Workshops


A few weeks ago I co-taught a workshop at MAC, Midwest Archives Conference in Omaha, NE. I worked together with two lovely colleagues from the University of Kansas – Conservator of Special Collections Angela Andres and Assistant Conservator Roberta Woodrick.

The workshop was called Exhibit Support Basics: Solutions for Small Institutions and Small Budgets. Our group of 9 participants included librarians, archivists and one registrar. They came from institutions ranging from the Midwest Archaeological Center in Lincoln, Nebraska to Minnesota State University Library.

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During the workshop we presented demos of 2 variations on an exhibit support for a flat item and one model of a book cradle. Both were made from mat board. The participants fearlessly forged on, showing confidence with blades and rulers. All of them said that they had never used bone folders and scalpels before! Several of the ladies remarked on how good it felt to work with their hands and how satisfying it was to be able to complete a finite project.

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Participants hard at work on their book cradles

Here are some anonymous comments from our students, as reported in the online workshop evaluation survey:

“Presenters were great. They spoke about realistic solutions to challenges. The hands on component was very valuable.”

“I could see this being a whole-day workshop, covering even more exhibit support ideas.”

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Examples of completed work

Angela wrote about this very same workshop on the KU blog

 

 

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72ppi-GW-photocons-materialsThanks to generous support from ISU Library’s staff development funds, I recently attended Gawain Weaver and Jennifer Olsen’s Photograph Conservation Workshop for Book and Paper Conservators, hosted by Head of Conservation Beth Doyle and her team at the Duke University Libraries Conservation Department.

Duke University proved to be a wonderful workshop location, boasting a spacious conservation lab, beautifully landscaped campus, sunny weather (after that first day of rainstorms!), and lots of great eateries.

A few years ago, ISU Library hosted one of Gawain Weaver’s excellent Care and Identification of Photographs Workshops, so my expectations were pretty high for this week of study. Gawain and Jennifer did not disappoint: they came armed with an impressive arsenal of photographic materials for us to experiment on, as well as tools, specialized equipment, chemicals, and resource materials.  I appreciated their balanced approach, which included some instruction in the history of photography, the chemistry of photographic print processes and their deterioration, broad trends in the fine art photography market, the ethics of treating photographic materials, and — of course — plenty of hands-on treatment activities.

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Jennifer Olsen demonstrates filling and inpainting techniques on an albumen print.

Our group of twelve workshop participants hailed from all over the U.S., and represented institutional labs, regional conservation centers, and private practices. The workshop targets “mid-career” book and paper conservators, and assumes a solid knowledge base in paper conservation techniques.

 

Clara Ines Rojas Sebesta monitors photographs in a solvent bath under the fume hood (left). Testing methods for removing silver mirroring, including solvent-dampened swabs (right).

Clara Ines Rojas Sebesta monitors photographs in a solvent bath under the fume hood (left). Testing methods for removing silver mirroring, including solvent-dampened swabs (right).

Our hands-on instruction included some controversial “don’t try this at home” demos to impress upon us the irreversible and extreme repercussions of some types of chemical treatments, followed by dry and wet cleaning methods, silver mirroring removal techniques, separation of photographs stuck to glass, and tape removal.  We also learned to mount and unmount photographs with various types of drymount and various mechanical, heat-based, and solvent-based techniques. We practiced resin fills on albumen prints, and inpainted with watercolors. Throughout it all, Gawain and Jennifer were on hand to discuss our questions and concerns, encourage us, and share stories of their real-life photograph conservation successes and challenges.

(Left to right:) Gawain Weaver, Jennifer Olsen, and Beth Doyle.

(Left to right:) Gawain Weaver, Jennifer Olsen, and Beth Doyle.

Four days, thirty-plus pages of lecture notes, and countless hours of hands-on practice later, I will certainly not be putting any photograph conservators out of business.  On the contrary, I believe my fellow participants and I all left with a healthy respect for the risks and challenges particular to photograph conservation. Even so, I’m grateful to have spent the week in the company of talented and generous colleagues, and to have acquired some new skills and resources to help me more judiciously care for the photographs in our collections at ISU Library.

Inpainting resin fills on albument prints.

Inpainting resin fills on albumen prints.

Visit Preservation Underground to read Beth Doyle’s summary of the workshop from the perspective of the host institution.

 

The above letters (SOS ICPC) may not mean much to most people, but for those in the Iowa library world of preservation and conservation, they mean an opportunity to listen, learn, tour, and mingle with other library colleagues.  The 2014 SOS ICPC (the annual “Save Our Stuff” conference of the Iowa Conservation & Preservation Consortium) was held at the University of Iowa’s Main Library on June 6th.

A couple of the topics and workshops piqued my interest, so I decided to attend this year along with my ISU Library colleagues, Hilary Seo, Head of Preservation, and Whitney Olthoff, Project Archivist.

Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason and Janet Weaver.

Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason and Janet Weaver.

The Keynote Speaker was John Doershuk, State Archaeologist and Director, Office of the State Archaeologist, who discussed recent archaeological finds on the University of Iowa campus.  The University of Iowa is still making adjustments to their campus after major flooding in June 2008 and recently unearthed beads, glassware, and other artifacts of interest. They are planning upcoming future digs as well.

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Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason (far right image, center) and Janet Weaver (far right image, left).

Afterwards I went to the Iowa Women’s Archives for Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason, Curator, and Janet Weaver, Assistant Curator.  They had several interesting items to look at for housing ideas, but I was really interested in the boxing of those special items crafted by the University of Iowa’s Conservation Lab and the interesting ways their boxes accommodated them.  Kären sounded very happy to have a great team working in the Conservation Lab to come up with and construct some creative boxing ideas.

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Taxidermy Care & Cleaning with Cindy Opitz.

Next I headed to the Special Collections Classroom for Taxidermy Care & Cleaning by Cindy Opitz, Collections Manager, UI Museum of Natural History.  Cindy explained how to be cost efficient and make your own Q-tips as you can go through so many of them when cleaning exhibits.  She demonstrated the proper cleaning and low speed vacuuming techniques using brushes and screens.  It was amazing how much dirt came off of our bird specimens with our Q-tips.

Taxidermy Care & Cleaning by Cindy Opitz. The birds at top are the piece I worked on.

Taxidermy Care & Cleaning by Cindy Opitz. The birds at top are the piece I worked on.

Lastly I attended Making Custom Exhibition Supports by Bill Voss, Conservation Technician, and Brenna Campbell, Assistant Conservator, UI Libraries.  Bill demonstrated making custom mounts using his bare hands using Vivak (an alternative to thin Plexiglas), and Brenna showed us the uses of polyethylene strapping and J-Lar tape in securely holding book pages open for exhibit.

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Making Custom Exhibition Supports with Bill Voss and Brenna Campbell.

I came away with many new ideas on boxing techniques, custom exhibit supports, and cleaning taxidermy if the need be.

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.

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!

Recently, I attended the Care of Historic Scrapbooks workshop taught by Jennifer Hain Teper at the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies in Mt. Carroll, IL.

Jennifer Hain Teper lectures on the preservation challenges particular to scrapbooks as composite objects made up of many different types of materials.

The Head of Conservation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (which, full disclosure, is where I performed the third-year conservation internship required by my conservation study program), Jennifer generously shared her experiences working with UIUC’s extensive scrapbook collection.  The workshop at the Campbell Center lasted two full days, with lectures and discussion in the mornings, and hands-on training in the afternoons.

Hence the name: an example of a true “scrapbook,” made up of scraps of fabric and paper clippings adhered to the pages of a wallpaper sample book.

In addition to an overview of the common materials and preservation challenges of scrapbooks as artifacts, Jennifer presented us with a case study of a scrapbook assessment and treatment project performed at UIUC.  Jennifer shared her projected and actual budgets both for the condition survey and the treatment project, as well as a thoughtful analysis of the inevitable discrepancies.  Her honest assessment of the project pointed out potential pitfalls and areas of concern when designing a scrapbook conservation project.  Having the opportunity to learn from her experience puts me in a far better position to begin planning our own scrapbook project at ISU Library, since I now have very concrete data on which to base my own estimates.

An example of a scrapbook rehousing designed by the UIUC Libraries Conservation Lab.

Our lively, engaged group of workshop participants included three librarians from Western Kentucky University Library Special Collections, a curator from the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, a student from the Museum Studies Program at Western Illinois University, an archivist from UIPUI University Library, and an archivist from the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission.

Sue Lynn McDaniel, Special Collections Librarian at Western Kentucky University, practices consolidating red rotted leather with Cellugel.

Jennifer demonstrates the intricacies of properly wrapping a book for storage or transport.

Among our group, I was the only conservator taking the class.  However, while I am already well-versed in the actual treatment techniques we practiced (encapsulating, making wrappers, paper mending, hinging, backing removal), the class still proved to be a valuable experience for me.  Learning some tried-and-true approaches from someone who has been thinking about the complexities of scrapbooks for much longer than I have saves me from having to reinvent the wheel when I approach our own scrapbook collection.  It was also just a joy to have two uninterrupted days to think about scrapbook preservation problems non-stop, and to bounce ideas off of others struggling with similar issues.

Jennifer’s solution to isolating an attachment which still needs to be handled: a Melinex encapsulation with a window cut into it, so the card can still be opened and read.

I’m very happy to announce that we have just started our own scrapbook project at ISU Library.  The overall goals of the project are to:

  • Identify and inventory scrapbooks in the Manuscript and Archives collections
  • Assess the condition of the scrapbooks
  • Prioritize scrapbooks for digitization, rehousing, stabilization, and full treatment
  • Treat scrapbooks according to the determined priorities

Images of some of the scrapbook challenges which await us in ISU Library Special Collections and Archives.

Our conservation volunteer, Martha, will be working with me on this project, so look for updates from either one of us in the months ahead.  In the meantime, if your own scrapbook collection needs some TLC, I can recommend Jennifer Hain Teper’s Care of Historic Scrapbooks workshop at the Campbell Center without reservation.  Whether you work within the conservation field or practice an allied profession, you will end the course better equipped to tackle the challenges of these complex artifacts.

This month’s 1091 Project could more appropriately be called the “0 Project” because, instead of our usual 1,091 miles apart, Conservator Beth Doyle of Duke University Libraries and I were both in the same place for the FAIC-sponsored “Master Studies” Workshop: Conservation of Transparent Papers held July 23-24 and 25-26, 2012, in Ames, IA.  Hildegard Homburger usually teaches this workshop in her home city of Berlin, and this summer marks the first time she has come to the U.S. to teach it.  The week before coming to Iowa State University Library, Hildegard taught the workshop at the Smithsonian Institution Archives.  Nora Lockshin has posted about the SIA workshop on their blog The Bigger Picture.

Hildegard Homburger addresses participants from session one at Iowa State University Library.

Iowa State University Library was pleased to offer a second location for the workshop in the Midwestern portion of the country.  We are lucky to have a spacious and well-equipped conservation lab located in our beautifully designed main library, just steps away from Special Collections and Archives.  Landscape Architecture is one of ISU’s strengths, and we hoped that our park-like campus would provide a pleasant environment for our visitors.

We had a wonderful time hosting the workshop.  Abigail Choudhury of FAIC patiently helped us through the process, and was very responsive as we communicated back and forth about supplies, equipment, transportation and housing for Hildegard, and all the other necessary details to make the event run smoothly.  The Midwest is a big, spread-out area, with lots of rural space between major cities, so Midwestern conservators don’t have the luxury of gathering for lectures and group meetings as frequently as our East Coast counterparts.  Events like this one help us build our sense of larger community.  Our participants came from all over — the Midwest, of course, but also Canada, California, Texas, and even the East Coast.  The types of conservators in attendance ranged from library/archives to museums to private practice.  I personally really enjoyed everyone’s openness and the engaging conversations both in class and during coffee breaks and meals.

I found the advanced nature of the course material rewarding, and Hildegard certainly turned many of our preconceived expectations about the behavior of transparent paper on their heads.  For example, where I would have expected to use more humidity to force a misbehaving sheet of transparent paper to bend (er — actually, to flatten) to my will, Hildegard used much less humidity and coaxed the paper into submission with repeated flattening cycles in a hard-soft sandwich.

An unexpected pay-off balanced the extra work of hosting the workshop: our volunteer Martha and I each attended one workshop and “audited” the other.  Although I actively participated in only the first session, I was on hand to take photos during the second session and to observe Hildegard and the other participants at work.  I also enjoyed getting to participate in discussions and ask more questions the second time around, which really helped me to fill in the gaps in my notes from the first session and internalize the material that much more effectively.

Hildegard Homburger

Hildegard was incredibly generous with her knowledge, sharing treatments that had gone terribly awry for her in the past as well as those treatments that had gone right.  One of the things I appreciated most about Hildegard’s teaching style is that she presented us not only with the methods and materials that work best for her, but also with alternative options so we could play around with them and make up our own minds.  So, while she brought isinglass and Japanese long-fibered tissue for us to use, she also had us try our hands at mending with four different types of pre-prepared heat-set tissue: Cromptons, Beva, Filmoplast-R, and Lascaux 498 HV.  Isinglass is Hildegard’s adhesive of choice when mending transparent paper, and she certainly had me convinced by the end of the workshop — not because she had insisted on it, but because she had given me options and guided me to figure it out for myself.

Visit our photo album of the workshop on Flickr to see images of instructor Hildegard Homburger and the other participants in action.  Don’t forget to head on over to Preservation Underground for Beth Doyle’s impressions of the workshop as a visiting participant.  And many thanks to everyone who contributed to and attended the workshops.

Session One at Iowa State University Library

Session Two at Iowa State University Library

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