Sustainability


CLose up of the textured surface of Tek wipe, which is a nonwoven polyester and cellulose blend.

Close-up of the textured surface of Tek wipe, which is a nonwoven polyester and cellulose blend.

The AIC Annual Meeting in 2014 was abuzz with the virtues of Tek Wipe as a paper conservation material. We had been considering purchasing some as a disaster salvage supply for a while, after seeing how much cotton blotter we used up in the recovery from the Ames Flood of 2010. As the Chair-Elect of the AIC Sustainability Committee, I find the idea of an absorbent non-woven that is washable and reusable to be very appealing. Its reusability makes this material an attractive choice from both an environmental and an economic perspective. However, it wasn’t until I started hearing about other treatment uses for the material that I got over my inertia and ordered some for our lab.  Six months of experimentation later, I’m very pleased with Tek wipe’s versatility and results.

Tek wipe on a 35" wide roll.

Tek wipe on a 35″ wide roll.

Tek wipe is a highly absorbent polyester/cellulose nonwoven textile which can be ordered by the sheet or by the roll. We chose to order a roll and cut it down to sheets that are custom sized for various purposes. We have precut sheets to keep on hand for water disaster scenarios, but I have also been using it for document washing and paper mending in place of (and sometimes in addition to) cotton blotter. For mending, I have used Tek wipe in place of the small rectangles of blotter cut to fit our glass and plexi glass weights. I still sandwich Reemay or Holytex between the Tek wipe and the mend, because the Tek wipe can stick to the mend (or even the paper support itself) if allowed to dry in direct contact.

However, where Tek wipe’s versatility really shines is as a washing material.  I’ll qualify that assertion by saying my assessments are visual and anecdotal; we haven’t the time or the resources in our lab to assess the results with technical analytics (hint, hint to the conservation graduate students out there…)  I’ve been working on a project treating about twenty issues of a mid-19th century horticulture journal suffering from water and mold damage. All of the issues exhibit black and purple mold stains, as well as caked-on surface dirt and pronounced tidelines which fluoresce under UV light. Regardless of whether the tidelines are fluorescing as an indication of mold hyphae or an indication of soluble paper degradation products, reducing them has been a desirable part of this treatment. The project has therefore offered an ideal opportunity for testing out a few different washing techniques with Tek wipe.

Tidelines fluorescing under UV light.

Tidelines fluorescing under UV light.

After the initial treatment steps of HEPA vacuuming, dry cleaning, and misting with an ethanol solution, the separated folios of the horticulture journal were then washed aqueously.  I tried three different washing techniques with Tek wipe: blotter sandwich washing, slant board washing, and a combination of immersion washing combined with abbreviated blotter sandwich washing.  Tek wipe performed usefully in all three scenarios, dramatically reducing the tidelines visible in ambient light and completely removing the fluorescing compounds.  For all three washing methods, documents were dried in a blotter/Reemay stack under weight.

Blotter Sandwich Washing

For the blotter sandwich, I used Tek wipe in place of Reemay or Hollytex.  I sandwiched the document between two piece of Tek wipe, then sandwiched the ensemble between two piece of thick cotton blotter. This method worked the best to the naked eye, completely removing all visible traces of the tidelines. All fluorescing compounds were likewise removed with this method.

Slant Board Washing

In this scenario, I used Tek wipe in lieu of a fleece, but otherwise followed standard slant board washing procedures. The Tek wipe seemed to wick a bit more slowly than fleece, but the stain was reduced almost as well as blotter sandwich washing, with slight ghosting remaining. All fluorescing compounds were also removed with this method.

Immersion Washing Followed by Abbreviated Blotter Sandwich Washing

While trying the above washing methods with Tek wipe proved informative, neither method would be suitable for the scale of this project, which requires the washing of over 200 folios. So, I decided to try immersion washing in combination with a blotter sandwich lined with Tek wipe.  Following usual procedures, I washed a Reemay stack with one full issue of the journal in multiple baths of short duration (5 minutes each): two baths in deionized water, followed by two alkaline baths. Even though the water in the final bath remained clear, some visible tidelines did remain in the documents. The documents were peeled one by one from the stack and placed in a blotter/Tek wipe sandwich stack. The documents were re-misted with recalcified water after about an hour, and left for another hour in the blotter/Tek wipe stack. This method greatly reduced the tidelines, leaving behind only faint ghosting, and removing all fluorescing compounds.  I selected this method for the remainder of the project because it produced acceptable results in a more time-efficient manner.

Before (above) and after (below) immersion washing followed by abbreviated blotter/Tek wipe sandwich washing.

Before (above) and after (below) immersion washing followed by abbreviated blotter/Tek wipe sandwich washing.

Washing the Tek wipe in very warm water and then air-drying it removed the stains the material absorbed from the washing processes above, leaving it ready to be used again.

How Are You Using Tek Wipe?

Are you using Tek wipe for conservation treatments? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section.  I’m especially interested to hear if anyone has tried using Tek wipe instead of blotter in a drying stack in a treatment, rather than disaster salvage, scenario, and whether that was successful.

What do you like or dislike about the material? Have you had any particular successes or failures using it? Do you have any cautions to share?  Please join the conversation!

 

1091map1As our regular readers know, the 1091 Project is a collaboration between Iowa State University Library and our conservation colleagues at Duke University Libraries. Well, this week, thanks to Kevin Driedger of the Library of Michigan, we have been participating in the 5 Days of Preservation project, a week-long collaboration among preservation professionals and institutions across the nation.  Kevin’s idea was simple but powerful: use social media to post a photo each day for five days of whatever preservation looks like for you that day.  Kevin then collected all those posted images in one place, the 5 Days of Preservation Tumblr blog. The collected photos showcase an impressive range of preservation activities that really illustrate the rich diversity of our  field.  So, this week, I encourage you not only to pop over to Preservation Underground for their 1091 post, but also to check out #5DaysOfPreservation, via Tumblr, Facebook, and/or Twitter. And kudos to Kevin for a fun and informative project!

Here is a quick recap of our ISU Library Conservation Lab posts for the week:

 

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MONDAY: Preservation looked like this humidified and flattened Depression-era letter.

 

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TUESDAY: Preservation looked like our student employee, Nicole, repairing books from the General Collection.

 

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WEDNESDAY: Preservation looked like professional photography lamps set up in front of our magnetic wall for imaging large-format architectural drawings.

 

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THURSDAY: Preservation looked like committee work for the AIC Sustainability Committee. Melissa and her fellow committee members are performing their annual link maintenance this month on the sustainability pages of the AIC Conservation Wiki.

 

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FRIDAY: Preservation looked like Preservation Assistant Mindy working on the departmental budget (a *very* important part of preservation indeed!)

As the co-chair of the AIC Sustainability Committee, I was particularly looking forward to this year’s Annual Meeting theme, “Conscientious Conservation: Sustainable Choices in Collection Care,”  and the conference did not  disappoint.  The event took place in beautiful downtown San Francisco, with the opening reception at the magnificent de Young Museum.

Sunset view from the de Young Museum tower.

Sunset view from the de Young Museum tower.

Although I am a library and archives conservator, my favorite General Session talk was “Sustainable Collections Care on a Budget – A New Museum Store for Bolton, UK,”  by museum conservator Pierrette Squires, from the Bolton Museum in Lancashire, UK.  She spoke about moving the stored museum collection to a new storage space which would better protect the collection while simultaneously reducing energy use and saving money.  Her presentation emphasized the importance of speaking to stakeholders in the language that is meaningful to them, which is often the language of economic sustainability rather than environmental sustainability, even though the two often go hand-in-hand.

The general membership business meeting was surprisingly well-attended for 7 am on a Saturday, showing what committed professionals AIC members are.

The general membership business meeting was surprisingly well-attended for 7 am on a Saturday, showing what committed professionals AIC members are.

Everyone I spoke to from Book and Paper Group was as captivated as I was by “Treasure from the Bog: The Faddan More Psalter,” presented by John Gillis. The talk detailed the treatment of an early medieval manuscript unearthed in a peat bog in Co. Tipperary, Southern Ireland, in 2006.  As you may know from articles about bog mummies, peaty bogs can have a tanning effect on organic materials, and so partially preserved this vellum manuscript for centuries. I look forward to hearing more about this project as the research continues.

The Sustainability Committee hosted a Roundtable about generating momentum for positive change in institutional practice, a session you can read more about on the AIC Blog: Conservators Converse.

The BPG Specialty Session and the concurrent General Sessions I attended on Collections Care and HVAC were all excellent, and BPG made an especially strong showing in the Poster Session this year. However, my favorite two events from the conference were the ECPN Networking Luncheon and — of course — The Great Debate.

The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) put an enormous amount of work into organizing their first (but, I hope, not their last) networking luncheon. AIC members could sign up as mentors, mentees, or both. The ECPN paired each participant with three others for one-on-one “speed-dating” style sessions lasting 15 minutes.  I got to meet with a peer mentor who graduated from a conservation program the same year I did, and who currently works at an academic library as I do; a conservation graduate student interested in pursuing a career in academic libraries; and a former geologist turned  pre-program student in conservation science.  I appreciated being provided with a structured forum within which to meet some new colleagues, and look forward to continuing to stay in touch with them.

The Rookies (left) and The Veterans (right).

The Great Debate: Rookies (left) and Veterans (right).

The Great Debate enjoyed its third year at the AIC Annual Meeting, and organizer Richard McCoy pulled out all the stops.  The packed audience enjoyed a cash bar accompanied by popcorn and other crunchy, salty snacks, and Richard McCoy emceed wearing a dapper tux and bow-tie.  Two 3-person teams of “rookies” (first-year graduate students) debated the statement “The most important part of conservation practice is no longer the treatment of cultural property.” The debaters were well-prepared, and the negative team (disagreeing with the statement) ended up winning the day, although I remained personally unconvinced from the particular perspective of a library and archives conservator.  The second debate took place between two 3-person teams of — ahem — “veterans” of the conservation field.  A controversial ripple murmured through the crowd when their topic statement was revealed: “AIC is successfully promoting the advancement of recently-graduated conservators in today’s work force.” My audience neighbors and I feared that we would end the Annual Meeting on a sour note, but the affirmative team rallied against the negative team’s rambunctious antics and made a winning case for all that AIC does for its membership (with the strong reminder that we the membership are AIC).  Be sure to visit us (@ISUPreservation) on Twitter (archived date: May 31)  for the hilarious, blow-by-blow recap.

It was another fast-paced, exhausting, informative, and rewarding Annual Meeting, and I find myself returning to work reinvigorated and recommitted to my profession.

 

 

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?

Are you a conservator?  No matter your conservation specialty, please take a few minutes to respond to a survey from the AIC Committee for Sustainable Conservation Practices.  Your input will help CSCP with future projects and publications. The survey will be available only during the month of November, 2011.  Results will be shared in a lunch session at the 2012 AIC Annual Meeting in Albuquerque.

Take the Sustainability Survey

On February 21-22, Iowa State University will hold the 2011 Symposium on Sustainability. This is the second year this annual event and is being held and will feature Jerome Ringo, Senior Executive for Global Strategies at Green Port, a company that focuses on establishing sustainable “green” ports around the world, and Kim Jordan, CEO and co-founder of New Belgium Brewing, a company that has incorporated tenets of environmental stewardship into their culture and company.

Yvon Chouinard in front of Grant Wood mural "Other Arts Follow" in Parks Library.

Last year we were lucky to have Yvon Chouinard, blacksmith, climber, founder and former CEO of Patagonia, and co-founder of 1% for the Planet (an Earth tax according to Chouinard) kick-off the Live Green Sustainability Symposium.  It was quite a coup for the Lectures Series and the University to attract such a highly sought-after businessman/ environmentalist to speak.  Maybe you’ve seen his recent American Express Member Project commercial.

Conservation and Special Collections had the pleasure of showing Yvon and his wife Malinda our collections and the lab.  They are such a lovely couple!  Special Collections pulled out some of their beautiful volumes with hand-colored plates including Birds of South America by Lord Barbourne and Catesby’s Natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. The Birds of South America was of particular interest since Yvon was on his way to Patagonia to continue his efforts to establish a Patagonia National Park in southern Argentina and Chile.

In the Conservation Lab, Yvon seemed to be right at home with all of the equipment.  As a blacksmith, he could totally understand the satisfaction of working with one’s hands.  We showed them the library’s oldest book St. Thomas Aquinas Quaestiones de veritate and the cradle box that had been made for it.  We talked about how hemp paper would be better for the environment than wood and cotton, assuming the hemp is grown and harvested responsibly.  But at this point it is not an option thanks in part to William Randolph Hearst the newspaper magnate and owner of paper mills and timber farms, for supporting the war on marijuana/hemp.

By the end of the day, they had inspired us to be more responsible and take action.  How can we reuse or recycle our materials better?  Where are our supplies from and how are they made?  How are the raw materials grown or produced?  Organic cotton? What else can we do to improve the sustainability of our preservation practices?

Share some of your practices with us. Have you changed the way you do things? Are you more efficient with the use of materials? Have you discovered better ways to reuse or recycle materials?

As I trudged across campus this morning, enjoying the sunshine and balmy, 20-degree F temperature after a week in the single digits, I found myself  considering the impact that the Iowa climate has on our preservation mission.  I reminded myself to review the most recent batch of environmental data recorded by the data loggers in our structurally-challenged, remote Library Storage Building, and started mentally girding myself for the inevitable spring thaw.

View from Special Collections, Parks Library, Iowa State University

In a perfect world, every library and cultural institution would have energy-efficient, reliable, and effective HVAC systems in place to control the indoor climate.  (O.k., in my perfect world, the temperature never drops into the single digits, but you know where I’m going with this…)  Very few institutions enjoy the luxury of working with ideal conditions, so the rest of us do our best to learn the quirks of the climate we live in, and to deal with the impact of that climate as proactively as possible.

Here in Iowa, we deal with a surprisingly broad climate range.  Temperatures can drop to zero on the worst days of winter, with windchill blowing at 20-below.  As you can imagine, the air can be uncomfortably dry this time of year (the RH in my office is at 10% today).  During the summer, temperatures regularly reach into the 90s, with humidity frequently spiking above 80%, bringing concerns about mold and mildew. Heavy year-round precipitation means that ice and snow are a challenge in the winter, while flooding is a common risk for the spring and summer.  The same climate conditions that make Iowa a fertile agricultural environment also make it a challenging place to care for heritage materials.

Climate plays a role in determining what pests may threaten a collection.  When I lived in Texas, I often found geckos in the sticky pheremone traps we used for integrated pest management monitoring.  Geckos present no real danger to collection materials, but unfortunately, they were attracted by the delicious buffet of other bugs in the traps.  In Iowa, we don’t have geckos, but we do see plenty of crickets, common pill bugs (“roly-polies”), asian lady beetles, and small house spiders — overall, a fairly benign collection of critters compared with other parts of the country.  (Incidentally, the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin offers some great advice about dealing with insect infestations in collections materials.)

Climate can also impact sustainability initiatives within the preservation environment.  For example, the extent to which indoor energy costs can be reduced must be balanced against how extreme the seasonal weather fluctuations are, and the necessary HVAC settings to protect the collection.

Trinidad. Photo credit: http://www.panjan.bizid9.html

As I negotiated ISU’s icy footpaths today, I couldn’t help wondering what climate-related concerns were weighing on the mind of a conservator colleague down in Trinidad.  I might envy those tropical, Caribbean breezes from a personal perspective, but I’m sure they bear their own preservation challenges.  What climate-related preservation challenges does your cultural institution, private practice, or home residence face?

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