When I first arrived at the library the repair unit was considered the place where “things went to and never came back.” That, of course, wasn’t true then and it certainly isn’t true now. Here are a few lovely repaired items going back to the general collections thanks to Mary and Tedd.
Have you noticed that the most simple-seeming projects always turn out to be more complicated than you think? As part of our preparations to move our collections to our renovated library, we are trying to free up space in the flat files. Our flat files contain broadsides, maps, posters, artwork, etc. Many of these items are large and flat and should be in the flat files. Many are flat but are small enough to fit into standard manuscript boxes or pamphlet binders. Last November we embarked on a project to help the Rubenstein Library move as many of the smaller maps as possible into enclosures to free up space in the flat files. Sounds easy, right?
First Challenge: To Keep the Old Encapsulation or Not
I am an advocate of NOT encapsulating materials unless it is necessary to facilitate handling. Polyester is expensive, and it can add a lot of weight to the stacks. It can also make handling difficult for patrons as they sift through a stack of slippery encapsulated documents.
Many of these maps didn’t need to be encapsulated. They are in good condition and a folder inside a box would suffice. However, in order to finish the project by the move date, we would need to utilize our student assistants and our volunteer. If we decided to de-encapsulate materials, it would mean a conservator would have to evaluate the condition of each item to determine its disposition. There simply wasn’t time to do this.
In consultation with Rubenstein staff, we decided the maps would stay encapsulated in their old polyester if possible. We would replace the polyester only if an item didn’t fit its current encapsulation, or if the old polyester was too damaged to keep.
Second Challenge: All That Tape!
Almost all of the maps have been previously encapsulated using double stick tape to adhere the two pieces of polyester together. While this is a common method of encapsulation, it poses one big problem. A document can shift to the edge and become stuck. This poses a particular hazard for brittle materials. Lucky for us, most of our maps were encapsulated with a generous amount of space between the object and the tape.
We decided that we could ultrasonically weld between the object and the tape, trim the tape off, and voila! A retrofitted encapsulation.
Third Challenge: Size Matters
As we looked through the thirty drawers of materials it became clear that some of the old encapsulations just weren’t working. There were several items that had encapsulations that were too small. Some large folded items were put still folded into an L-sleeve encapsulation. Handling is awkward, and unfolded these items became too large for either the manuscript boxes or the flat files.
Rubenstein staff decided on two standard manuscript box sizes and two standard pamplet-binder sizes. Anything that could go into one of these would do so. Any folded item would be unfolded. If an item was too big for a box, it would remain in a folder in a flat file. If it was too big to lay flat in the current flat files, we would wait to encapsulate it until we were in our new space with our new, bigger flat files. There are a few items that are in too bad of a condition to safely re-encapsulate. These will come to conservation for treatment first.
Fourth Challenge: The Weird Stuff
There is a lot of weird stuff in libraries and not everything in the map drawers are maps. As we work our way through the map collection we are setting these oddities aside for curatorial review. Some will end up back in the flat files, some will be the responsibility of Collection Development to deal with.
The Project So Far
To date we have encapsulated 1,865 items. By our estimates we are about 90% finished, but what is left is some of the oddball items that need special attention by conservation, curators and by technical services. Technical services will also have to update the new locations, which they will do during the reclass project. Did I mention Rubenstein is also doing a huge reclass project during the move? We don’t believe in doing only one huge project at a time, that would be too easy.
As many readers know, we lost our photo documentation room in November 2013 to a renovation-related flood. We got it back for a brief time on December 15, 2014 only to lose it again to another renovation issue on January on January 29, 2015. Today we got it back, and this time for good (everyone knock on wood). It is such a gift to not have our dirty room doubling as a photo doc room as well. Here’s the before:
Here is the dirty room today.
And here is the photo doc room.
We still have to put the photo doc set-up back in place, but what a great present to get this room back today!
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!
*A Facebook reader sent us this link to the British Heart Association’s compression-only CPR video with Vinnie Jones. Very funny.
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.
For the complete job announcement and how to apply, visit http://library.duke.edu/about/jobs/conservator
Conservator for Special Collections
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.
- Teaching experience.