Recently we contracted with object conservator Susanne Grieve Rawson to work on some objects from the History of Medicine Collection. These are being prepared for exhibit in the renovated Rubenstein Library.
Rather than sending her the objects as you normally do when you contract conservation services, Susanne came to the Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab to do the work.
Susanne started the first day evaluating the condition of the objects with Rachel Ingold, History of Medicine Collection curator, and Meg Brown, Exhibits Coordinator. Her examination included looking at a few of the objects under UV light.
She also met with Rachel and Andrew Armacost, Head of Collection Development in the Rubenstein Library, to discuss the condition of the items and potential treatment options.
Susanne brought an amazing kit of tools with her. We geeked out a little, asking her questions about the special tools and supplies she had. It was a fun and educational to have an outside contractor working in the lab. We learned a lot from each other. I hope we have this opportunity again.
We got an amazing History of Medicine Collection artifact in the lab today for boxing . It is an anatomical birthing model dated to the 1890’s. The body and placenta are made of a soft suede material with red and blue yarn for the umbilical cord. The stitching that attaches each section to the main body is very finely done.
I don’t know the complete history of this item. But judging by the attention to detail on the hands, feet, and ears, along with the elegant stitching, you can tell this was a lovingly-crafted model.
Every now and then something really, really great comes to the lab for a custom enclosure. We have been working on high priority items in anticipation of the Rubenstein Library move to its renovated space this fall.
On Rachel’s bench is one of the ivory manikins from the History of Medicine Collection. This one is lounging on a beautifully carved-out wooden bed. I love that the manikin is wearing shoes. Very modest indeed.
This post is only slightly off topic, but it is preservation related of a kind. Our University Archivist and myself went over to Duke Hospital to take part in a compression-only CPR class today. This session focused on what to do if an adult or teenager collapses due to cardiac arrest.
We learned the proper way to apply compressions following the “three C’s.”
Check to see if the person is conscious
Call 911; and if there is an AED in your building, ask someone to get that, or get it yourself
Compressions at at least 100 beats per minute
If you need help keeping the 100 beats-per-minute rhythm, the American Heart Association has put together a Spotify list of music with the perfect beat to do CPR compressions. We also learned how to use an Automated External Defibrillator or AED, which led me to wonder if the library has one. I’ve sent an email to our building security manager to find out.
There is a very brief video by the American Heart Association that demonstrates the compression-only CPR technique.* You do not need to be certified to do this method of CPR, and it does not involve checking for a heart beat, sweeping the mouth, or providing breaths.
At the beginning of the class we were asked to share this information with eight people, and ask them to share as well. Consider yourself part of my eight people. Now go and share!
Today was board-shear maintenance day. We changed the blade, replaced some worn screws, and trued the cut. It takes two people to change the blade. One person under the shear (usually me) and one person to tighten the screws. We have the maintenance down to about half an hour. A while ago we showed you the view from above, ever wonder what the view from below looks like?
That is not a very flattering angle. It’s a very good thing Rachel has a great sense of humor.
We are conducting a collections survey of the Music Library’s locked stacks in order to develop a conservation plan for the items held there. Surveying can be fun, but it can also be routine and repetitive:
Pull book from shelf.
Enter bibliographic info into database.
Look at the covers and binding.
Look at the text block and paper.
Record your observations.
Put the book back on the shelf.
Repeat hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times.
It is easy to feel that you have seen every book there is to see and nothing could surprise you. Then you open the next score on the shelf and you gasp out loud.
This brittle music score has had some pretty awful repairs done to it in the distant past (emphasis on distant). My guess is that when it was first damaged someone used self adhesive tape to repair it. Fair enough, it’s a common impulse and often seen in scores. When those repairs failed and the paper was too brittle to repair, it was laminated between two vinyl sheets AND stapled AND glued into a pamphlet binder.
There appears to be a little air pocket about a millimeter in width around the score. I tried picking around the edges of the vinyl with to see if it would come away easily. No luck. We’ll have to bring this to the lab to see if there is something we can do to remove the lamination. Digitization may be the best option at this point given the condition of the paper.
As horrible as this treatment is, if not for the lamination, this score may have ceased to exist long ago. Yes, the treatment is actively damaging the paper, but it also kept all the pieces together.
We have a lot of discussions about when to undo previous repairs, and whether or not we should spend time working on items whose repairs may be unsightly but are still functioning and not causing further harm. It’s a worthy discussion to have. But this one is crying out for undoing if at all possible. It went into the database as “treat immediately” and we will be talking to the head of the Music Library about treatment options when it gets to the lab.
The Conservator for Special Collections plans and carries out the physical treatment of special collections material from the Duke University Libraries including those from the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University Archives, and branch libraries. This position reports to the Head, Conservation Services Department (CSD).
Works with the department head and appropriate conservation and library staff to develop treatment strategies for special collections materials. Coordinates treatments and priorities with the Head of CSD.
Performs appropriate conservation treatments on library materials held in the Libraries’ rare and special collections in support of various workflows including those for Rubenstein Library User Services and Technical Services, the Digital Production Center, and the Exhibits Program. Scope of work includes treating primarily bound and unbound books, manuscripts and other documents on paper and vellum. Depending on the conservator’s expertise the scope may also include treating photographs, papyri, and other formats and substrates found in the collections. Documents treatments with photographs and written reports following CSD and American Institute for Conservation (AIC) guidelines and best practices.
Identifies items for which protective enclosures will be the most effective preservation option; constructs appropriate protective enclosures or delegates the construction of enclosures to other staff, students or volunteers.
Other related duties as assigned.
Departmental Support and Programming Initiatives (10%)
Participates in planning and setting goals, managing projects and developing workflows in support of CSD priorities.
Assists in providing disaster recovery services for library materials.
Other related duties as assigned.
Professional Development (10%)
Actively participates on appropriate Library committees, task forces or groups to meet the strategic goals of the Department and the Duke University Libraries.
Displays continuing growth in professional and subject knowledge and takes an active interest in the profession. Growth and interest should be demonstrated through continuing development of professional knowledge and abilities, membership and participation in professional organizations, and service to the library, University, or community in a professional capacity.
Provides training, supervision and quality control for students, staff and volunteers in coordination with the department head and/or senior conservator.
May serve as interim supervisor in the absence of the department head and senior conservator.
It is the expectation that all Duke University Libraries staff members will demonstrate exceptional workplace behaviors in the execution of their specific position responsibilities. These behaviors are customer focus, collaboration, creative problem solving, continuous learning and a commitment to diversity.
Required: ALA-accredited MLS or Master’s degree in conservation of library and archival materials, or demonstration of a similar level of education and training required for the conservation of rare materials.
Preferred: Demonstrated record of continued education in areas relevant to this position.
Minimum of three years of demonstrated experience in conservation of special collections and knowledge of current conservation principles, practices, and procedures.
Exceptional manual skills and a full understanding of current conservation theory, principles, practices and procedures.
Knowledge of physical and chemical mechanisms of deterioration of library materials.
Knowledge of conservation ethics and practices relevant to research library materials; commitment to AIC standards of practice and Code of Ethics.
Demonstrated ability to work independently and productively in a changing environment.
Strong organizational, interpersonal, and oral and written communication skills.
Prior experience working in an academic research library or archives.
Prior experience supervising conservation technicians and students.
Expertise in the treatment of photographic materials; works on art on paper, vellum and parchment; or similar cultural heritage materials generally found in academic libraries and university archives.
Experience evaluating and treating materials to prepare them for digital imaging and/or exhibitions.
Experience in exhibitions including preparation, installation, materials testing and environmental monitoring.
While we are out of the lab we have been staying busy with projects that do not require access to water, large equipment, and other tools and supplies that we normally use. At first it felt that we had to stretch to find projects to work on. As it turns out, we have more than enough to keep us, our students and volunteer busy, including some large-scale projects.
We are working on surveying the locked stacks in the Music Library. Rachel and Beth have created and tested the survey tool, and they are now in the midst of collecting item-level condition data. At the end of this project we will write the report and use the data to address some issues in this collection. We already know there is a lot of boxing needs, and there are a fair amount of brittle pamphlets that we need to discuss with the Music Librarian.
We started a re-encapsulation project in the Rubenstein Library map collection. In the past, these maps were encapsulated using the double-stick-tape method. The margins are much bigger than they need to be because they wanted to be sure the maps didn’t get accidentally taped into the polyester. While the impulse was a good one, many of the maps have shifted in their packets and are stuck to the tape. In addition, the library needs to make room in the flat files for items that can’t fit in standard manuscript boxes. Since we are moving into the new space in the fall of 2015, now is the time to address these issues.
We moved the polyester ultrasonic welder to a consultation room in Rubenstein Library to be closer to the maps. We are welding inside the tape, trimming the tape off, and putting the maps into large, flat manuscript boxes. Our students and volunteers have been doing most of this work with support from Rachel and Beth. There are an estimated 1,200 maps in these cabinets. This project will continue through the spring of 2015.
Erin has been working on preparing the next set of Duke Chronicles for digitization. The next set are from the 1940’s-50’s and have been bound together. The paper is fairly brittle, but remains flexible. Erin is going through each volume to stabilize any large tears. It’s also a time to find any missing volumes or pages and alert the digitization team.
Before the move, Tedd prepared several text blocks to the point of casing-in. He’s been working through these as well as making four-flap boxes for the Rubenstein Library.
It’s been a challenge to work in this space, but we are finding ways to be productive. I am finding that being more visible is a good thing for Conservation. We are seeing and talking to colleagues we normally wouldn’t see in the basement. That said, we are all looking forward to getting back to the lab. We will return next week if the construction is on schedule.
This week we moved out of the lab so that the construction crew could proceed with the Rubenstein Renovation Project. They need to remove our ceiling, take out old HVAC ducts and water pipes, and install new ducts and pipes. We have known for about a year that we would have to move out. The serious “down to brass tacks” planning started about five or six months ago.
Our temporary space is a conference room and not designed to be a conservation lab. The challenge for our planning was to stay productive while working in a space about a third the size of the lab that has no water, sink, fume hood or the other equipment we have come to rely on. We also needed to figure out where and how to store our large equipment; negotiate storage space for library materials that are awaiting treatment; collaborate with our colleagues to adjust workflows; and physically move important files and materials that we wanted to move ourselves.
The plan involved moving some materials to locked stacks, move as much large equipment and supplies as could fit into our dirty room and computer nook, moving supplies and equipment to our new room, and moving the remaining furniture to off site storage. It’s a good thing we specialize in organized workflows.
Moving Day came this past Monday, and continued through lunchtime on Tuesday. Most of the day went off without a hitch, and the small glitches that did occur were quickly remedied. It was an all-hands-on-deck situation with both planned and on-the-spot move assignments being made. Everyone worked together to ensure the safe move of all of our stuff, and what a lot of stuff it was.
There are so many people to thank that helped us in our move. Staff from the library helped by making space for us to store materials, by moving meetings to other rooms, by coordinating movers, etc. We had three people from Rubenstein Library come and help us pack when we needed extra hands. The Lock Shop even came over to take the door off the hinges so we could get the board shear through the door. Everyone we asked seemed more than happy and willing to help us in our time of need. I am so thankful that we work with such amazing and helpful colleagues.
Our Temporary Lab
Our new space is small, but our planning has paid off. We have five benches for all the staff, students and our volunteer to share. We moved the large board shear, a couple of shelving units, secure storage units, and several book trucks into the space. We also made sure to have room to move around and maneuver trucks to benches. The best part of the new space is that we have windows! Not since our original lab space have we been able to see the outside world during work hours. We will enjoy every minute of those, especially if this beautiful weather continues.
What We Are Learning
While it is difficult and stressful to move, we are learning there are other benefits besides the windows. First, moving gave us an opportunity to clean out stuff we no longer use or want. Everyone needs a good clearing-out now and then to create space and reduce clutter.
Now that we are in our temporary space, more people are becoming aware of Conservation because we are in a much more public space. We are interacting with library staff that we would normally not have a chance to talk to since we are more visible. Additionally, several people have stopped by to see our space. We are thinking of hosting a pop-up open house next week just for fun since so many people are curious about who just moved into Room 118.
We are undergoing an epic boxing day…boxing the entire lab to move temporarily off site. Construction work needs to be done in our ceiling, which means we need to move out to make way. We are packing up the entire lab and moving some of it to temporary space, some will go into storage. If all goes well, we will be back into the lab in mid-December. Wish us luck!