Category Archives: Training

Cradle Boxing Day

Last month, Senior Conservator Erin Hammeke shared her treatment of a caoutchouc binding, which incorporated a clamshell enclosure with integrated cradle. There are many items in the collection that can benefit from an enclosure like this (henceforth referred to simply as a “cradle box”): books which require a restricted opening to reduce the risk of further damage, collection material that is used frequently, or items that are exhibited at library events outside the reading room. Our History of Medicine Collection has several items which meet these criteria and everyone in the lab was interested in learning how to make a cradle box. This week we dedicated a boxing day to this project, which served both as a training exercise and supports use of the collection.

While several variations on structure are described in publicly available resources (see the AIC Wiki), we decided to all just stick with Jeff Peachey’s design. The benefits to this design are that the cradle fits the book very well and is attached to the box, so you don’t have to worry about it being removed and getting lost. We could also rely on Erin’s previous experience and help each other through the more complicated steps!

Construction begins by measuring the book at the intended opening angles to determine the sizes of the individual parts of the cradle.  As with measuring for exhibit cradles, it’s much easier to prop the boards up with cushioned weights before taking measurements.

(Photo by Rachel Penniman)

Then those pieces are cut from Davey board…

(Photo by Rachel Penniman)

… and covered in book cloth. The cradle is essentially constructed in two pieces, which are attached by a cloth spine piece. The image below shows the interior of one cradle side during covering (left), including the adhered ends of cloth tape that allow the user to lift up the cradle (right).

(Photos by Rachel Penniman)

Once the cradle is complete, the book is placed inside and the entire sandwich is measured for the clamshell box. The box is constructed in the usual way, but the right side of the cradle is attached to the interior of the smaller tray near the spine.

It was a lot of fun to approach learning this enclosure design as a group. If one of us hit a roadblock or did not quite understand the next step in the instructions, we could all talk it through together. Over the course of the day, we developed new techniques for completing steps or learned from each other’s mistakes. And, more importantly, now six more books from the collection will have cradles with them wherever they go!

Cast Composite (AKA Synthetic Texture) Technique

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.

Penny Magazine - Before and after treatment
(click images to enlarge)

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.

Penny Mag - Before and After TreatmentBookbinding 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.

Leather Mold

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.

(Under normal lighting at bench)
(Under normal lighting at bench)

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.

Let’s Experiment!

experiment day

Every now and then we take some time to practice new techniques we learn at conferences and workshops. At the 2015 AIC Annual Conference, Erin learned how to use an airbrush and how it could be applied to conservation. Last week she showed us what she learned, and gave us all time to practice with the airbrush. Erin has experimented with tide line removal and tissue toning with the airbrush. We brainstormed other ways we could use this method, too, including consolidation and perhaps spot washing on the suction platen. Have you used an airbrush in your lab? Let us know in the comments how and to what effect.

Preservation of a Different Kind

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.

CPR manikin
Resusci Annie has been replaced by a half-manikin androgynous bot. It has a dial in the back that must adjust the resistance, it says “adult” and “child.” Was I the only one that flipped it over to look at the back?

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.

CPR Trained
My new sticker for my office window.

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.



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.

Upcoming NCPC Conference: Significant Preservation: Inventories and Assessments for Strategic Planning

From the NCPC Press release:

Significant Preservation: Inventories and Assessments for Strategic Planning

North Carolina Preservation Consortium Annual Conference
William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
November 7, 2014

Inventories and assessments of heritage collections and sites are vital for meaningful strategic planning that conveys the importance of allocating scarce resources for preservation programs. Establishing the significance of tangible heritage to the communities we serve is essential for prioritizing conservation, storage, exhibition, and emergency planning decisions to protect cultural treasures for present and future generations. This conference will help you influence organizational, political, and community leaders who have the authority to improve preservation funding. Register today for a valuable learning experience with state, national, and international preservation leaders.

Keynote Speakers

Veronica Bullock is the Co-founder and Director of Significance International. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Prehistory/Archaeology from the Australian National University and a master’s degree in Applied Science (Materials Conservation) from the University of Western Sydney. Her fellowship at the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property explored how significance assessments and risk assessments are taught in graduate conservation programs in Australia, Canada, the United States, and several countries in Europe. Ms. Bullock will provide an overview of the Significance Assessment methodology developed by the Collections Council of Australia.

Lisa Ackerman is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the World Monuments Fund and a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Pratt Institute. She holds a BA from Middlebury College, an MS in historic preservation from the Pratt Institute, and an MBA from New York University. Her professional service has included membership on the boards of the Historic House Trust of New York City, New York Preservation Archive Project, St. Ann Center for Restoration and the Arts, Partners for Sacred Places, Neighborhood Preservation Center, and the U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites. Ms. Ackerman will present an introduction to the Arches heritage inventory and management system.

Dr. Paul R. Green is a Cultural Resources Specialist for the U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center, an Adjunct Associate Professor at Old Dominion University, and a modern Monuments Man. He holds a BS from Marshall University, MA from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a PhD in Anthropology (Archaeology) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Green is a member of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Historical/Cultural Advisory Group and the International Military Cultural Resources Working Group. He will address the challenges and importance of prioritizing global heritage collections and sites for the protection of cultural property during war and armed conflicts.

Lightening Session Speakers

Martha Battle Jackson is Chief Curator for North Carolina Historic Sites. She will provide an overview of the Museum Assessment Program (MAP) for Collection Stewardship sponsored by the American Alliance of Museums.

Andrea Gabriel is Outreach & Development Coordinator for the North Carolina State Archives. She will present an introduction to the Traveling Archivist Program (TAP) administered by the North Carolina Office of Archives & History.

David Goist is a painting conservator in private practice. He will give an overview of the Conservation Assessment Program (CAP) sponsored by Heritage Preservation.


For more information on the conference schedule, registration, scholarships, etc., see the NCPC events page.