Extreme Enclosures, part 1

Written by Tedd Anderson, Conservation Technician

My love of extreme things (extreme sports, extreme reality television) has led me to create a two part blog series:  EXTREME ENCLOSURES.

the boo box from "Hook"
An example of a beloved extreme enclosure, the Boo Box, from “Hook.”

In part one, I will detail the creation of four Andre-the-Giant-sized cloth-covered telescoping boxes for our cherished Audubon’s Birds of America.  Part two will chronicle the construction of corrugated clamshell boxes (aka “drop spine boxes” or “pizza boxes”) for the few hundred miniature books held by Rubenstein Library.

audubon scale
Those are some BBB’s (big, beautiful books).
Boxing The Audubons

Audubon’s Birds of America is a four volume set of double elephant folios containing life size prints made from engraved plates.  Each volume has a footprint of around 40 inches x 27 inches, and weighs around 47 pounds. When making an enclosure for a book this gigantic there are a few things to keep in mind: the weight of the item after boxing, and the area of the materials needed to construct the box.  Measures need to be taken to ensure the box itself isn’t too heavy. Per Beth’s suggestion, I used double-walled corrugated board for the bottom tray. Double-walled corrugated board would lend adequate support while also being significantly lighter than a tray made of double walled binder’s board.

One problem: the sheets of double walled corrugated are not large enough to create a box this big.  Using a micro spatula, I peeled one layer off each sheet and laminated two sheets of corrugated together with a Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) and Methyl cellulose mix.

laminating corrugated
Peel one layer off the bottom of the top sheet, one layer off the top of the bottom sheet.

 

laminating corrugated
Keep adequate weight on the sheet while it dries so as to avoid warping.

Once the sheet is dry I can construct the bottom tray and cover it with cloth.  I chose a tray that had three fixed walls and one collapsible wall that would facilitate removal of the book.  Working with wet adhesive and corrugated board was the most frustrating step of all.  Unlike binder’s board, corrugated will buckle under pressure from my bone folder.  When adhering the cloth, I had to be very careful of how hard I pressed.  A ginger touch was key.  The corrugated also felt unstable while the adhesive was wet.  The inner corners of the tray were especially wonky after getting all the cloth laid down, making me feel as though all was lost. This wonkiness did, however, subside after adequate time had been given for the adhesive to dry.  Once dry, the tray was remarkably strong.

covering bottom tray
‘Tis a rough road, the path of the corrugated…one might even describe it as extreme.

 

collapsible side
Attaching the collapsible wall.

Moving on to the top tray was a reprieve.  What a cake walk!  The top tray was constructed like any cloth covered box; a single wall of binder’s board.  The cloth stuck to that binder’s board like a Californian on a skateboard.  The main challenge was adhering large swaths of cloth consistently to avoid air bubbles.

top tray
This step was such a cake walk, I had to keep myself from imagining these bricks were cakes.

 

covering top tray
If I flipped the whole tray over, it resembled an oversized sheet cake.

Next I created Velcro tabs to adhere in between the tray and the outer lip to keep the top and bottom lids securely fastened when the box is handled.  I lined the Velcro with book cloth and shaved down the Velcro parts that would be placed in between the tray and the lip to reduce their swell.  Making sure the Velcro strips stayed stuck to the tray was an issue.  The PVA often had trouble keeping the plasticized Velcro in place, making it easy to dislodge the strips.  I found that once the lip had been firmly adhered, the strips stayed in place.

velcro tabs
Lining and shaving the Velcro strips.

 

velcro tabs
Adhering Velcro before adhering outer lip.

Next comes adhering the outer board to the tray.  Because this behemoth would not fit in any of our presses and the area of the tray was impossible to adhere in one go without adequate pressure, I resorted to a multiple-step-adherence-approach.  I used brick weights for an initial gluing.  Once dry, I had to re-glue each corner, one at a time, and place each corner into the press with blocks.  I rigged up an extreme support system for the tray while in the press:  a stool.

adhering tray
Step one: Bricks.

 

adhering tray
Step Two: Press with Duke Stool Support System™

And finally, the finishing touches: labels.

finishing touch
Like an expertly landed kick flip.

13 finishing touch pt1

Upon fitting the item into the box I weighed the item with its enclosure.  It totaled a whopping 66 pounds. The book weighed 47lbs, and the box 19 pounds.  Saving a bit of weight on this box kept us from reaching into the twenty-pound range on the enclosure alone.

fits like a glove
It fits! No meltdown needed.
weight
My first 66 pounder.

But alas, we must always say goodbye.  In extreme circumstances, I prefer to keep my eyes closed so as to avoid crying.

goodbye audubons
Emotions run high.

The Audubon’s have settled down in their new homes.  Although they continue to amaze visitors of Duke University with their awe-inspiring depictions of the Birds of America, their bindings are no longer at risk in un-enclosed spaces.

Stay tuned for Part Two of Extreme Enclosures:  Extreme Miniatures.

Spine After Spine*

*sung to the tune of Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time

Older bound volumes in a research library collection have often been subjected to multiple interventions or campaigns of repair over the years. If a leather-bound volume has not been completely rebound, it has often been repaired in some visible way. One of the more common repair practices is rebacking, in which either new material is added underneath the leather covering the spine and boards or the spine is replaced entirely. In preparing the book for rebacking, original covering material may be removed, obscuring evidence of previous repair efforts. This second edition of the works of Samuel Johnson, printed in 1713, is more like an onion with many layers of repair material.

Works of Samuel Johnson, Spine #1

The current binding appears roughly contemporary to the text. It is covered in full brown calfskin and decorated with sprinkling and blind tooling in a style commonly referred to as the “Cambridge Panel“.  Many decades ago, this book was actually part of Duke’s circulating collection and was repaired using the typical techniques employed by libraries at that time. A strip of green buckram was adhered to the boards and spine with an acrylic adhesive and the inner hinges were repaired with strips of white textile. The repair is doing it’s job by keeping the boards on, but it is a little awkward. What used to be a tight-joint binding, now has a space between the shoulder of the textblock and the spine edge of the board. This pushes the boards out at the fore-edge and creates an unnaturally large square.

Title Page

In my initial examination, it was clear that the book had been repaired before the green buckram, too. The endsheets had been replaced with a smooth, wove paper and somewhat crude sheepskin corner repairs were visible through the pastedown (see above). There is some obvious insect damage  at the corners of the front board, but interestingly the insects appear to have only liked the new repair materials. The original text and calf leather are un-chewed.

In discussing treatment options with the curatorial staff, it was clear that the unsightly cloth repairs should come off of this book. When I separated the binding from the textblock, though, I found another leather spine underneath.

Spine #2

This is not the original spine of the binding. It appears to be a reback using the same sheepskin as the corner repairs. Most of the red leather label remains in the second panel, but the leather is quite powdery and large patches of the grain layer have peeled away. After further deliberation, the decision was made to also remove this spine material, since it was not original and in very poor condition. During removal of the second spine, however, something else was revealed.

Spine #3

A gilt ‘W’ and a tiny piece of gold line are visible in the second spine panel. Could this be the remains of a third (and possibly original) spine? It is unclear.  While it does not appear that a full calfskin spine is underneath the sheepskin reback, it is possible that the reback was applied on top of small remains of the original spine. It is also possible that titling was added directly to the reback leather, but then because  of error or damage a red leather label was added later.

The textblock spine will be cleaned and lined with strong, high quality materials like Japanese paper and unbleached linen to create a better functioning book. The results will certainly be better than just following tradition and adding another spine on top.

The Road to the Conservation Lab…

… is (often) paved with good intentions.

Last year the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History acquired a small collection of fashion design drawings from the 1940s and 50s by Vivian Gauld. Gauld was West Coast-based commercial artist whose drawings were used in retail advertising campaigns for companies like Rose Marie Reid, Jantzen, and Carr’s Fashions. Some of the drawings are currently on display in the Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery, highlighting recent acquisitions to the collection.

Hartman01

Before coming to Duke, each drawing had been mounted to foam-core board with double-sided tape and then shrink-wrapped. I can see why this packaging method was done. While it does reduce the risk of mechanical damage from handling and shipping, the tape and sealed package are not the most stable environment for long-term storage. Curators and conservators always assess items with our Exhibitions Coordinator before they go on display. Because the items going on exhibit needed to come out of their shrink wrap anyway,  the team made the decision to rehouse the whole collection.

Hartman02

I was able to carefully cut and remove the shrink wrap from each package. The few drawings with friable media (like pastel or charcoal) actually have it applied to the back of the thin drawing paper, so there was little risk of disruption from the static charge of the plastic film. I was able to separate each drawing from the backing board by heating a very thin metal spatula with a hot air pencil and passing it between the drawing and the tape carrier, however, residual adhesive still remained on the verso of the drawing and needed to be removed prior to rehousing (image below, left).

HartmanBeforeAfter

The double-sided tape appears to have been applied fairly recently and had not yet penetrated the paper or crosslinked. I was able to remove it without disturbing the paper fibers by gently rolling the adhesive off with a crepe eraser (image above, right). 

HartmanBeforeAfter2

These drawings will now be stored in either clear polyester L-sleeves or paper folders, depending upon the drawing media. The collection had been placed into two metal edge boxes, but removing the foam-core backing has significantly reduced the required storage space. We can now fit them all into one box. While the shrink wrap package probably seemed like a good idea at the time, I am glad we were able to rehouse the drawings before they were visibly affected by it.

A Conservator’s Nightmare

I grew up in Dayton, Ohio. You don’t grow up in that city without knowing two things: the Wright Brothers invented the airplane there and thus Dayton was “first in flight”  (sorry North Carolina); and the city suffered a devastating flood in March of 1913. The Great Miami River flooded downtown Dayton killing almost 400 people and displacing tens of thousands. You can still see remnants of the high water mark if you look closely at the historic buildings that survived.

1913 Flood Damage at the Library

Damage to the main library in Dayton during the 1913 flood.
Image from Dayton Metro Library Local History Flickr page.

Floods and disasters are never far from a collection conservator’s mind. Just a couple weeks ago the entire American Institute for Conservation’s annual conference was on the topic of disasters. Even our own lab has been flooded during the Rubenstein Library renovation. All this is to say stuff happens, and we always seem to think about it.

Which brings me to my very true story. The other night I had a nightmare that seemed to combine just about every worst-case-scenario event that could happen to a conservator. The scene: the conservation lab. I am in my office and I hear a loud noise above my head. All of a sudden out of the ceiling comes a huge circular saw and it is cutting through my office walls sort of like how Bugs Bunny cut Florida off from the United States.

“No one told me we were under construction,” I said to myself.  At the same time, there is water coming from everywhere as if a live water pipe had been cut. It’s coming up fast and we are scrambling to get things out of the way. While all of this is happening, I am trying to conduct a tour through the lab. I said under my breath, “This is about three times the number of people Development told me would be here,” but I carried on because that is what we do, right?  I was trying to ignore what was happening around me and get the thirty or so people on the tour to focus on the amazing projects that my conservators were working on. Needless to say, it didn’t go very well. The last thing I remember is thinking, “How will I represent this on our statistics.” Then I woke up.

What does it all mean? Have you had conservation nightmares?

It’s Hurricane Preparedness Week!

Hurricane Floyd hits the East coast in 1999. Courtesy Earth Observatory website. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/FloydIntro/

This week is Hurricane Preparedness Week. Don’t be fooled, just because your institution is inland doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by hurricanes. The remnants of large storms can move inland for hundreds or thousands of miles causing flooding and spawning tornadoes. Hurricane Fran hit landfall at Bald Head Island on September 5, 1996. It’s 115 mph winds carried inland and dumped 8.8 inches of rain in Durham, the highest recorded rainfall at the time. You can still see the remnants of the damage of Fran in some areas of Durham.

The 2016 hurricane prediction forecast is for a very active year. If you didn’t review and update your disaster plan on May Day or during Preservation Week, now is the time. At the very least, update your institutional phone tree and make sure your vendor contacts are updated.

If you have more time to devote to preparedness, check out NEDCC’s D-Plan, a free disaster planning site that allows you to customize your plan to your institution. NEDCC also has a good handbook for developing a  community based disaster response called Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness (CoStEP).

We have written before about useful apps for disaster situations. Downloading these now could help you during an emergency situation. There is also a lot of disaster preparedness and recovery information online. Be a good consumer and start with trusted sources such as the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC), the North Carolina Preservation Consortium (NCPC), or the American Institute for Conservation (AIC).

 

 

 

 

Book Structure Made Visible

A damaged binding can present the opportunity to examine the interior structure and composition of a book without the use of advanced imaging equipment. This copy of Durandus of Saint-Pourçain‘s four books of commentaries on the Sentences of Peter Lombard from 1539 offers an interesting look at some common elements of early book structure. Many books from this period have been rebound or drastically altered over the years, so objects like this are quite exciting to examine in detail. 

Durandi (3/4 View)

The binding is fully covered in brown tanned leather, tooled in blind over the boards in a multi-panel design that is common for the period.

Durandi (Front Board)
Front board

You may be able to make out the first few letters (“DVRAN”) of the author’s name written on the fore-edge of the textblock in ink, which probably served as the original titling. Early storage and labeling practices for books were very different from the upright, spine-facing-out shelving method we use today. Henry Petroski, Professor of Civil Engineering at Duke, has a wonderful book on design and book storage, titled The Book on the Bookshelf, which describes this in more detail. I highly recommend it.

Durandi (Fore_edge)
Fore-edge

Two labels were later applied to the spine of the volume. In the image below, you can see the remains of a paper label in the top spine panel and a leather label in the second panel. Some of the damage here offers an interesting glimpse into the structural elements of the binding. The textblock was sewn on double raised supports of twisted leather, rather than vegetable cord.  The sewing pattern is pretty clearly visible here. Damage to the headcap has exposed a spine lining of parchment manuscript waste, as well as the tie-down threads of the sewn headband.

Durandi (Sewing Supports)
Sewing Supports

The most interesting part of this binding (for me at least) is the boards. It is common to see 16th century bindings with thick wooden boards, but this is a nice example of early pasteboard, a technique for making stiff board by laminating pieces of paper together with adhesive (Etherington & Roberts, 1982). Pasteboards tend to be much softer and more flexible than other types of book board. The adhesive between many layers of the paper has failed and the leather has split all around the edges of both boards, so the boards now freely “open” in places and allow a look inside.

Interior of board, head
Interior of board, head/fore-edge

In the image above, you can clearly see some of the print waste which was used to make up the board. You can also see the remains of two leather fore-edge ties, which laced through the boards. While the the majority of that leather tie has broken off and is now gone, the ends are visible inside the board and through the rear pastedown (blue arrows below). You can also clearly see the holes where they exited the boards in the image of the front cover near the top of this post.

Rear Pastedown
Rear Pastedown

Both print and manuscript waste are visible in the exposed layers of the front board, but there is another very interesting element here: The arrows in the image below point to a thin strip of paper, which laces through one of the board’s constituent sheets. I cannot say for certain, but this could be part of a laced paper binding, which got chopped up and added to the pasteboard.

Interior of front board, tail
Interior of front board, tail

While the condition issues of this binding present a risk of further damage and loss, they also provide the opportunity to learn more about its structure and means of production. These raise some interesting questions about the best approach for treatment and rehousing, and will inform our discussions with the curators.

Name That Enclosure!

There are many different options for protective enclosures or wrappers for books and you can find a variety of examples in a typical research library collection. Occasionally I will find something that I have never seen before and this week I encountered a 15th century binding with a very simple, but novel form of book wrapper. I am not quite sure what to call it.

Wrapper01

The wrapper is constructed of thin card (similar to 10 pt Bristol board) and fits snugly over the fore-edge. The wrapper is held together by cut tabs, which are folded over the board edge and glued down.

Wrapper02

It slips on and off the book fairly easily and offers some protection to the exposed wooden boards and fore-edge clasps. It’s certainly a very quick and economical option, but has it’s own problems.

Wrapper03

Rachel Penniman has suggested calling this a “book bikini”, which I think has a nice ring to it. I’d be interested to know if a more established name exists, though. Regardless, I believe that this particular book deserves some more protection, so I will be replacing the wrapper with a full enclosure.

What We Find In Books: The Mummy Edition

gekko
If we discover her other leg, maybe we can reattach it.

This gecko mummy was found in a collection being processed at Smith Warehouse. I suspect she was long gone before the collection came to us.

Geckos are what we call an indicator species. They don’t pose a hazard to your collections per se. She may have crawled into these papers looking for a snack of insects, or a nice place to raise (or deposit) a family.

As we approach Preservation Week at the end of April, it’s a good reminder that you shouldn’t store your collections in basements, garages, attics or outbuildings. Spaces with unregulated environments can harbor unwanted guests looking for a dark, quiet home or a food source.

 

Quick Pic: Tiny Tin

We currently have a small collection of late 19th and early 20th century cosmetic samples from our Advertising Ephemera Collection in the lab for stabilization and rehousing. The majority of the samples are little paper envelopes with loose powder inside, but one of them contained a fun little surprise.

Paper packet

This sample of Charles Meyer Exora Rouge was quite a bit thicker than the others and I could feel a tiny, rigid container inside. The adhesive on the envelope flap was easily released and inside was the smallest tin I’ve ever seen.

Tin in Hand

I don’t know exactly when this item was manufactured, but the bottom left of this page from a 1907 issue of the New York Clipper features an advertisement for free samples of Exora Rouge.

Tin Measurements

You just never know what you will find!

When Everything Goes Right

By Rachel Pennimen, Senior Conservation Technician

Sometimes items come to the lab that have so many problems we just can’t predict how the treatment will go at first glance. These items from the Reva Korda papers were that kind of challenge.

201516_078_bt01 201516_078_bt05

Mounted advertisements before treatment.

These four advertisements had been mounted onto foam core backing board that was deteriorating and delaminating. They had also been exposed to water which caused mold, warping, and two of the ads stuck to the back of two other ads. Because the ads were stuck together, we couldn’t even see what the bottom two ads looked like.

201516_078_bt03 201516_078_bt08

Mounted advertisements stuck together and warping.

With all the condition issues there were plenty of ways for this treatment to go wrong. The back of the ads could get skinned or tear as I tried to remove the backing boards. The mold could have completely disfigured the lower ads. The ads stuck to the backing boards could be stuck so irreversibly that we would lose parts of the image in trying to separate them. We had a meeting with the curators to discuss the range of options. We decided that because the bottom two advertisements were so completely obscured, it was worth making an effort to separate them even if it resulted in a little bit of loss. I first planned to try mechanically removing the foam core backing boards and separating the stuck ads either mechanically or with a little humidification. If that didn’t work we agreed to have another meeting to discuss more invasive treatments like full immersion in a water or solvent bath.

The first step was to remove as much of the mold as possible with a soft brush and vacuum. Once that was done I started trying to separate the ads from their backing boards. Sometimes conservators really hate how old adhesives turn yellow and brittle with age, but when an adhesive has aged so poorly that it fails completely it can actually make our jobs easier. In this case, on three of the advertisements the dry mount adhesive had become so brittle that with the tiniest bit of pressure I was able to slip a thin metal spatula between the board and the advertisement and it just popped right off. Success! It was very satisfying separating these from their foam core boards. Using a little bit of solvent on swabs I was able to remove most of the yellow adhesive residue from the back of each advertisement.

201516_078_dt10 201516_078_at10

Back of one advertisement before yellow adhesive was removed and after adhesive was removed.

The fourth advertisement had a different adhesive that felt soft and waxy. Sadly for me, it was still doing its job and was holding the ad firmly to its backing board. In 2014 our lab hosted a photograph conservation workshop taught by Gawain Weaver. We learned a number of methods for removing photographs from mounts. I recognized this waxy feeling adhesive from that workshop and remembered doing tests on how to most easily remove it.

photo notesThank goodness for taking good notes and keeping all my test samples!

By placing the advertisement face down on a piece of blotter on a hotplate on the lowest setting I was able to soften the adhesive so I could separate the final ad off its backing board. More success!

I was able to separate the ads that were stuck together but some of the paper from the foam core board remained stuck to the faces of the ads. This was far better than the alternative where some of the face of the advertisement could have been skinned off though so I considered that a win.

201516_078_dt05 201516_078_dt09

Advertisements that had been stuck on the bottom with paper still attached to the front.

I was able to remove all of the attached paper with water or alcohol on swabs pretty easily. There was still some discoloration from the mold but the alcohol helped to reduce it. Mostly success!

201516_078_at05 201516_078_at09

Previously hidden advertisements after the paper was removed.

While these ads still show evidence of their hard life they are now free of their bad mounts, failing adhesive, and separated from each other. The discoloration from mold and water damage will remain, but at least now we can see what had previously been completely hidden. It’s always a happy surprise when something goes smoother and more easily than anticipated. It’s a rare treat. With the very low expectations for the treatment it was an extra special pleasure to be able to show the previously unseen advertisements to the curators.

 

Duke University Libraries Preservation