We wanted to conduct an experiment that would compare the environment inside a book compared to the the environment of the stacks. Luckily we have a discarded book that already has a small hole cut out for a datalogger. I made the hole bigger to accommodate an Onset HOBO dataloggers. While this book now has less of a cellulosic load and may not compare exactly to other “whole” books, I think it will give us some interesting data.
The book is quietly gathering temperature and humidity data every 15 minutes. We will report our findings at a later date. Until then, happy environmental monitoring!
When we noticed there was condensation around our freezer’s door, we called our awesome repair tech, Jeff McLean. Little did we know this would be a multi-day effort that involved removing the door and the heating mechanism around it, which are both under a bunch of foam insulation. It may look bad now, but Jeff will have this up and running today.
Back in early 2020 Henry gave a little peek into a project I was working on. When four architectural drawings of the Benjamin N. Duke House on 5th Avenue in New York City were acquired by the Rubenstein Library they were removed from their frames in order to incorporate them into the Semans family papers. After the drawings were removed from their frames the staff in the Rubenstein Library Technical Services department found they had been mounted directly onto a non-archival foam-core backing. The drawings were sent to Conservation to see if we could remove the poor quality board.
These drawings were created by a reproduction process called aniline printing which was used in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s and is identifiable by the distinctive green background color and blueish-black lines. These prints are not on paper but on drafting cloth; a cotton or linen fiber fabric that is heavily starched and rolled to give a smooth surface. Aniline prints fade quickly with exposure to light and are sensitive to heat, humidity, alkalinity, and a number of solvents including alcohols. The starches and additives in the drafting cloth can also be very sensitive to heat and water, and the acidic process of aniline printing degrades the cloth over time making it fragile. So my toolbox of conservator tricks to remove the backings was really limited: no heat, no humidification, and few safe solvents.
I could tell there was another layer between the foam core board and the architectural drawing but it was hard to tell what was going on back there. The backing board was attached with long 2” wide strips of a very sticky, waxy adhesive. I managed to separate the board by hand, lifting it away with a thin spatula and discovered something I have never seen before.
The entire back of every drawing was covered with big sheets of cream colored, self-adhesive plastic like you might use to line your kitchen shelves. It’s commonly called contact paper, though there’s nothing paper about it. The plastic used in these products is usually polyvinyl chloride which degrades very quickly and destructively over time so it needed to be removed before it caused further damaged to the drawings. Although the adhesive on this product is weak in order to allow you to lift and reposition it during installation on a kitchen cabinet, the drafting cloth was too fragile in many places to just peel it away. I needed to find a way to more gently remove the contact paper but my options were limited. After a lot of solvent testing and experimentation I found that timed application of a small vapor chamber of solvent would soften the adhesive on the contact paper enough to gently lift it away without leaving an adhesive residue behind and without damaging the print or the drafting cloth.
Working slowly across each drawing I softened the contact paper backing and gently peeled it away to reveal lots of self-adhesive tape had also been applied directly to the back of the drawing. This object was like an onion: full of layers! Some of the tape came off along with the contact paper but the rest I removed with a small spatula and a crepe eraser. I then repaired the tears with a very thin, green toned archival paper. Whoever put the tape down was heavy handed and I often found there were no tears or damage beneath the tape at all.
This treatment was a good example of how sometimes less is more. Whoever applied hundreds of inches of tape, layers of contact paper, and huge areas of sticky adhesive to attach foam core backing board surely thought they were helping to protect a valued item. Instead they created a mess that took weeks to undo.
The best part about removing all of those layers was revealing a manufacturer’s mark printed in pale purple ink on the back that reads:
Peerless Blue Print Company
122 East 14th New York
This mark helps us to date when and where these drawings were created and would have been lost if all those layers weren’t removed.
The property shown in these historic architectural drawings has recently been restored and is now on the market. The 8 bedroom, 10 bathroom, 20,000 square foot home which is directly across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art can be yours for just $80 million. Hopefully it’s not also held together with tape and contact paper.
Artist books are often a challenge for shelving in library stacks. Rarely are they shelf-ready due to their materials or construction. How do you shelve a bag full of books? Do you separate the pieces for easier shelving and retrieval? Or box them all together to keep the items together? Did we mention this weighs a total of 27.5 pounds?
We decided to take the boxes out of the canvas bag, and box all the parts in one enclosure that will include a label warning of the weight of the object. This makes it easier to shelve, and easy to put back together in its original form when it is used or exhibited.
Now we need to find a bigger bin to send this over to Lilly Library. If your library has this title, let us know how it went to the shelf. We would be really interested in hearing about it.
Longtime readers will remember the banana book, one of the best worst things that has come to the lab over the last 20 years. It has made its return to the Preservation Exhibit Case in our new exhibit, “SOS–Save Our Stuff: How you can help preserve library collections.” The exhibit is viewable during regular library hours on Lower Level 1, outside the Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab (Perkins 023).
The banana book is just one of several uniquely damaged items on display. Want to see what happens when you use sticky notes? Or attempt DIY book repairs? Come on down!
As mentioned last week, staff in the Collections Services division have been creating a “behind the scenes” look at the work we do to get books to the shelf. The exhibit is now up! Come see a selection of the work we do to make sure the book you need is on the shelf when you need it.
42% of overall productivity in FY2022 was disaster recovery, mostly attributed to mold removal.
FY 2022 Statistics
371 Book repairs
964 Pamphlet bindings
16 Treatments: Other (objects, textiles, etc.)
694 Flat Paper repairs (includes paper, parchment, and photos)
3,094 Protective enclosures
3,784 Disaster recovery
3 Exhibit mounts [these are primarily done in the Exhibits Department now]
44 Hours in support of Exhibits (meetings, treatment, installation, etc.)
123 Digital preparation repairs
8 Hours in support of Digital Projects (meetings, consultations, handling, etc.)
73% of production was for Special Collections
27% of production was for Circulating Collections
42.7% of work was Level 1 [less than 15 minutes to complete; 3,810 items]
54.5% of work was Level 2 [15 minutes – 2 hours to complete; 4,864 items]
2.7% of work was Level 3 [2 – 5 hours to complete; 240 items]
0.1% of work was Level 4 [more than 5 hours; 12 items]
Staffing: 5 full time conservation staff, 1 student assistant
We are still seeing the effects of the pandemic on our total production. But we are also seeing a bounce back from the last two years. We remain hopeful that FY2023 will be closer to “normal,” whatever that is these days.
Total Productivity 2003 to 2022
This year we surpassed the 280,800 mark for total production since the department began in 2002. Overall, enclosures are still the largest single type of work we do, holding steady at 44% of output. Followed by disaster recovery at 20%, and pamphlet binding at 18%.
Other Things We Did This Year
We received a LYRASIS Catalyst Fund grant to digitize our legacy conservation treatment documentation. We are calling it the Conservation Documentation Archive (CDA). This includes both written and photographic documentation, reaching back to the earliest treatment records we have. You will be hearing much more about that in the coming year as we get these materials into our digital repository.
We had several internal conversations about the lack of diversity in our treatment terminology. We aim to be more cognizant of this going forward. We want to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of book history so that we can be more inclusive in describing the materials we work on.
We took a deeper dive into issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the conservation profession and our department this year through readings and discussions. These will be ongoing conversations. We are focusing on ideas that can be put into action now, while also identifying stretch goals that may take more time and resources than what we have at the moment.
It’s been a busy week this week in the Underground. We hosted a tour for the Class of 1990, who had their 20th Reunion a bit late due to the pandemic.
We have a tremendous amount of mold recovery work in the lab at the moment. We have been drying and vacuuming materials pretty much non-stop for several weeks. There is no light at the end of the tunnel yet, but every page gets us closer.
We had an all-hands-on-deck repair day for the circulating collections backlog. With no summer students this year, we had a lot of materials waiting for their 15 minutes of fame aka Quick Repair. We got through 107 items in half a day.
Speaking of backlogs…Technical Services has been working through a lot of musical scores lately and they have backed up a bit in the lab. This workflow is next on our list of “get it done” projects.
Preparations for the Lilly Library renovation started back in 2019 and really hasn’t stopped. We are getting close to finishing a huge project to provide enclosures for items going to the Library Service Center for the duration of the renovation project. Tyvek envelopes are a quick and economical enclosure for brittle and fragile materials that we can’t treat before going off site.
Our student assistant is back, and plowing through work. Look at all the brittle pamphlets she has put into binders this week. We love seeing work pile up on the QC shelf.
And of course, at the time of writing this post, we are experiencing the remnants of Hurricane Ian. We spent Thursday afternoon putting out absorbent pads around our known leaks, and making sure everyone knew the disaster team’s contact information.
For organizations looking for recovery help, here are some resources: