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

Big Book of Boxes (Evergreen Publishers, 2009) is a book of box patterns with minimal text in seven languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Dutch.  The boxes are not specifically for library or preservation purposes (you can read about the boxes we make in our Conservation Lab in our previous post, 1091 Project: Boxes), but could certainly be fashioned or modified for lab use.  The patterns are divided into categories which include basic models, boxes for the office, boxes for clothes and accessories, boxes for children’s bedrooms, boxes for food and drink, decorative accessory boxes, themed holiday boxes, and boxes for gifts.  Each pattern page has a multi-lingual description and a gray-scale sketch of the finished box (see photos below).  The book comes with a CD-ROM of printable versions of all of the patterns.  I’m frankly charmed by both the functional and whimsical boxes described in this book.

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

Inspired by Big Book of Boxes, we’ve added experimental box-making to our list of potential ideas for our annual holiday staff development workshop.  Have any of you used the patterns in this book to make boxes?  We’d love to hear about successes or challenges in the Comments section, as well as any other box-pattern books you recommend.

Evan Anderson started as our new Stacks Manager two months ago and we welcomed him with a roof leak and then a disaster workshop.  Stacks Management is not part of the Preservation Department, but Evan has agreed to be a guest writer on occasion since the departments work so closely together. 

The codex has been around for approximately 2,000 years, or more than a quarter of the time humans have been recording information via writing.  Though codicologists, historians, and other scholars debate exactly why it quickly and largely superseded the scroll as the dominant storage and transmission medium, there is little question of its general durability.  This durability, though, is contingent upon many factors, from the material and construction of the codex, to the conditions it experiences during its lifecycle, to the individuals responsible for preserving and maintaining it.

While this all may be a given, even a codex that is bound well, has sturdy boards, and is kept with care, still faces dangers to its longevity:  disasters happen.  Books, like people, have bad days sometimes.

On April 19 and 20, the Iowa Conservation & Preservation Consortium, with support from an IMLS Connecting to Collections grant, Iowa Library Services, Iowa Museum Services, and State Historical Society of Iowa, held a workshop called “Disasters Happen: Preparation & Response Training” at the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids to address these bad days.

In some ways, for me, this workshop came about a week too late.  The Library Storage Building (the University Library’s off-site storage facility) has a particular problem:  the roof leaks.  It leaks, not always, but enough, and though typically in the same spots, water does like to travel, so once in a while a new leak occurs.  Friday, April 13 was one such ‘once in a while.’  Though the leak was neither prodigious in quantity of water nor in size of flow, it was persistent enough to affect several score of books.  With the assistance of Preservation staff, we began the process of drying out damp books, freezing the more profoundly damaged, and, sadly, discarding some irrevocably moldy volumes.  This crash course in a wet book crisis informed my analysis of the “Disasters Happen” workshop.  As information was presented, I considered whether it was something I should have done, or not have done, or, at the very least contemplated, and then considered how I could incorporate these lessons into future crises.  Sadly, I do know for sure that there will be other crises.

Though I had read the procedures at Iowa State and have had coursework that touched on disaster planning and emergency response, the workshop and the pre-workshop experience demonstrated the absolute necessity of not only developing a plan (or plans) and being cognizant of said plans, but also actually executing said plans and not just reacting as the situation unfolds (a tenuous strategy at best, a horrible exponential scaling of a disaster at worst).

In no part of the workshop was this more amply demonstrated than the concluding mock disaster drill.  We had been presented with information on how to handle various media when afflicted by various problems, how to plan, and what to consider, and now forced to put this into work.  The small group I was a part of assigned roles and attempted to execute a plan, when an outsider decided to ‘join’ and take action, damaging materials, violating collection decisions, ignoring input:  in short, generally contributing mostly harm.  Although frustrating at the time, I found this to be highly instructive upon reflection.

Books may be very durable over the long term, but they can face extreme, adverse conditions.  And, as durable as they are, they cannot plan accordingly, so we must.  And helping a codex cope with a catastrophe directly comes from creating, committing to, and carrying out a well-conceived plan.  Doing so will ensure that in a few hundred years when all our newfangled digital technologies are hopelessly obsolete and all their electrons have escaped, our print books can still be accessed for all the thousands of years of knowledge we’ve contained within them.

While we try to give you a regular glimpse into the workings of the ISU Library Preservation Lab through this blog, we are also part of a larger preservation community in Iowa.  This post, the second in our collaborative 1091 Project with Duke University Libraries Preservation Department,  puts our university lab into a statewide context.  Be sure to visit Preservation Underground for a similarly informative look at the broader North Carolina preservation community.

We hope some day to have conservation colleagues over at the Textiles and Clothing Conservation Lab in Morrill Hall, just a few yards away from Parks Library.  In the meantime, Research Associate Suzanne LeSar uses the lab as a staging area for her work with the textiles and clothing collection.  You can read about our tour last summer of the Textiles and Clothing Conservation Lab here.

We’re lucky to have a group of wonderful colleagues a few hours’ drive away in Iowa City, at the University of Iowa Preservation Department and at the Center for the Book.  Under the guidance of bookbinder and conservator Gary Frost and papermaker Tim Barrett (recipient of a 2009 MacArthur Genius Grant) , the Center for the Book provides a locus for Midwestern book artists, printmakers, and papermakers.

Our department frequently consults and collaborates with our Preservation Department counterparts at the University of Iowa, led by Head of Preservation Nancy Kraft.  Last year, we worked with the U of I Preservation Department and the University of Northern Iowa Library (which has no preservation department of its own) to revise the RFP for the commercial binding contract shared by all three regent universities.  Working via email, conference calls, and in-person meetings, we worked together to revise the RFP, choose a binder, and iron out the details of the contract which will serve us all for the next 3 to 7 years.

Just an hour away in Des Moines, colleagues at the State Historical Society, Museum, and Conservation lab are also active in the Iowa preservation community.  State Historic Preservation Officer Jerome Thompson and Objects Conservator Pete Sixbey are both important contacts for us.  Paper conservator Sarah Raithel recently returned to Iowa after graduating from the Buffalo State College Art Conservation program in 2011.  She is currently contracted to treat some Civil War era materials for the State Historical Society, and is also in the process of setting up a private practice.

The Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium (ICPC), administered by Lucy David, holds an  annual meeting and also offers workshops throughout the year.  Our staff attend the annual meeting each year, and have also sometimes contributed to the programming.

For the past few years, our Head of Preservation, Hilary Seo, and I have been actively involved with the planning and execution of programming funded by an IMLS Connecting to Collections (CTC) grant written by Nancy Kraft and Jerome Thompson.  Hilary and I serve on the CTC committee along with Lucy David of ICPC and a handful of other consultants which include librarians, curators, and administrators from institutions around Iowa.  After the massive flooding in eastern Iowa in 2008, the focus of this project shifted to state-wide disaster preparedness.  We have given presentations around the state to raise awareness and emphasize the importance of having a disaster plan.  We’re also gearing up for a two-day workshop in April offering training in disaster planning, working with FEMA, using D-Plan, performing salvage triage, and hands-on salvage techniques.

While the density of preservation and conservation programs is much higher in my native Northeast, I  consider myself very lucky to be part of this small but committed preservation community in Iowa.  If you haven’t yet, be sure to visit Preservation Underground’s latest 1091 Project post to learn about the North Carolina preservation community.

Congratulations to our conservation technician, Mindy Moeller, who took 4 blue ribbons at the Boone County Fair this July with her beautiful book and papercraft entries!

Bone folder

Mindy shaped her bone folder from deer bone at the ISU Library Conservation Lab’s bone tool making workshop, held earlier this summer for staff and interns.

Paper beads

Double-fan adhesive binding covered with acrylic-toned Tyvek

Map book with sewn textblock and fold-out maps on stubs

Mindy tests out the ProScope 200x Hand-held Microscope on “Cy” (ISU’s mascot).

ISU Library Preservation is now the proud new owner of a Bodelin ProScope 200x hand-held microscope.  We were first introduced to this bad boy when Gawain Weaver brought one to facilitate the Care and Identification of Photographs workshop he taught at ISU in May, 2010.  The portable scope plugs into our laptop’s USB port, allowing us to view the magnified image on the screen, take still shots, record video, or even shoot time-lapse photography.  Since there isn’t a single photograph conservator in the state of Iowa, we felt this would be an important tool to help us when working with Special Collections to identify and care for ISU’s extensive collection of photographs.

Of course, there’s no reason we can’t have a little fun with our new toy, too, so we invite you to take an ID quiz we’ve put together: match the material listed on the right with the corresponding magnified image.  I’ll post the answers in the Comments section.  Good luck!

1. Buckram bookcloth

2. Paper-backed rayon bookcloth

3. Plastic shoulder strap from laptop case

4. Dense carrying-case foam

5. Styrofoam peanut

6. 20 pt. Bristol board

7. Blotter

8. Wove printer paper

9. Marbled paper

10. Printed origami paper

11. Cave paper

12. Silver stamping on paper

13. Stainless steel nut

14. Bamboo pencil holder

15. Goatskin leather

16. Goatskin vellum

17. Albumen print

18. Collodion print

19. Vinyl 3-ring binder

20. Printed instructions for ProScope

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