Lennox Interns


As Melissa mentioned in a previous blog, I am the 2014 Audiovisual Preservation Lennox Intern. My area of expertise is not books or paper, but I still deal with objects from the past that are part of our cultural heritage and that we must conserve, preserve, and when necessary (and possible) restore. Even when paper conservators and film preservationists do not communicate with one another, their work has more in common than most of them probably suspect.

Breaking down those barriers is one of my goals during my internship at the ISU Library. I hope to bring more thoughts and anecdotes about my work in a future post, but today I would like to tell you about my experience at the AMIA Conference 2014, held in Savannah, GA, on October 7th-11th.

The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) has been working for several decades representing over 750 audiovisual archivists from all over the world. Since 1991, AMIA has formally been an individual-based professional association, unique in the field, providing representation and camaraderie not only to institutional archivists, but also to students and recent graduates.

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The Lucas Theater, in Savannah, GA, hosted the Archival Screening Night.

Every year we gather in a beautiful city (Savannah, GA this year) to share experiences, exchange different opinions, raise questions, and learn from one another’s work. The AMIA conference is a great place for new film archivists to learn and network. It is also a great opportunity for conservators, archivists, and librarians that have film collections in their care to learn the basics, ask questions, and make contacts that might come in handy when dealing with special materials.

There are traditional topics that are always candidates for panels and discussions, such as acetate and nitrate deterioration, best practices, the unknown future of digital collections, and the transition from film to digital, among others. This year, the conference presented three curated streams of programming that analyzed matters that are of most interest in the present days.

The first one was “Open Source Digital Preservation and Access” which covered the basics of open source software for audiovisual collections management and highlighted some relevant current projects.

The second program (my favorite) was “Film in Transition,” which discussed the implications that the evolution of the industry — from film to digital — has for film archives and everyone who still needs to work with film stock. Basically, the question was: will archives will be able to continue to preserve films with so many labs closing and such a limited production of film stock?

Last but not least, the third stream was entitled “Global Exchange,” and brought voices from all over the world to share solutions and exchange ideas. This year I was very happy to see a panel discussing the activities in the South American archives, and particularly the staff from Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Film Museum), the most important film archive from Argentina, my home country.

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I met with Paula Felix-Didier and Andres Levinson from Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires.

To conclude, there were two special moments that were my favorite. The archival screening night at the marvelous Lucas Theater, in which archives were invited to share a 6-minute clip from the treasures of their collections. I would very much like to see something from the ISU Film Collection next year! Last, the obsolete film formats panel, where they presented the smallest film gauge ever used, 3mm, the cutest medium ever!

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The smallest film gauge ever invented – 3 mm.

For more information about the event, visit the conference website.

For more information on film preservation, visit the National Film Preservation Foundation.

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The main focus of my three months here at ISU is a collection of family documents titled the Van Zandt Family Papers. The collection contains documents from 1838-1990. The Van Zandt family started out in North Carolina, with some members of the family moving to Iowa in the mid-1800s. There are a couple significant portions of the collection: correspondence during the Civil War, during which time members of the family were located in both the North and the South, and correspondence during World War I. The collection contains a variety of objects, including letters, postcards, photographs, and legal documents. The photographs are my main focus. More information about the collection can be found here.

Surface cleaning photographs in an album.

Surface cleaning photographs in an album.

My treatment of this collection is ongoing, but so far, the work I have carried out includes: surface cleaning using a soft brush to remove debris, mending tears and infilling losses on both the photographs themselves and on their backing boards, and removing accretions with a poultice made of methyl cellulose. Some of the work to still be done includes: building up areas of loss on backing boards, repairing bindings on Daguerreotypes, and treating photographic albums.

Using a methyl cellulose poultice to remove an accretion on the recto of a photograph.

Using a methyl cellulose poultice to remove an accretion on the recto of a photograph.

One issue the treatment of this collection has brought up is time management. As the internship only lasts three months, and I have other projects to complete in addition to the Van Zandt Family Papers, I knew I needed a treatment plan which would allow for various stages of completion depending on the amount of time I had available. What I came up with was a way to break down each type of treatment into levels of importance. Once the first level of importance is reached, I can go back and do the next level if time allows. This way, each photograph receives at least enough treatment to ensure its stability.

Before and after tape removal on the top, and an image of my tape removal set up in the fume cupboard.

Before and after tape/adhesive removal on the top, and an image of my tape/adhesive removal set up in the fume cupboard.

My treatment plan looks like this:

Surface cleaning:

  1. Surface clean all photographs, using only a brush (no aqueous treatment) unless otherwise needed.

Mending:

  1. Repair any tears and infill all losses on every photograph, including the backing board. This will give necessary support to areas which need it.

Tape Removal:

  1. Remove any sticky adhesive, leaving carriers as they are. This will prevent the photograph from sticking to its enclosure, potentially causing further damage.
  2. Remove all carriers, and any residue beneath the carriers.

Photo Albums:

  1. Surface clean all photographs in the album, re-adhere any photographs which have failed adhesive, and interleave the pages with photograph-safe paper.
  2. Consider removal of the photograph from the album, especially in albums which have heavily degraded the photographs. One possible solution would be to place each photograph in a Mylar enclosure, and adhere the enclosure to the spot the photograph originally was adhered.
Working on an infill for a missing corner.

Working on an infill for a missing corner.

In addition to learning more about the conservation of photographs, I am learning what it is like to juggle numerous projects with a time restriction. Taking the time to create a treatment plan like the one I have outlined has helped me organize my workflow, and has allowed me to complete the most imperative tasks first. I then have a plan in mind in the event that I have additional time to finish other treatments as well. This is a skillset, in addition to improving my bench skills, which I can carry with me throughout my career as a paper and photographs conservator.

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.

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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?

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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.

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(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.

NFHJ

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.

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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.

StateFair-03

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.

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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.

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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.

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