Of Birds and Bindings

As a conservator I tend to break books down into their parts: paper, thread, adhesive, ink, binding style. Each of these components requires careful consideration before proceeding with a treatment. It happens every day, we look at a Blaeu atlas, or a Whitman manuscript and we get to work repairing them. Sure, these are marvelous items, but the bottom line is that we need to put them back together so our patrons can use them. Then you encounter something that reminds you just how special your job really is.

John James Audubon’s Birds of America came up on our condition survey list this week. These double-elephant folios are truly magnificent. Each volume is over 100 centimeters (39 inches) in height and very heavy, heavy enough that it takes two people to move them. I followed my survey form, recorded the binding information then the text block information, wrote down the damage I saw and determined what priority we should give them.

Then I did something I don’t normally do, I took a few minutes to admire these books for what they are. The masterful drawings, the tiny details that inform us of how these creatures live, the beautiful colors of these birds. I thought about the skill it took to draw these animals, to print the plates, and to bind these big volumes.

I feel lucky to have the opportunity to handle these books, to be a small part of their history, and to work for an institution that trusts me to do right by the collections. The funnest part was working with the RBMSCL staff to choose the new openings. If you are in the vicinity of the Mary Duke Biddle Room, stop by and see our feathered friends.

Happy Boxing Day

Traditionally, Boxing Day is celebrated on December 26th. Often cited as having British origins, it is the day the wealthy give to those less fortunate. December 26th is also St. Stephen’s Day on the Christian calendar, and Wren’s Day in Ireland. If you are looking for some nice music to go with these two celebrations, look no further than the Elvis Costello song “St. Stephen’s Day Murders” from the Chieftans album The Bells of Dublin. Hopefully, things are going a little better in your household today.

In the Conservation Lab we celebrate boxing day twice a month. We started this tradition in 2006 as a way to focus on making custom enclosures for the Rare Books, Manuscripts and Special Collections Library. On the first and third Wednesday of the month everyone in the lab works on making boxes. We started with the early manuscript collection and have since moved on to other areas of the collection in need of enclosures. Last fiscal year we made just over one thousand boxes for boxing day with a total of over 2,500 since we started boxing day. For a few examples of items we have worked on, head over to our Flickr page.

As the year winds down and we look forward to 2010, we wish you all a joyous Kwanzaa, and a very happy and peaceful new year. Stay safe, keep healthy, we’ll see you all back on campus soon.

Christmas Comes Early to the Digital Production Center

Remember when you were a kid counting the days to Christmas and the closer Christmas got the longer the days seemed to be? When Christmas finally showed up I was just like most other kids on Christmas morning…up at 5 a.m. waiting for my parents to wake up so I could open the presents Santa had left. I didn’t realize at the time that Santa was exhausted and had just gone to bed a few hours before I woke up. I must learn to be patient my mother would say.

Well, that patience has paid off and Christmas arrived a little early this year in the Digital Production Center. In November, after a month of testing, the Library purchased a Phase One camera system. This camera is built for speed and achieves a similar quality to the camera it replaced. Then, in early December we purchased a Zeutschel 14000 A2 camera system which is also built for speed, replacing the slower flatbed scanners. The space age look of this camera system reminds me of a Transformer from my childhood days. And to top it all off we have recently purchased a SAMMA Solo video digitization unit. This unit allows us to digitized analog video, which is something we were not able to do in the past.

It’s like Christmas morning in the Digital Production Center putting everything together and trying to figure out how everything works. While we are experiencing some growing pains we are excited with the challenge of mastering the new equipment. We have been focusing on developing new workflows to accommodate a much faster production rate and adjusting to new software that automates some of the process.

With two new full time staff members we will be able to use the new equipment to it’s fullest potential. With all that is new in the Digital Production Center we will be much more efficient and able to focus on the Libraries Strategic Plan to provide more digital content.

Thanks Santa!

Written by Mike Adamo, Digital Production Center

Cross-Training: Not Just for Exercise

One of the benefits of working for Duke University Libraries is that it provides staff with flexible work options. This comes in handy if you are interested in what goes on in another department or, like me, working full time while attending library school.

My department supports collaborating with other groups and fostering partnerships. This past year I have been able to take advantage of cross-training opportunities by working one day a week in the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture . Some of the highlights of my work at the Center included answering reference questions, processing collections and instructing undergraduates about using the wealth of primary source material from the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library and Bingham Center collections.

Cross-training in this women’s archive taught me new skills and allowed me to share knowledge from my Conservation background while interacting and building relationships with those in the library with whom I had not worked with previously. And it was really fun. My adventures in cross-training led me to work with students taking courses like Writing 20, attend events at the Women’s Center, and even do a zine workshop for girls attending Girls Rock Camp NC in Durham and Chapel Hill. Throughout my encounters, I was able to rely on my Conservation experience such as when handling delicate, fragile manuscripts and setting up special collection items for class instruction.

While at times it felt like exercise juggling full time work in Conservation, interning at the Bingham Center and attending graduate school, this fantastic experience broadened my understanding and knowledge of what goes on not just in the library, but across campus and in our community.

Last Minute Preservation Gifts

Taking a cue from the Goodson Blogson we present our first preservation holiday gift guide. If you don’t know what to give that conservator or preservation librarian in your life, never fear, Preservation Underground is here.

Books
You can never have too many, right? With so many to choose from where do you start?
Preservation: Issues and Planning by Paul Banks and Roberta Pilette. A well written collection of essays that provides an overview of what library and archives preservation programs entail.
Science for Conservators volumes one through three. Organic chemistry for non-scientists. A must for any conservator.
ABC of Bookbinding by Jane Greenfield. A clearly written thesaurus of bookbinding terms and book structure history.

Emergency Supplies

Too depressing you say? Preservation people eat, sleep and live this stuff.
React Pak will have you recovering from that pipe leak fast. Of course, you can put your own together and customize it any way you want.
Emergency Response Salvage Wheel from Heritage Preservation. It even has a magnet on the back to hang it on your fridge.
Hard core gift givers will purchase the Heritage Preservation combo pack which includes the Field Guide to Emergency Response and an Emergency Response wheel. Heck, they’ll even thrown in Working With Emergency Responders: Tips for Cultural Institutions for free when you buy both.
For the Bookbinders in Your Life
Face it, people who actually MAKE things are hard to buy for. Here’s a few ideas to get you started.
Diary Blocks for 2010. Sure, you could buy a wall calendar at a big box store, but then you wouldn’t be able to put a beautiful binding on it.
Blank Book Kits are great for those of you writing that great American novel by hand.
Decorative Blue Paper for your favorite Duke or UNC Chapel Hill Fan. You prefer Wolfpack red? no worries, there’s paper for that, too.
Bone Folders make great stocking stuffers or hostess gifts. Trust me, they do, especially when they are this lovely.
Life Long Learning
Who can ever know enough? give them the gift that keeps on giving.
Book binding classes can be found for every skill level.
Calligraphy classes can help with that handwriting, you have to fill all those blank pages somehow.
Interested in audio visual preservation? digital preservation? there are classes for that, too.
After Dinner Mint
Finally, when all seems lost and you need just one more perfect gift, how about a unique hand made book bound into a mint tin? You know you want one.
Happy holidays to all. May your winter break be free of frozen pipes and lumps of coal. What would you like to find in your stocking this year?
Listing does not imply endorsement by Duke University or Duke University Libraries.

Beef Wine For Your Health

Duke was giving out H1N1 flu shots today and quite by coincidence I found this ad in a bound set of Women’s Penny Papers (1889-1890). This book is going into the British Women Writers exhibit that is being installed on Monday afternoon. Since the paper and binding are fairly fragile, I’m making a custom-fit book cradle so it can be exhibited safely.
It’s also serves as a good reminder to take care of yourself as the semester winds down and the holidays begin. Get plenty of rest, eat right and stay healthy over the break. Otherwise you will be having beef wine for your holiday meal.

Preservation Lunch ‘n’ Learn

Join us as we watch “Don Etherington: A Sixty-year Odyssey in Bookbinding and Conservation.” Mr. Etherington has worked tirelessly as a conservator, educator, writer and leading voice in conservation theory and practice. He has been a teacher and mentor to many conservators working in the field today and has led an enormously interesting life from apprentice bookbinder to proprietor of Etherington Conservation Services (now part of the HF Group).

This video is part of the Syracuse University Library Brodsky Series for the Advancement of Library Conservation. Follow this link for more on the series and past speakers.

December 10th
Perkins Library, Room 217
Noon-1:15 pm
Bring your lunch.
All are welcome.

Welcome to the Team

We have two new members of the Digital Production Center starting work today. Oscar Arias has been with Duke Libraries for a long time. Lately he has been working for the Center for Instructional Technology as an Instructional Technology Lab Coordinator. In that capacity he helped students and faculty with lab resources, conducted workshops, and provided project assistance to language instructors.

Alex Marsh is new to Duke University Libraries. He brings a lot of experience in high-end digital imaging, photographic archiving, web content production and A/V digitization.

Both Oscar and Alex are Digitization Specialists in the DPC. Their primary responsibility will be producing digital surrogates of books, manuscripts and a/v materials from our collections. With Mike Adamo and Rita Johnston, we now have four staff (and many students assistants) in the DPC working diligently to safely reformat our rare and unique collections.

Collections + Conservation = Access

Often conservators are portrayed as the people who say “no” (not to be confused with the Knights Who Say “Ni”). Those of us in the Roberts Conservation Lab take a different approach. We are here to ensure the collections are in good physical condition so that they can be used by current and future patrons. We work closely with library staff to select damaged materials that need our help, and treat them quickly so they spend as little time as possible away from the stacks.

Some of the more interesting items that have come to us lately have been part of digital imaging projects. The work we are doing in support of these projects helps bring hidden collections into the open, and allows fragile items to be digitized so they can be accessed electronically. This not only saves the originals from additional wear and tear but allows better access to the materials. The Broadsides Project and the Whitman Collection are two such projects. We work with our colleagues in the Digital Production Center to make sure these items can go through the digitization process and return to the shelf in as good or better condition than when the project started.

On the rare occasion we feel an item cannot be safely used, we work closely with collection managers to find an alternative way to get the information to the patron. We want you to be successful in your research and enjoy your experience with our collections. We are here to say “yes.”

Preservation Is Interdisciplinary

Academic research has become more and more interdisciplinary. Whether you are studying the Brain and Society, or you are Engineering World Health, it is not enough to stay in your ‘silo’ for four years and hope for the best. That is true for the Preservation Department as well.

We work across the Duke University Library system to preserve materials from all subject areas so they can be accessed by patrons on campus and around the world. We have worked on model airplanes and pink dragons from the Hartmen Center, football programs from the University Archives, Louisa Whitman letters to her son Walt Whitman from the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collection Library, and of course thousands of items from the circulating collections.

The Preservation Department is breaking new ground in the types of services it can provide for the Library. The newly named Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab has equipment that enables us to do conservation treatments on paper based materials such as books and manuscripts. With the equipment in the Digital Production Center we can now help provide easier access to non-print media such as photographs and moving images.* Our strong tradition of caring for paper-based materials has expanded to include providing access to collections through the digitization process. We take an interdisciplinary approach to our work so that you, our patrons, can do the same.

*See Duke Digital Collections for more online collections.

Duke University Libraries Preservation