We are in the midst of preparing for an upcoming exhibit on the Haggadah, a text that describes the order of the Passover Seder. When examining a book, I really enjoy coming across signs that it was well used by previous owners. This Amsterdam Haggadah from 1695 was repaired several times and it is clear that was used at many Passover meals from the extensive staining from food or wine at specific page openings.
While we are always trying to maintain an awareness of new techniques and materials for conservation through the literature, sometimes it can take a while to experiment and actually put them to use. Recently, I have finally gotten around to trying my hand at making and applying cast acrylic films for book repair; a technique which I had originally seen presented by Grace Owen-Weiss and Sarah Reidell at the Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group of AIC back in 2010 (See the Book and Paper Group Annual Vol 29, p. 92). Using a silicone mold, a blend of acrylic gels, and a paper or textile support, one can employ this technique to create a thin, reversible repair material that matches both the color and texture of the object.
This bound serial came into the lab several months ago, exhibiting some splitting of the leather at the joints and corners. Luckily the boards were still firmly attached, so it just needed some minor, stabilizing repairs to reduce the potential for further damage or loss. There is a lot of variation in the color of the red leather, either from light damage (evident on the marbled paper on the back board), pollution, or handling, which gave me the opportunity to make several different samples of film to match the various colors.
Bookbinding leathers come in such a variety of grains and surface textures, so I started by making a silicone mold with two different grains. The brown leather on the left is a piece of goatskin from Harmatan, while the black piece on the right is actually fake leather from an old backpack. These were adhered to a piece of davey board, placed in the bottom of a bristol board tray, and then the 2-part mold material was poured over the top.
Interestingly enough, the fake leather grain was a better match for this book. After applying the acrylic mixture to the mold, a thin Japanese paper support is applied on top. After drying, the film can be peeled away from the mold. Sarah Reidell has a really wonderful bibliography on her website, where you can find step-by-step instructions for creating the acrylic films, so I won’t go into more detail here.
This technique produces a repair material that is quick and easy to apply, but visually blends much better than a toned Japanese paper repair. There are so many opportunities for experimentation using this technique, with the support materials, the application methods of the acrylics, and textures of the molds. I’m very excited to add this to our stable of techniques that we can employ here in the lab.
It’s that time of year. The time to rush around frantically looking for gifts for your friends and relations. If you need some last minute ideas, any of these would be a lovely gift for your conservator friends
What’s On Your Wall?
“Bitten by Witch Fever” is a beautiful book about the history of arsenic in wallpaper. The book contains 275 facsimile samples of wallpapers that were tested and found to contain arsenic. The book explains the manufacture, uses and effects of arsenic. Arsenic, it’s not just for silking documents anymore.
Can you see me now?
Conservators love their tools. These little clip-on lenses fit on your smart phone. The pack comes with three lenses: 180 degree fish eye, 0.36x wide angle, and a 25x macro lens.
We are starting to see some images by colleagues using the macro lenses in their work. Pretty impressive for $26.
What’s your favorite tool?
Shanna Leino makes wonderful tools. This little steel micro chisel is a workhorse of a chisel. It can be used on paper, leather, binder’s board, and wood. Henry says, “I use it all of the time!” Can’t argue with that.
Steel micro chisel (the website says “sold out” but there’s always Ground Hog Day to shop for).
“Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections” is a companion catalog to a multi-institutional exhibit of illuminated manuscripts that is taking place this fall. Gorgeous reproductions of over 260 manuscripts from the collections of Harvard University’s Houghton Library, the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, and more.
This is conservator eye candy!
Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections
Jeffrey F. Hamburger, editor, et al.
Mcmullen Museum Of Art, Boston College (October 15, 2016)
We all miss the classic Cook-N-Stir. So far, we haven’t found a good alternative. Is this it? Maybe not, but the video alone is fun to watch.
Not sold in stores! “Designed to stir every inch. The silicone feet & orbital turning action ensures no spot in un-stirred.” It’s only $16.99. If anyone tries it for paste, please report back.
Gem Sauce Blender
Your Wish Store
The Best Presents Are Those That Make You Feel Good
If you want to do one simple thing to make all of your conservator friend happy, this is it. Stop making holiday trees out of library books! Just stop.
Wishing everyone a very happy holiday and winter solstice. May you have a joyful and peaceful new year!
By Erin Hammeke, Senior Conservator for Special Collections
This fall I had the opportunity to try out some new treatment and housing techniques. We recently acquired Street Life in London. Published in 1877, it is considered an early work in what would become the field of documentary photography. Throughout the text are mounted Woodburytypes depicting London street figures in somewhat staged vignettes and in archetypal roles: Italian Street Musicians, London Cabmen, The Street Locksmith, etc.
The text was formed from single sheets of various weights and made into an early adhesive binding called a caoutchouc binding which is not too dissimilar from today’s paperback binding structures and uses a rubber-based adhesive on the spine. Our copy had breaks in the text, with pages and groups of pages coming loose with every handling. It can be difficult to repair an adhesive binding in a way that results in a sturdy structure, ready to hold up to instructional and reading room use. Luckily, Gary Frost and others have developed a technique of pasting an overhanging tissue guard to each leaf and consolidating these overhanging guards into a binding structure. This repair technique has been discussed on The Book & Paper Gathering. Their blog post, along with some very helpful guidance from Sue Donovan, a conservator who has recently researched and explored this technique in depth, inspired me to try the repair.
I found the repair technique to be quite effective, albeit time-consuming. Each leaf had to be guarded, and after forming a slight round in the spine by jogging the fore edge into a curve (I used a mailing tube), I elected to glue each guard down one by one.
An alternative approach involves mashing the overhanging guards together with adhesive, which would likely have been a quicker but less controlled approach. The reformed text fit perfectly back into its original embossed cloth case (thankfully!)
The text functions well, but because of the heavier-weight, slightly brittle text paper, I decided I wanted to control the opening angle of the book during use by making a custom cloth clamshell with a built-in cradle. The cradle is attached to the inner tray of the box and folds out to support the book. I used Jeff Peachy’s instructions.
I’d like to extend a big thank you to my generous colleagues for developing and sharing their innovative treatment and housing approaches with the rest of us! I’d also like to thank conservators Jan Paris, Annie Wilker, and Catherine Badot-Costello for their assistance.
Conservation Services has been working closely with staff from our Digital Production Center this week to train in the operation of our new multispectral imaging equipment and learn about image processing. During the calibration and testing of the machine we took the opportunity to re-image the illuminated manuscript leaf which I posted on back in the summer. The palimpsest is so clearly legible in these new photos! We are very excited by the possibilities that this new imaging equipment opens for learning more about our collection materials.
We started Preservation Underground in 2009 as a way to bring our work out of the basement and into the light. In the past seven years, we’ve had some fun and we’ve had some disasters. What we really hope is that we’ve shown you a little bit of what we do and why our work is so important.
We wanted to take a look back at some data about our blog and highlight our most-favorited posts. The data is a bit sticky because WordPress analytics appear to begin in March 2011, while Google analytics start in September 2012. But, as my grad school chemistry professor always said, “Close enough for conservation.”
WordPress analytics appear to begin in March 2011…
87, 940 total views
Google Analytics start in September 2012
Only reporting 9,000 page views
Traffic from 95 countries.
These posts received the most hits the past seven years:
- Quick Pic: Mysterious Messages (January 2012)
- 1091 Project: Making Enclosures (March 2012)
- Hold me closer… protective enclosure (January 2016)
- Florence: Days of Destruction (A Film by Franco Zeffirelli) (February 2012)
- DIY Book Repair And Its Consequences (July 2012)
- Why I Hate Mr. Clippy (January 2013)
- The ‘Largest Sheet of Paper Ever Made and Printed’ (October 2015)
Do you have a favorite post you want to share? if so, tell us in the comments.
It’s ALCTS preservation award nomination season! The deadline for nominations for all of these awards is December 1, 2016. If you know someone outstanding in the field, please get your nomination in on time. My favorite time of the year is when we honor, acknowledge and thank someone for their dedication to the field and to us all who work in it.
There are more ALCTS awards than are copied below, including awards for publication, innovation and collaboration. Please visit the ALCTS awards website for more information. Follow the links below for instructions for submitting nominations.
The Paul Banks and Carolyn Harris Preservation Award
This award was established to honor the memory of Paul Banks and Carolyn Harris, early leaders in library preservation. The award will be given to recognize the contribution of a professional preservation specialist who has been active in the field of preservation and/or conservation for library and/or archival materials.
Criteria for selection of the winner will be determined by the person’s accomplishments, as they relate to preservation leadership in such activities as:
- leadership in professional associations at local, state, regional or national level;
- contributions to the development, application or utilization of new or improved methods, techniques and routines;
- evidence of studies or research in preservation;
- significant contribution to professional literature;
- training and mentoring in the field of preservation.
George Cunha and Susan Swartzburg Award
This award honors the memory of George Cunha and Susan Swartzburg, early leaders in cooperative preservation programming and strong advocates for collaboration in the field of preservation.
The award, sponsored by Hollinger Metal Edge, acknowledges and supports cooperative preservation projects and/or rewards individuals or groups that foster collaboration for preservation goals. Recipients of the award demonstrate vision, endorse cooperation, and advocate for the preservation of published and primary source resources that capture the richness of our cultural patrimony. The award recognizes the leadership and initiative required to build collaborative networks designed to achieve specific preservation goals. Since collaboration, cooperation, advocacy and outreach are key strategies that epitomize preservation, the award promotes cooperative efforts and supports equitable preservation among all libraries, archives and historical institutions.
The award jury will consider:
- a project emphasizing collaboration or partnership
- collaboration extending the preservation vision beyond the circle of preservation specialists and foster action to raise awareness and set priorities, projects, and programs into motion
- nomination of an individual or group for cumulative achievement as a mentor or advocate of collaborative preservation.
Any person or group is eligible for this award; membership in the ALA organization is not required.
Jan Merrill-Oldham Professional Development Grant
The award was established in 2011 by the Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS) of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) to honor the career and influence of Jan Merrill-Oldham, distinguished leader, author, and mentor in the field of library and archives preservation.
For three decades, Ms. Merrill-Oldham was instrumental in the development of standards and best practices, writing more than forty publications including co-authoring the Guide to the ANSI/NISO/LBI Library Binding Standard, a document used by almost all libraries and commercial library binders. Ms. Merrill-Oldham served on key committees within ALCTS, ALA, the Association of Research Libraries, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the National Information Standards Organization and many others. She educated and mentored countless preservation librarians and conservators and her support for students and dedication to the field serves as a model to all of us. In September of 2010, Ms. Merrill-Oldham announced her retirement after a long and notable career in library and archives preservation. In December 2010, she was named the recipient of the ALCTS Ross Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes Jan Merrill-Oldham’s wide ranging contributions, deep commitment to the field of library and archives preservation, and her undying support of young professionals by supporting participation in an ALA Annual Conference.
It is important however to encourage new and young preservation librarians and staff to further pursue their professional development. A significant part of that involvement is attending the ALA Annual Conference to network and learn from colleagues. Ms. Merrill-Oldham dedicated herself to mentoring young professionals and it is in recognition of that service that an award that supports professional development and involvement by librarians and paraprofessionals new to the preservation field be established.
The Jan Merrill-Oldham Professional Development Grant is awarded by the ALCTS Preservation and Reformatting Section to provide librarians and paraprofessionals new to the preservation field with the opportunity to attend a professional conference and encourages professional development through active participation at the national level. The grant is to be used for airfare, lodging, and registration fees to attend the ALA Annual Conference.
Criteria for selection will be determined based on the following:
- Have five or fewer years of experience in the field of library and archives preservation.
- Currently work as a librarian or paraprofessional within a library or archives preservation department or who has preservation responsibilities within their institution, or a person currently enrolled in a preservation-related graduate program.
- Recommendations from colleagues.
- Express desire as stated in a short essay (up to 500 words) on the following theme:
How would receiving the Jan Merrill-Oldham Professional Development Grant further your professional development goals?
- Willingness to participate in designated conference events:
- Work with a member of the jury to identify relevant programs and interest group sessions to attend.
- Attend the Preservation Administration Interest Group Meeting.
- Attend a least one PARS discussion group meeting.
- Submit a summary of the recipient’s conference experience to the ALCTS News no later than 30 days after the conference.
Members of the sponsor or its affiliated organizations are not eligible.
The Tarheels play at Duke this Thursday night- the most recent episode in a very long rivalry. Earlier this year, when I was working on scrapbooks from the Eddie Cameron collection held in the University Archives, I came across this fun piece of ephemera from a game 75 years ago. The Victory Bell did not yet exist when Duke won this game, but the newly decorated bell will certainly ring tomorrow.
Every once in a while we come across a book composed of parts from multiple copies of the same edition, commonly referred to as a made-up copy (Carter, 2004). It can be very difficult to tell if a book is made-up, depending upon how the different pieces were assembled and treated. An item that recently came into the lab provides a fairly obvious example.
This incunable in a 19th century binding contains two gathering (one at the front and another towards the center of the textblock) that are noticeably shorter at the tail and fore-edge. Shorter leaves can indicate a number of things about the production of a binding, including proof (Roberts & Etherington, 1982) that the leaves were not overly trimmed by the binder. In this case, though, other evidence suggests the section came from another binding. It may be difficult to tell in the image above, but the paper of the section on the right is significantly brighter than the sections before and after.
Additionally, the edges of the shorter section have been treated differently. The image above shows that the edges of the smaller section (left) are colored red, while the rest of the texblock (right) has been sprinkled with blue pigment.
It appears that the binder infilled the smaller section at the front to match the size of the surrounding leaves. Similarly toned and textured laid paper has been adhered to the tail edge and at the gutter of each leaf to make them larger. Since the red edge decoration is still visible on these leaves, this was probably done to reduce the risk of handling damage, rather than an attempt to disguise the added gathering.
While the added sections appear somewhat out of place in this binding, I appreciate that the binder did not attempt to hide them by over-trimming the entire textblock or obscuring their red edge decoration. The clear diffirences between paper size, color, and edge treatment provides additional information about the life and use of this object.
Carter, J. (2004). ABC for book collectors (8th ed.). New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll.
Roberts, M. & Etherington, D. (1982). Bookbinding and the conservation of books : a dictionary of descriptive terminology. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress
By Rachel Pennimen, Senior Conservation Technician
Recently part of the McKeen-Duren Family papers was brought to the lab. Two boxes of approximately 40 daguerreotypes and ambrotypes were in need of better housing. Most of the photographs are of the close family of Silas McKeen. Silas was born in Corinth, Vermont in 1831 and was a Congregational Minister in Bradford, Vermont for much of his life. At some time, a family member had attached slips of paper inside each of the cases with a description of who was depicted in each photograph. Inside the case of a photograph of Silas’ daughter Philena was a longer caption:
1st photo ever taken in
our family – taken by
Southworth of Boston
when Philena was there
taking music lessons.”
The name Southworth jogged my memory. Back in May we were treating True Flag, a newspaper published in Boston from 1851-1908. While encapsulating an issue from Saturday July 15, 1854, I had noticed an advertisement for daguerreotypes and taken a photograph of it.
Southworth & Hawes was a prominent photography business active in Boston in the mid-1800’s and well known for their portraits of notable people of the day, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The daguerreotypes of Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes are held today in the collections of The George Eastman House, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
Like the backdrop on class picture day, it looks like certain props and settings were used repeatedly in the studio of Southworth & Hawes; A table with a floral patterned cloth, a potted plant, and a book seem to have been an especially popular combination of props. The specific fern-patterned cloth draped on the table beside Philena even makes an appearance in a number of other photographs. A daguerreotype of Harriet Beecher Stowe at The Met looks especially similar.
Along with celebrities, Southworth and Hawes took a number of photographs of their own family members. Although not the best example of their work, in this photograph of Nancy Southworth Hawes (wife of Josiah Hawes and sister of Albert Southworth) at the MFA in Boston, she appears to be holding the same highly decorated book as Philena.
Unlike the fern-patterned cloth and potted plant that popped up again and again, the photo of Philena and the photo of Nancy are the only two I found where this specific book was identifiable. I wonder if the book was just another prop sitting around the studio for patrons to use, or if it held some greater significance. Interestingly, Albert and Nancy Southworth grew up on their parent’s farm in Fairlee, Vermont; less than 10 miles from Philena’s childhood home in Bradford. Is it possible these two families knew each other before meeting again in the Boston photographer’s studio?