The installation was very similar to our workflow here at Duke. We had already constructed custom book supports for each volume using a clear, inert plastic resin called PETG. After unpacking everything, I was able to simply position each volume on its cradle and secure the pages at the opening with clear polyester strapping.
Once the books and labels were all correctly placed inside, museum staff stepped in to install the vitrines.
The curators and museum staff at NCMA were so great to work with and I really enjoyed being part of a collaborative effort between cultural institutions from around The Triangle. I haven’t shared any images of the paintings that will also be on display, but I was able to get a peek at many of them. They are absolutely incredible! The show will be on display from March 4th – June 18th and I would encourage you to go visit if you are in the area.
We realized we needed some sort of large cart to better move folders from the stacks to the reading room when we expanded our flat file storage to include super-oversized file drawers. After some investigation we settled on the “U-boat.” This custom cart was first introduced to me by Michele Hamill, Paper and Photograph Conservator in the Digitization and Conservation Services Department at Cornell University Library.
The cool thing about its design is the three-tiered storage system. The base is tall enough for a standard archival records box, the middle has a concave section to transport large folders, and the top is a large flat space to place oversize flat boxes. The best part? The top is removable! Once I saw it, I wanted it.
Today was the first opportunity for Conservation to really put the U-boat to use in moving oversize materials. We had to move three super-oversized folders from the lab to the third floor stacks. These folders are about 75 inches long and 50 inches wide, so we brought down the U-boat to transport them.
Once the folders were on the cart, we placed a large tube in the middle to stabilize the contents and keep the folders from slipping or folding over. Three of us escorted the cart upstairs to the stacks. Two people steered while one cleared the way and opened doors.
The U-boat was custom made for us by G.S. Manufacturing . It arrived fully assembled and ready to go. While this is the first time I’ve used the U-boat, I often see it in use in the stacks for oversized flat boxes. Is it wrong to fall in love with a cart? Because I believe I have.
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.
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 we got to use our new sit-stand table to roll out a Japanese scroll. We are excited about our new tables, they replace low tables that were immobile and difficult to work on. These have wheels and fit through the doors, so they can go anywhere in the lab and can adjust from a sitting height to chin-height. They are perfect for large objects like this Japanese scroll.
Here left to right are Lauren (Rubenstein), Grace (Conservation), Andy (Rubenstein) and Kris (DUL International Studies) are all helping to identify this object. I love when we can bring in experts from around the library to discuss treatment and housing options. Conservation is truly interdisciplinary in that way, and its one of the most satisfying parts of our work.
This week we worked with Craig Braeden from Rubenstein Library and Zeke Graves from the Digital Production Center to test a cleaning workflow for moldy reel-to-reel audio tapes we recently received from Haiti.
Conservation doesn’t have expertise in cleaning magnetic media, so this was a chance to learn more about these materials and to do some cross training.
The method is simple enough. While the tape is running you gently hold a piece of Pellon to the tape to remove the mold. What is more difficult is learning to evaluate the tape to be sure it isn’t too fragile for this treatment, holding the tape with just enough pressure to clean it but not too much to damage it while it is moving through the deck, and watching for splices. Craig brought over an old deck and we set it up in the fume hood in Conservation. Zeke helped clean and repair the tape when we encountered previous splices.
When I first started here we had a variety of skill sets on the staff. To help build our skills, share ideas and create a forum to ask questions, I started “Tuesday Tips at Two,” a weekly meeting with the staff. On Tuesdays we would gather and share tips and tricks on everything from turning corners on cloth clamshell boxes to controlling the curling of the endsheets when putting a new case on a text block.
Those weekly tip sessions have turned into monthly ones. Before our monthly staff meeting, if someone has a tip or wants opinions about how to solve a treatment problem, we gather as a group to learn from each other or to offer feedback.
Last month we had a double-tip session. Mary presented a tip on using Japanese tissue and paste to fill lost corners on 19th Century publisher’s bindings, and Erin presented a tip on using embossing plates (sold in craft stores) to mimic the pressed-fabric you often see on 19th Century publisher’s bindings. It was an educational and fun tips session.
In the lab today are some beautiful maps that will be loaned to Duke University’s Nasher Museum for an exhibit in the fall.
While most of the maps are in good condition, some need conservation beforehand. Rachel has been doing some dry cleaning, and Grace is washing a few to remove old repairs and stains. Once the conservation is done, we will help to mount them so they can be matted and framed at the Nasher.
Written by Jennifer Blomberg, Senior Conservation Technician
Sometimes you just never know what will come through the lab for boxing. These items from the Doris Duke Archives were recently sent to us for custom enclosures. Boxing a Louisville Slugger baseball bat, a football, and weathervane can present obvious challenges due to their unusual shapes and dimensions. To read more about the provenance of these materials, please see the Rubenstein Library’s blog post.
Goals for Housing
The main goals for creating these housings were to protect the fragile materials while providing easy access for researchers. They had to fit the unusual shape and dimensions of the materials, keep them from shifting inside the box, and allow them to be shelved easily with other archival materials. Designing and fabricating these boxes offered a real challenge.
Creating the Enclosures
I made “telescoping” boxes for the baseball bat and weathervane. This type of box consists of a bottom tray that fits the object, and a separate lid that fits over the bottom tray. The football got a standard drop-spine or “clamshell” box. Each tray was lined with Volara foam to provide cushioning for the object.
Overall, I am content with the final enclosures and believe that they achieve the goals that we sought out to accomplish. These will provide supportive and protective enclosures, while also making them available and accessible to researchers.