Paper Art


As many in conservation know, objects come to a library or archive in myriad ways and conditions. Boxes, trash bags, coffee stained, mold affected, falling apart, pristine. They must be quarantined, assessed, and then brought into conservation for treatment and housing. They may even have previous repairs, as in the case of this set of badly damaged lithographs that came to us wrapped in wax paper sleeves. They are part of the John Scott Beals Civil War Papers collection.

Photo of civil war lithographs.

Image side of damaged lithographs.

Photo of paper backed civil war lithographs.

The Japanese paper backing on the verso of the prints. You can see the discolored adhesive through the paper.

As you can see, they had been lined on the back with Japanese paper adhered with some kind of discolored paste. A backing removal was necessary to remove the brittle mystery adhesive. As the backing was removed, pieces of the lithograph began to fall away in some areas. Their location was captured with my phone camera as I progressed through the removal.

The chromolithograph under magnification using a SMZ-1000 Nikon Stereomicroscope.

Using magnification I examined the print to determine that it was a chalk lithograph, as identified by the chalky, grainy black lines. An examination of the color led me at first to believe it was a standard chromolithogaph, where the color was applied by several, separate stones. However, further examination of the pinkish straight lines in the sky and the cross-hatching on the ground leads me to believe the color may have been applied by several woodblocks. Alternately, the image below supports the chromolithography technique. Could there be both? My examination of the text ink revealed an different method of application as well. The text letters had sharp, defined borders, which signified relief printing. The nature of the mass production of these prints supports the need to be able to apply custom text to a standard image.

Mysteries still remained: What did the lithograph originally look like? What was its purpose? I knew this would guide my treatment of the object after the backings were removed, so I began my research. Eventually, a search on civil war lithographs led me to a blog post by archivist Nancy Sullivan from the Historical Society of Montgomery, PA. Here were similar looking works on a much larger scale. I lined up the detached parts of the lithograph and compared it to an example in the blog. Where the pieces met, the image became congruous. The course of treatment was now clear.

Civil War Registers Lithographs, Chromolithographs, art on paper conservation.

Left: Civil War lithograph in the Historical Society of Montogmery PA collection. https://hsmcpa.org/index.php/component/k2/item/145-civil-war-lithographs Right: Our lithograph lined up before repair.

Nancy Sullivan went on to posit that the ovals on the lithograph may have sometimes been left blank for the family who purchased the item to attach a photograph. On our register, some of the ovals had printed portraits, and some had albumen photographs attached. Perhaps when the item was printed, the people filling each role were not yet assigned their role, or a portrait could not yet be drawn of them before the lithograph was made.

 

After the paper backing was removed mechanically with a scalpel, the separated pieces with lined up with the image side facing up. Tabs of solvent-reactivated Klucel-G coated tissue were used to hold the pieces together while the verso of the lithograph was repaired. Tears were mended with both untoned and toned Japanese tissue. Toned tissue repairs were made when the tears had minor losses. Fills were used for large losses.

Photo of the back of the lithograph showing repairs.

The verso of the lithograph with Japanese repair paper and tissue repairs.Now that the structure was repaired as a whole, it could once again be viewed as an authentic, complete work of art and history.

Photo of civil war lithograph after conservation treatment.

The civil war lithograph after conservation treatment.

 

Every year in July, I try to take items to show at the Open Class at the Boone County Fair, and sometimes I’ve taken things I’ve made at work.  This year, I had four entries for the miscellaneous class: an icicle-stitch cord-bound book,  a post-bound guest book, a tool box for my specialty tools, and a bow made from book pages.

Icicle-Stitch-Binding

My icicle-stitch book had been started at a staff development day several years ago, but was never completed, so I decided it was time to finish it and make it an interesting book by attaching the cover with Bookmakers Irish hemp cords.

Post-Binding

The post-bound guest book was made right after I had to do one for work and decided I needed to do another one for practice and as a model.  It served another purpose at the All 70’s BHS Class Reunion the weekend following the county fair.  The cover of the guest book featured a copy of Boone’s matador mascot “the Toreador” and was covered in red and green bookcloth (yes, our school colors are Christmas red and green!)  I had guests sign in with red and green markers as they “oohed and aahed” over the guest book with its red and green colored ribbons and silver beads spelling out “Boone” and “Toreadors.”

ToolBox

A while back, I received my own set of Caselli spatulas and tools. I decided I needed a nice box to keep them in to protect them at work when not in use.  We don’t buy boxes here in Preservation, we make them!  The box I made has two lift out Ethafoam cushioned trays and a cushioned bottom to store my Caselli tools, a brass triangle, specialty bone folders, and other miscellaneous tools.  Of course, I used my favorite Canapetta Natural bookcloth from Talas to cover the box.

PaperBow

My last entry was a paper bow made from the pages of a discarded children’s book during a staff development day, and it can be hung on a tree or wall as an ornament.

All four entries received blue ribbons and each received good comments.  This is just another way to show off my talents from work and support the Open Class at the Boone County Fair.

Light is very important to conservation labs: the right amount of the right kind of light particularly influences fine detail work and color matching. However, as anyone familiar with preservation issues knows, light is also The Enemy.  Damaging UV light may be the part of the spectrum that gets the most attention, but any light causes cumulative damage to paper-based materials over time.

LabWindow

The lab’s oversized window is coated with UV-filtering film, but all light causes some level of damage to paper-based materials.

Our lab workspace is mainly lit by overhead fluorescents with UV filters on them.  Likewise, our large, lovely window is also covered with UV-filtering film.  We store our colored tissues in flat files nearby, so it’s easy to hold them up to the window and take advantage of the natural light when selecting the right color for a repair.

Allen, Sue. American Book Covers, 1830–1900. Washington: Library of Congress, 1998. Leaflet LC 1.6/4:AM 3/2.

Allen, Sue. American Book Covers, 1830–1900. Washington: Library of Congress, 1998. Leaflet LC 1.6/4:AM 3/2.

In spite of our precautions regarding UV filters, the lab is still flooded with more light than is safe for paper-based materials over the long term, as the framed poster above regularly reminds us.  The colors have faded and shifted over time, simply from being exposed to the ambient light we need to do our daily work.

LightDamage2

Another reminder of the amount of light exposure in the lab: this archival document box we use to store lab materials has also shifted color over time!

Aware of light’s insidious and relentless power, we take whatever precautions we can when working with Special Collections and Archives materials in the lab by covering them up with an enclosure, sheet of blotter, or other light-blocker when we are not actively working on them.

As part of our responsibilities as a land grant institution, we are charged with providing education and outreach services to the public. In the lab, this charge manifests as preservation consultations for Iowa residents and institutions.  When it comes to light exposure, we strongly encourage our visitors not to display treasured, original photographs or documents from their personal collections in heavily used or brightly lit rooms. Light damage is irreversible, so the precautions are worthwhile. Originals may be stored in enclosures or in dark drawers or cabinets, and displayed only on special occasions. Alternatively, originals may be scanned and a surrogate printed for display purposes, while the original is stored safely out of the light. If originals must be displayed, then we strongly recommend framing with a UV-filtering plexi, with the caveat that this will only partially mitigate one form of light damage.

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.

Written by Jim Wilcox, Preservation Services Unit.

These are some things I probably should have taken care of 25 years ago, when that water line froze, and then leaked once it thawed out.  This is artwork I did 30 or so years ago (1980-1983), when I was working for Collegiate Pacific in Ames.  Collegiate started out in Ames and made the first Cy mascot costume, as well as stuffed animals for many different colleges, imprinted shirts, pennants, blankets, and banners.  They had done some work for the military during World War II, and later added plants in Roanoke, Virginia, and California.  The Ames Historical Society is currently working on a video history of the company.

I thought the stuff was dry when I put it in the portfolio and boxed it up, but I guess it wasn’t dry enough, as the photos show.  Fortunately, it wasn’t that much of the original artwork and proofs that ended up like this.

Jim-01

This pellon sample (above) was run to make sure the three screenprinting screens in this case all lined up before running the order of shirts.  The few spots of mold along the bottom border could probably best be treated with just a little bit of trimming.

Jim-02

This photocopy of artwork is something we sometimes did in the art department to check things and to help when cutting the rubylithe for the color separations.  This one has a few spots of dark mold and some bleeding ink.

Jim-03

This one is Garfield, on a paper proof like the one sent to the salesman to shop around.  You can see some spots of mold and a nice tideline along the right edge.

With the rain pouring steadily for the past few days, and flood waters rising in Iowa, these old souvenirs of long-ago water damage are a good reminder to get prepared and react quickly.

LiliBrik

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!

This month, the 1091 Project takes a quick peek at one aspect of departmental culture in the conservation labs of Iowa State University Library and Duke University Libraries.  To celebrate the end of each Fall semester, ISU Preservation Department holds a “staff development day.”  The staff vote on a type of project or handskill to work on during the day-long workshop, we gather our resources, and then have at it.  This year, we decided to take our theme from the discussion/debate arising from a recent blog post, and settled on upcycling discarded paper-based materials such as books, dust-jackets, magazines, and maps.  Preservation Assistant Mindy McCoy created this Pinterest board full of project ideas to inspire and instruct us.

A bookcart overflowing with craft supplies and materials to be "upcycled."

A bookcart overflowing with craft supplies and materials to be “upcycled.”

Lori meticulously cut strips from pages of children's books which she will later fold, chain together, and weave into a basket.

Lori, from Digital Initiatives, meticulously cut strips from pages of children’s books which she will later fold, chain together, and weave into a basket.

One popular project several of us tried was building a gift topper bow out of strips of paper secured with double-sided tape.  Pictured here are bows made from dust-jackets from architecture coffee table books, a map, and pages from a Russian dictionary.

One popular project several of us tried was building a gift topper bow out of strips of paper secured with double-sided tape. Pictured here are bows made from dust-jackets from architecture coffee table books, a map, and pages from a Russian dictionary.

Conservation Technician Mindy Moe turned a gift topper bow into an ornament.

Conservation Technician Mindy Moe turned a gift topper bow into an ornament with a button, ribbon, hot glue, and a little ingenuity.

Our conservation volunteer Martha went big!  She rolled maps into a sunburst around a decorative mirror.

Our conservation volunteer Martha went big! She rolled maps into a sunburst around a decorative mirror.

Jim, from Preservation Services, turned a book about fish into a beautiful sculpture.

Jim, from Preservation Services, turned a book about fish into a 3D sculpture.

Jim also created this tribute to his friend's dog Floyd, who has since moved on to that great dog kennel in the sky, but not before chewing up this case binding.

Jim also created this tribute to his friend’s dog Floyd, who has since moved on to that great dog kennel in the sky, but not before chewing up this case binding.

Now let’s see how they’re observing the end of the semester and the approach of the winter holidays over at Preservation Underground!

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