Lennox Interns

Today is the first day of the 2014 Lennox Foundation Internship for Preservation Education, Outreach, and Training.  Our Lennox Interns often come during the summer months, but this year a Fall semester internship worked best for everyone. We have two Lennox interns this year, each specializing in a different aspect of preservation.

2014 Lennox Interns Nicole Monjeau (left) and Gloria Diez (right).

2014 Lennox Interns Nicole Monjeau (left) and Gloria Diez (right).

Nicole Monjeau is our Lennox Intern for Preservation of Photographic Materials. Nicole is from Minnesota, and just graduated with an MA in Paper Conservation from the Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London. Nicole also has a BFA in Photography from the College of Visual Arts, St. Paul, MN, and within the context of her paper conservation training,  focused as much as she could on photographic materials.  She also recently attended a Professional Conservators in Practice short course in photograph conservation with Susie Clark at West Dean College in Chichester, England.  Nicole will be working on photographic collections from our University Archives, including some lantern slides and glass plate negatives which could use some TLC.

Gloria Diez is our Lennox Intern for Preservation of Audiovisual Materials.  Gloria is from Argentina, and just graduated from the certificate program at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at George Eastman House. She also has a BA in Art History and Theory with specialization in Cinema Studies from the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Her goal after completing her training in the U.S. is to return to South America and work toward preserving and making accessible Latin America’s audiovisual heritage. During her internship at ISU Library, she will assess our audiovisual collections in Special Collections and University Archives and devise a detailed preservation plan for them.  In addition, Gloria will be training with me and technician Mindy Moeller in the conservation lab, where Gloria will learn basic paper and book repair techniques which may prove useful in her future work in a film archives.

We are delighted to welcome Gloria and Nicole to the ISU University Library. Be sure to check the blog for updates from the interns themselves about their projects in the coming months!


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.


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?


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?

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.

ISU Library's new Cataloging and Metadata Management Librarian, Kelly, tries her hand at paper marbling.

ISU Library’s new Cataloging and Metadata Management Librarian, Kelly, tries her hand at paper marbling.

Using materials from Hollander’s Complete Marbling Kit and Galen Berry’s The Art of Marbling on Paper and Fabric as a reference guide, the Preservation Department recently held a voluntary staff development day exploring paper marbling.  The Conservation Unit staff, our volunteer Martha, and our Lennox Intern, Susanna, were joined by Jim from the Preservation Services Unit and Lori from the Digital Initiatives Unit.  We had one participant from outside the Preservation Department, the new Cataloging and Metadata Management Librarian, Kelly.  Why invite someone to coffee when you can invite her to get to know your department over a paper marbling tray instead?

Susanna, our Lennox Intern, and I prepared the paper to be marbled the day before the workshop.  The marbling kit came with a stack of small, 7″ x 10″ sheets of paper, but we also cut down some 17″ x 22″ sheets (the largest size that would fit comfortably in the marbling tray) of toothy, white endsheet stock and cream-colored Permalife.  We sponged an alum solution onto one side of the sheets of paper, marking the non-alum-treated side with a small pencil mark to distinguish it later.  The alum helps the marbling paint stick to the paper.  We let the sheets dry, and then pressed them overnight in an oversized book press to mitigate the slight amount of cockling from the alum treatment.  We also mixed up a carageenan sizing solution, which would form the “bath” on top of which the marbling paints would float.

Step 1: adding colors to the bath.

Step 1, adding colors to the bath.  Clockwise from top left: Susanna; Melissa; Lori and Jim; Martha.

The marbling process is simple in theory, but extremely challenging to execute deftly on the first (or second, or third) try.  First, each paint color is mixed with a drop or two of gall, which acts as a surfactant, helping to spread the color out on the surface of the carageenan bath.  The colors are added drop by drop to the bath, then “stirred” by dragging an acrylic dowel back and forth in evenly spaced lines through the entire bath.

Top: "Stirring" the colors with a dowel. Bottom: Various combs and rakes for creating complex patterns.

Top: Step 2, “stirring” the colors with a dowel.  Bottom: Various combs and rakes for creating complex patterns. (Before you ask, yes, that is a Black Power ‘fro pick with a peace sign.  It came in the kit.)

Once the colors have been stirred, a variety of combs and rakes can be dragged through the paint in straight lines, wave patterns, or figure-eights, resulting in an amazing complexity of patterns.  When the pattern is ready, a sheet of paper is gently floated on the surface of the bath (alum-treated side touching the bath).

Lifting marbled paper out of the bath.

Step 3, laying down the paper and then lifting it out of the bath.

The paper is then carefully lifted, placed in a second tray, and rinsed with cool water to remove the excess sizing before being laid out on a rack or hung to dry.  We had a great time experimenting with color and patterns, but perhaps the most significant lesson we learned was how much practice and skill it takes to master traditional paper marbling!

Our best efforts, with mixed results.

The fruits of our labor.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Watership Down lately. This is probably because every trip to do laundry leads me through a warren of the ubiquitous Ames rabbits. Like the rabbits in Richard Adams’ novel, Ames rabbits are not your typical cute bunnies, (they are the scourge of gardens everywhere) and the book takes the child-like theme of talking animals and transforms it into a story best handled by adults.

One book structure that I’ve identified during the baggy books treatment project is a physical manifestation of this dichotomy: the wire-stapled children’s book. It really should not be handled by children!

One Hundred and One Stories for Girls and Boys

One Hundred and One Stories for Girls and Boys

This book, called One Hundred and One Stories for Girls and Boys, is a darling volume. It is a paper-bound, late 19th century volume printed on acidic paper, now quite discolored. The boards are loose but still attached via the mull, and the signatures are intact, with only the first and last few pages of the volume showing damage such as tears. The board edges have taken a beating, but the squares still offer protection to the paper within, although because the boards are loose, this protection is reduced. With black and white illustrations, sometimes hand colored (inside or outside the lines, depending on the young owner’s fancy), and additional graphite drawings on the endpapers, it was clearly well loved.

Endpaper art

Endpaper art

"Hand-colored" illustrations.

“Hand-colored” illustrations.

So well loved, in fact, that there is little left to the spine, once covered in paper as well, but mull and, well…staples.

Danger spine

Danger spine


How long has it been since my last tetanus shot ...

How long has it been since my last tetanus shot …

There is no visible adhesive residue on the folds, so from what can be inferred from the volume itself, the signatures were stapled through the folds and the mull, and then covered with the paper wrapper.  You can see on the spine that the location of the staples was staggered, so as to reduce swell in those areas. The steel staples are not actively rusted, and actually quite pliable.

Staples through the fold.

Staples through the fold.

Peter D. Verheyen, in his blog The Pressbengel Project, explains the history of wire stapling and presents images of the machine used to create these bindings in his blogpost on wire-stapled bindings: http://pressbengel.blogspot.com/2011/05/wire-stapled-bindings-drahtheftung.html. In the late 19th century, August Brehmer perfected a machine used to “sew” books with wire staples. I’m quoting directly from Verheyen’s blogpost, in which he cites a description of this machine:

The staples are driven from the inside of the section through the fold and through the tapes or open fabric which is stretched and firmly held by clasps directly opposite to each staple binder and inserter. The projecting legs of the staples are clinched over, thus producing a firm connection between the section and the tapes or fabric, whichever is used. In order to reduce the swell in the back of the book which would be caused if the staples in the various sections were all inserted in a corresponding position, the machine is so constructed that each staple forming apparatus has two or three shifts whereby the staples in adjoining sections are inserted in different positions so that there appear on the back two or three times as many rows of staples as there are staples in each section.

Like caoutchouc bindings, which were popular in the United Kingdom from about 1840-1870, wire-stapled bindings quickly fell out of favor as it became clear that the binding method lacked in durability and put the books bound in this manner at risk of damage.  Nevertheless, these bindings are examples of an important chapter in the history of the book, in which the bookbinding trade collided with industrialization.

I thought about how to treat this volume for a while, and at first I only knew what I didn’t want to do. After looking at the brittle and acidic paper, I knew that I did not want to remove the staples, because I would be afraid of damaging the paper in the process. Removing the staples would also implicate finding another way to bind the signatures, such as sewing, that the acidic paper, had it survived the staple removal, would not withstand without damage. I also did not want to get rid of the original mull, since it still has small remnants of the paper spine that tells us how the book might have looked originally. Finally, the history of the book structure itself, and its relative rarity made me reluctant to drastically change it.

After discussing my thoughts with Melissa, I chose a treatment with fairly minimal intervention: I gently surface cleaned the pages with a latex sponge, mended the tears with tengujo pasted out on blotter, and then stabilized the board attachments with inner hinges of tengujo. This helped reposition the boards and realign the squares. I used a needle-nosed plier to gently fold down the sticking-out staples.

Beige Tengujo (JPP) inner hinge

Beige Tengujo (JPP) inner hinge


Following the treatment, I nestled the book into a drop-spine box, including a brief explanation of the binding structure, and a warning about the staples.

Drop-Spine box, interior

Drop-Spine box, interior

Drop-spine box, exterior

Drop-spine box, exterior

I’m happy with my decision to keep the treatment the least invasive possible, while still stabilizing damaged areas. It’s important to keep examples of these binding structures around, since they, along with the content of the book itself, provide a great deal of information about the time period and country that produced them. I’ve come across a few more of these books just during the baggy book project alone, which speaks to the identity and the acquisition methods of the collection here at Parks Library. It’s all very interesting, and I’m glad to have discovered this structure!

The enclosure will protect the book, but it will also hopefully protect readers against the dangers that dwell within. The staples still pose a problem of snagging, but inside the enclosure the risk is minimized, and we will rely on the reading room staff to instruct patrons how to safely handle the book.

Minions aid conservation projects with their sunny disposition and tiny hands.

Reading room and Conservation minions promote proper handling technique and aid conservation projects with their sunny disposition and tiny hands.

Thanks to Peter Verheyen for his permission to use information from his blog and research in this post.

« Previous PageNext Page »