Moving The Lab: “At Least We Have Windows”

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.

Packing up the lab.

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

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.

Moving the large board shear.
Moving the large board shear.

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 temporary lab is cozy, but at least it has windows!
Our temporary lab is cozy, but at least it has windows!

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.

You can see more images of our move  on Flickr.

Boxing Day: The Entire Lab Edition

Photo Nov 05, 4 26 16 PM
Book trucks ready for packing.
boxes of files
Boxes of lab files.

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!

When Halloween Is Like A Box of Chocolates

Photo Oct 31, 11 28 27 AM
Rachel unpacks some real gems from technical services.

We love getting Boxing Day books from Rubenstein Library Technical Services, especially pulps from the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s. When you open the crate, you never know what you are going to get.  Today the crate was filled with Horror! Fantasy! Choose your own adventure tales! All with some pretty amazing cover art. Happy Halloween!

Photo Oct 31, 1 12 14 PM
Be afraid. Be very afraid!

 

Photo Conservation Workshop: Wrap Up

Surface cleaning station. Don't worry, we do actually have real chairs.
Emily Rainwater, Whitney Baker and Melissa  Tedone at the surface cleaning station. Don’t worry, we do have real chairs in the lab.

We are all still talking about the shear amount of information we learned last week at “Photo Conservation for Book and Paper Conservators,” taught by Gawain Weaver and Jennifer Olsen of Gawain Weaver Art Conservation.

Colleagues from across the country came to the Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation lab for this event. We had people from California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, New York, Minnesota, and of course several from the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area (Duke, UNC Chapel Hill and the NC State Archives). Some work in university libraries and archives, others in private practice, and some in other types of organizations. It was a great mix of experiences and perspectives.

This workshop was geared toward mid-career conservators who already have a fundamental understanding of materials and solvents, experience in evaluating the condition of materials, and experience in making treatment decisions. The goal was to give paper and book conservators hands-on experience working with various historic and modern photographic processes and to get us more comfortable in doing so.

Jennifer Olsen (R) and Gawain Weaver (L).
Jennifer Olsen (R) and Gawain Weaver (L).

Gawain and Jennifer are very generous teachers. They use a good mix of demonstration, hands-on practicums and lectures to get the information across. We were also able to work with samples of actual photographs, which helped move theory into practice. We learned about removing silver mirroring, removing photos stuck to glass, attaching and removing heat set tissue, and various methods of mechanical and chemical surface cleaning.  We also discussed disaster recovery, mold removal, humidifying and flattening, housing options, and general mending.

Clara and Whitney discussing dry cleaning options.
Clara Ines Rojas Sebesta (L) and Whitney Baker (R) discussing treatment options.

We participated because so much of our photographic collections are valued primarily for their informational content, not their artistic value (although that isn’t always the case). Therefore, they do not rise to the level that would trigger sending them out for treatment. Yet, some of our photos need more treatment than simply housing. I think we all came away with a better understanding of what we can do even though photographs are not are area of expertise.

What I value most about last week is the camaraderie of professionals learning from each other; meeting new colleagues and working with long-time friends; being treated professionally by people outside your specialty; learning skills that would otherwise be difficult to learn; and walking away knowing more about when you should and shouldn’t undertake treatment. I also enjoyed the parts that began with the caveat, “You would never do this with real objects, but watch what happens when you do!”

We have posted images from the workshop on Flickr, and you can see composites and a brief description of Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4 on Preservation Underground. Check out Melissa Tedone’s review of the week on Parks Library Preservation.

Photo Conservation Workshop: Day 4

Working with a variety of historic and modern heat set tissues.
Working with a variety of historic and modern heat set tissues.

Last day of class and we are knee deep in attaching and removing various heat set tissues. We removed them mechanically with a variety of implements, and attempted to remove them chemically with varying success. I have a feeling some of these were successful only because they haven’t been sitting in an attic or outbuilding for 50 years. Maybe some artificial aging of the samples is in order.

Thanks to the Nasher Museum for lending us their heat set press. We wouldn’t have been able to do any of the last day without it.

Addendum: We have posted images from the workshop on Flickr, and you can see composites and a brief description of Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4 on Preservation Underground.

Photo Conservation Workshop: Day 3

Gawain Weaver and Jennifer Olsen demonstrate heat set tissue and review Day 2's results.
Participants work on photos, Gawain Weaver and Jennifer Olsen demonstrate heat set tissue, and we review Day 2′s results. So much tape to remove!

Day 3 of photo conservation for book and paper conservators was incredibly busy. We learned about platinum prints, then got to work experimenting on a variety of color print technologies. We tried tape removal techniques and played “what would happen if…?” by cutting up color prints and immersing them in various solvents. The sounds coming from the fume hood were similar to those at a fireworks show.

We ended the day learning about a brief history of cold-press and heat-set tissues, and prepped for today’s session of sticking photos to things and unsticking them from things.

See Day 1 and Day 2 posts.

Addendum: We have posted images from the workshop on Flickr, and you can see composites and a brief description of Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4 on Preservation Underground.

Photo Conservation Workshop: Day 2

Gawain Weaver and Jennifer Olsen teaching photo conservation techniques to book and paper conservators.

On Day 2 of the photo conservation workshop we concentrated on silver gelatin prints. We learned how to dry clean surfaces, a couple techniques for removing silver mirroring, and attempted to remove prints that were stuck to glass.

One of the best things about workshops like this is learning tips from each other, and learning that when you find things difficult it may not be your skills that are faulty. It may be that the treatment is difficult even for very skilled professionals and almost always leads to heartbreak [see also: removing prints stuck to glass].

Addendum: We have posted images from the workshop on Flickr, and you can see composites and a brief description of Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4 on Preservation Underground.

Photo Conservation Workshop: Day 1

Workshop participants are learning photo conservation techniques from Gawain Weaver and Jennifer Olsen.
Workshop participants are learning photo conservation techniques from Gawain Weaver and Jennifer Olsen.

Day one of “Photo Conservation for Book and Paper Conservators” was incredibly informative. Tuesday we learned some basic early silver print history and manufacture, and how to dry- and wet-clean albumen prints.

The class is made up of conservators from all over the country, in private practice, libraries and archives. It’s fun to study with long-time friends and to meet new colleagues. We are looking forward to day two.

By the way, Beth Heller (Beth Heller Conservation) and Melissa Tedone (Parks Library Preservation) are here. Check out their blogs for highlights from the workshop.

Addendum: We have posted images from the workshop on Flickr, and you can see composites and a brief description of Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4 on Preservation Underground.

Happy Fifth Birthday to Devil’s Tale!

 Image from Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst... by George Bartisch. Published in 1583, this item was on display for the Animated Anatomies exhibit.   Photo by Mark Zupan, Senior Graphic Designer for Duke University Libraries.

Image from Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst… by George Bartisch. Published in 1583, this item was on display for the Animated Anatomies exhibit.
Photo by Mark Zupan, Senior Graphic Designer for Duke University Libraries.

Today marks the fifth birthday of our sister blog The Devil’s Tale.

Happy birthday Devil’s Tale, and may you post many more eye opening dispatches from the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Adopt A Banned Book!

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (first edition).
For adoption: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (first edition).

I’m always late in honoring the American Library Association’s Banned Book Week. I’d like to say it is because I believe in celebrating banned and challenged books all year ’round, which I do, but really it’s just been so busy here that it completely took me by surprise.

So, in honor of Banned Books Week and brilliant writers everywhere who write about difficult truths (or just plain human truths), we have placed a few frequently challenged titles on our Adopt-a-Book page. Adopt the conservation of a banned book today (better late than never)!

Duke University Libraries Preservation