20170615_093136“Y” joint for the centralized vacuum system

20170706_080830Capped opening for centralized vacuum system

In many of the mechanical/electrical rooms, I discovered evidence of the original building which was concealed by the new construction needed for the 1960’s additions. The original building material was the large slabs of limestone in these photographs.

20170706_081700  Original building in a mechanical room

20170615_100240  Original building in an electrical room

During the next few years as the library undergoes a revitalization of its physical spaces, I wonder what else will be undercovered, revealed, or exposed. Stay tuned.

Student employee Julianna Biedenfeld straining wheat starch paste at the Preservation lab

Student employee Julianna Biedenfeld straining wheat starch paste at the Preservation lab

The repairs we do on books in the Preservation Department is something that many might think seems really complicated or something super scientific. However, the work we put into books up here on the 4th floor isn’t all as complex as it appears to be and can be related to hobbies done outside of the Preservation Lab. Personally, I really enjoy putting together puzzles. In some aspects I can relate this enjoyment to the work I do in Preservation at the library.

A slow and steady progress through a puzzle

A slow and steady progress through a puzzle

Most recently, I have been working on a book repair technique called a reback. A reback is done when the spine of the cover is damaged, but the rest of the book is intact. Books that need repairing like this are what I would consider a puzzle that’s put together, but not quite finished. A damaged book needs something more – a few more pieces – to make it look complete. When working on a puzzle, sometimes you take a few pieces out that had already put together to get a closer look and find which pieces match with it.

Books with damaged spines, re-backs in progress and a completed repair

Books with damaged spines, re-backs in progress and a completed repair

A similar approach goes with the books I have been repairing. You take off the damaged bookcloth and replace some of it with new bookcloth. Then you put the final “piece” back on – the title – and the book looks complete. Once all the parts are together the book is finished and can be put back on the shelf to be used. In a similar way, once the pieces of a puzzle are all together, you can see a full image and sit back to enjoy it.

 

Working in the Parks Library Preservation Lab

Student employee Drew Ryan working in the Parks Library Preservation Lab

One large purpose of a library is to provide access to information to people. To be able to keep providing this access to information the digital initiatives department takes hard copies and makes digital copies that can be saved and distributed online or archived. While working for this department I have scanned masters theses, Iowa State Bombs, Iowa State Board of Trustees minutes, and Iowa State Facility slides. It’s very satisfying to go onto the library website and be able to see what I scanned available to the public.

ISU's "The Bomb" from 1894

Digital copy of the cover of Iowa State University’s Yearbook from 1894

In the conservation department I have done some preventative work as well as repairs. I have done shield bindings and pamphlets which give each book some protection so that they last longer. The most satisfying work however has been doing the repairs. It’s a cool experience to take a book or part of a book apart and then put it back together and see how it’s good as new.

Cleaned spines of general collection books

Cleaned spines of general collection books

Original covers that will be reattached to the textblocks

Original covers that will be reattached to the textblocks

It’s a good feeling working in both of these departments and helping to preserve the access to information, whether it is creating digital copies or repairing a damaged book so that people can continue to use it.

Former Lennox Intern Susanna Donovan returns to the ISU Conservation Lab in virtual form, as a guest blogger! Susanna is currently a Mellon Fellow in Paper Conservation at Balboa Art Conservation Center in San Diego, CA.

This post comes as a note to the upcoming AIC annual meeting in San Francisco.

I heard this story on NPR in September in which a professor at Boston University observed how the size of a recyclable object had a direct influence on whether it was actually put into the recycling bin or not. It turned out that while a whole sheet of paper would be recycled, that same sheet of paper, torn into small bits, would find its way into the trash. In the time since this observation, the professor has become aware that his own recycling habits have changed. Now acutely aware of how many small recyclable items are over looked, he will even take the paper labels off of plastic coke bottles and recycle them separately.

I empathize, and I am also guilty.

As a conservator working with paper, I find myself with a growing collection of paper scraps. My spoils of Japanese paper, Western paper, (sandpaper?!), toned paper, remoistenable paper, and solvent-set papers are nestled into folders and Mylar sleeves. When I get annoyed at how the smaller pieces get everywhere and the static turns my long strips into crinkly messes, I nestle another, smaller, Mylar sleeve into the bigger Mylar sleeve in which to put the smaller bits.

Scraps-01

Avoiding a Russian nesting doll situation, my VERY small, but very precious bits of that perfectly toned paper go into one of those mini Altoid tins. I acquired these tins from various people. I feel like I can’t be the only book & paper conservator who asks friends, colleagues, and family members “Are you going to use that?” when a perfectly useable, hinged tin goes on the market. Anyway, my small bits go there. I can keep them contained, with the lid, and I don’t have to worry about the static of the mylar sleeves causing me grief. There is also my prized origami-envelope in which I keep some random things (i.e. the sandpaper, mylar mounting strip examples for photographs, itty bits of Western paper). I keep telling myself that one day I will open it out so I can remember how to make more envelopes, but I am too afraid that I will never be able to get it back to what it was, and then where will I put my random things?

Scraps-02

With all of my various ways of saving tiny mending strips and tangles of fuzz, you’d think that no fuzz goes unused, no strip wasted. But the trail of cotton and small squares of Japanese paper sunk into the carpet in the hallway bespeak the trials of every paper conservator out there: the dreaded paper cling. I admit that I have gone to the bathroom to look in the mirror and discover that I have fuzz all over my sweater. And here we come to the crux of my guilt: I brush it off. I do not save those bits that I find outside the confines of the lab, lest the administrative staff of the photography museum  in our shared hallway see me lightly holding something between my fingers on my way back from the bathroom…It would just look weird, right? But maybe I should. We save these small pieces of paper because we literally never know when we might need that EXACT tone, size, weight, etc., in the future. And some of these papers might be one of a kind, and so each and every piece is, indeed, precious. But what if I changed the narrative for those sweater-clingers, and thought first “waste not,” instead of “a fuzz on my chest again?! @$%&.” It might not do much, but since I am already shaking out my hands 12 times before grabbing that paper towel (as per a TED talk that stuck with me), what will it hurt?

Conserving is part of what we do, even if it might not be the first thing we use to define ourselves. The meeting in San Francisco will have presentations about sustainability and waste management in conservation, but I’d like to poke my nose out there and ask, more informally, what do you do?

Where do your small paper treasures hide? What lengths do you go to to use every last inch of that precious sheet of Tim Barrett paper ? What could we all do better?

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