Lennox Interns


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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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!

We are currently reviewing applications for the 2017 Lennox Internship, this will be my first time participating in this process.

Here is a link to the Lennox Foundation Internship information page. The 2017 deadline for application has already passed, but keep us in mind for the following year, if you are interested.

https://parkslibrarypreservation.wordpress.com/lennox-foundation-internship/

Recently I found myself looking up former Lennox Interns and ferreting out what some of them are up to these days. The results of my findings were impressive, here are a few tidbits.

2006 Carie McGinnis

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Works as a preservation librarian and a registrar at the Houghton Library at Harvard University.

2007 Ilse Entlesberger 

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Works as the book conservator for the Regional Library of Upper Austria.

2008 Kathleen Fear

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Went on to receive a PhD at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, focusing on the topics of curation, preservation and reuse. Then worked as a Data Librarian at the University of Rochester Library. Currently the Senior Business Intelligence Analyst at University of Rochester Medical Center.

2009  Bexx Caswell-Olson

MSU Advancement

Works as a book and paper conservator at the Michigan State University Library in Lansing.

2010 Kristi Westberg

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Went on to work as a book conservator at NEDCC (Northeast Document Conservation Center) and is currently a  book conservator at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA.

2010 Henry Hebert

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Went on to work as a book conservator at the University of Illinois Library in Champaign and is now a book conservator at Duke University Library in North Carolina.

2011 Lauren Calcote

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Went on to do a conservation fellowship at the University of Michigan Library and is now a book conservator at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

2013 Sue Donnovan

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Went on to work as a  book conservator at the University of Notre Dame Library in Indiana and is now a book conservator at the University of Virginia Library in Charlottesville.

2014 Gloria Diez

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Worked at GOTIKA film restoration and preservation services. Is currently the producer of the Mobile Cinema at ACERCARTE, organized by the Ministry of Cultural Management of Provinicia de Buenos Aires.

2014 Nicole Monjeau

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Went on to do an internship in paper conservation at the Corning Museum of Glass and to volunteer at the Midwest Art Conservation Center. She co-presented a paper on her work at the Corning Museum of Glass at the 2016 ICOM meeting in Paris. Nicole is currently working in Minneapolis as a conservator of paper and photographs in private practice.

Here are some earlier blog posts from 2010 and 2011, written by Hilary Seo about former Lennox Interns.

https://parkslibrarypreservation.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/lennox-foundation-preservation-internship/

https://parkslibrarypreservation.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/lennox-foundation-interns/

https://parkslibrarypreservation.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/from-lennox-intern-to-zipf-fellow/

 

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Click image to enlarge.

One important part of my job is to train new student employees, but one of my highlights is to teach book repair skills to others such as Gloria Diez, one of our 2014 Lennox Interns.  Gloria was our intern for Audiovisual Preservation, so she had no prior book conservation experience. We designed her internship to include book repair and basic paper conservation, because these are useful skills for dealing with ephemera and other print materials when working in a film archives. Not all of our students and interns come with book repair knowledge or skills, so it can be a challenge when explaining and showing how to do a full repair to a book, or to construct a phase box.  When our students or interns have a hobby such as origami, sewing, knitting, or drawing that requires some hand skills, all the better.  And if they are a quick and eager learner like Gloria, it makes it fun for me, too.

Gloria adheres a label on a repaired book using a Teflon folder.

Gloria adheres a label on a repaired book using a Teflon folder.

We first started with the basics of simple enclosures such as pamphlets, CoLibri pockets, and encapsulation with Mylar using bookmarks, folded pamphlets, and other non-collection materials. When we worked on rebacks, recases, full repairs, and new cases, we used discarded library books so Gloria could take all her samples with her when her internship was completed, as a 3D portfolio of her repair work.  Then Gloria learned how to make phase and tux wrap boxes to house her repairs in.

Gloria uses the Minter ultrasonic encapsulator.

Gloria uses the Minter ultrasonic encapsulator.

This one-on-one time with Gloria also gave me a chance to learn a little more about her.  All Lennox Interns time must come to an end and it’s sad to see them go, but I’m glad to give a little of my talents at book repair in order to aid Gloria in her future endeavors.  Good luck Gloria!

 

Gloria's completed book repairs.

Gloria’s completed book repairs.

Gloria's custom enclosures for the repaired books.

Gloria’s custom enclosures for the repaired books.

Gloria's other treatments (pamphlet bindings, encapsulations).

Gloria’s other treatments (pamphlet bindings, encapsulations).

Custom enclosure for pamphlet and encapsulated ephemera, with foam insert.

Custom enclosure for booklet and encapsulated ephemera, with foam insert.

One of the best things about being a conservator is learning new treatment methods and materials. This allows you to expand your knowledge and develop preferences. During my time as a Lennox Intern, I have had the chance to broaden my skills by learning three new treatment methods.

The first new treatment I learned is the re-adhering of flaking emulsion on glass plate negatives. Working with a small brush and in small increments, I brushed a 5% solution of gelatin in deionized water on the glass, and then gently pressed the emulsion to the glass. In theory, this is a fairly straightforward treatment. In practice, it proved to be difficult. The emulsion is highly reactive to moisture. Thus, when coming in contact with the gelatin adhesive, it behaved erratically. It was difficult to re-adhere the pieces of emulsion seamlessly, resulting in space between two pieces of emulsion. The end results are not perfect visually, but the emulsion is now adhered well to the glass, reducing any risks of losing any delaminated pieces.

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A section of emulsion before and after re-adhesion.

Brushing on the gelatin solution.

Brushing on the gelatin solution.

The second new treatment I learned is the re-building of board corners, a technique often done on books which have corners that have snapped off. Some of the photographs in the Van Zandt collection (read my previous post on this collection here) are adhered to backing boards. This was typically done at the photography studio, and all of the backing boards have inscriptions. This means that removing the board would remove historic information, and as a result, repair of the boards with snapped corners was our chosen treatment method. Melissa taught me two ways of building up boards: (1) delaminating layers of archival board until it is the right thickness; and (2) adhering archival board and paper together to build up the right thickness. Then, the newly-made board corners are split and pared, the object’s backing board is split, and they are fit together. I found this to be a fun process, and enjoyed learning a bit about book conservation techniques.

A board edge made of archival board being fitted into the backing board of a photograph.

A board edge made of archival board being fitted into the backing board of a photograph.

The final new treatment method I will discuss is the use of TekWipe during the washing of a panoramic photograph, which had a significant tideline. I thought this would be a great opportunity to test out a new-to-me material, using the open blotter sandwich method. My set up for this open sandwich was, starting from the bottom: a sheet of Mylar, blotter, wet TekWipe, the object (recto-side up), Photo-Tex tissue, and Plexi. This method meant that the soluble degradation materials would move downward into the absorbent TekWipe. In the end, only a small amount of discoloration moved into the TekWipe, which did not result in much of a visual change in the object, but I did appreciate the opportunity to work with this material.

The panoramic photograph removed from the TekWipe, which shows some discoloration that has leeched out of the photograph.

The panoramic photograph removed from the TekWipe, which shows some discoloration that has leeched out of the photograph.

The opportunity to try out new techniques is incredibly valuable, and I am excited for future learning possibilities as my time at ISU comes to an end and I move on to the next position. If you’d like to keep up to date with my future conservation endeavors, please feel free to follow me on Twitter or have a look at my blog.

As I reach the end of my internship, I would like to share a brief description of some of the projects I have worked on during the last three months as well as some personal observations.  Two of the film projects I addressed were the re-housing of the Alexander Lippisch Films Collection and the condition assessment of the general Film Collection located in the film vaults. For my first task involving the Lippisch Films, the goal and workflow were quite straightforward. The majority of the 306 films (in most cases roughly 100 ft.) were stored in their original metal cans or cardboard boxes. They were also in their original reels, which was often a Tenite reel that had decomposed, covering the film with a white powder. Finally, they were stored in groups of approximately 20 objects per box inside large, archival boxes.

A decomposed Tenite reel.

A decomposed Tenite reel.

My work with this collection consisted in transferring all films from their original plastic or metal reels into 3-inch plastic cores. This is the best way to keep film, because it avoids the potentially damaging pressure that a reel might produce, and it also prevents the extreme curling that is caused by 2-inch cores. In addition, protective head and tail leaders were added to all films and then stored in adequate 16mm archival plastic cans.

The Lippisch Films in their original reels.

The Lippisch Films in their original reels.

The Lippisch Films transferred into 3-inch cores and re-housed.

The Lippisch Films transferred into 3-inch cores and re-housed.

Even though I didn’t have the time to thoroughly inspect, clean and repair all films, I was able to provide them with minimal stabilization and remove as much non-archival tape as I could. The tape had damaged the adjacent areas, producing stains, silver mirroring and other chemical reactions.

Film had been secured with non archival tape

Film had been secured with non archival tape.

Tape being removed. The tape has damaged the emulsion.

Tape being removed. The tape has damaged the emulsion.

Finally, a selection of films was prepared for digitization. The digitization projects currently being carried out at Special Collections have access purposes only. This means that the image quality of the files produced is good enough for research and access but does not meet the standards of long-term digital preservation.

Another issue I addressed was testing the decomposition level of the acetate films. Since its inception, motion picture film has been manufactured with three different plastic bases. The first utilized base was cellulose nitrate, discontinued around 1951 due to its extremely high flammability. Nitrate was eventually replaced by cellulose acetate which is still being used today. The third, polyester, also continues to be used, particularly for theatrical release prints. Unfortunately, acetate has proven to be chemically unstable and is prone to chemical decay, especially when it is not stored in the appropriate conditions of temperature and relative humidity (40 Fº and 30-50% RH). This type of decomposition is known as vinegar syndrome, in reference to the strong odor produced by acidic gases liberated by the decaying films.
The Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology developed an important tool, A-D Strips, which helps determine the extent of chemical decay in acetate-based collections. This is achieved through the use of indicator papers that measure the pH in films. During my internship, I tested the collection with the help of students and Special Collections staff. The results and the data collected will allow us to understand how the chemical condition of the collection evolved and decide what are the most urgent actions to be carried out within a thorough preservation plan.

A film without noticeable physical changes. Before re-housing.

A film without noticeable physical changes. Before re-housing.

Severely decayed film.

Severely decayed film.

In summation, I would like to share some thoughts about my experience as a film preservationist who learned some paper conservation techniques, and worked for three months in a paper-based environment. Most of the differences that I perceived derive most likely from the fact that audiovisual objects are machine-dependent, as opposed to books or paper documents. This means that in order to “read” a movie or sound record a machine is needed (i.e. projector, deck, computer, etc.). This main difference with paper is reflected in the conservation treatments that the materials need in order to be preserved. With books and paper, we work on the object to make it readable and agreeable for immediate contact with our eyes. With films, we work on preparing the object to be read or processed by a machine. Anyone who works in the field of conservation understands the importance of preserving our cultural heritage in its varying facets, from the intimate value of a family photograph to those works that are considered national patrimony, or even world heritage. I am pleased to have collaborated with Iowa State University in saving valuable audiovisual documents that are part of its identity as an institution and a community.

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