As the Covid-19 virus spreads, we have started planning for work that Conservation staff can do at home should we be told to stay off campus. As of this publication we have not been asked to stay home but preservation professionals prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This has been a thought provoking exercise and everyone has contributed to our brainstorming.
We wanted to share what we have drafted to date in case any other labs are in a similar situation. These discussions are also happening on the AIC Community discussion boards and on social media. If you have other ideas, please share in the comments. A big thank you to Kristen St.John at Stanford for the original idea and letting us run with it.
We the people,
In order to form a more perfect union,
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare and
Secure the blessings of liberty
To ourselves and our posterity
Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
It’s #WorldBookDay today and we are highlighting some books that have come through recently from Technical Services.
There seems to be a new trend in publisher’s bindings: the exposed-spine binding. We call them “naked bindings” because they lack part of their cover. There’s even a subject heading for this kind of binding called “Backless Bindings (binding).”
Adhesive layer can be very thin (almost invisible) to very thick; sometimes unevenly applied
Covers are commonly chip board or binders board, but some are a heavy paper much like a paperback.
Cover attachments seem to be either tipped onto the first and last flyleaf, or a doublure attachment. Occasionally you find one that has a doublure with a sewn-on binders-board cover (this must be the “Mercedes of Exposed Spine Bindings”)
One commonality: these are very weak bindings especially those with tipped-on covers, loose sewing, and unevenly applied adhesive.
Why does this binding work for this book? The book is about a textile exhibit. The exposed threads, multi-colored thread choice, and loose threads on the front cover all relate in some way to the textiles highlighted in the text block and textile artistry.
The covers are fully adhered to a doublure, and that section is sewn onto the textblock. This creates a very stable and secure cover attachment. Overall it is a solid binding whose design connects to the contents of the book.
Straight Out of Coptic
These are obviously machine-sewn edition bindings but they hark back in my head to Coptic bindings with a nod towards the Sewn Board Binding originally designed by Gary Frost (which itself gives nod to Coptic bindings).
These exposed spine bindings lay really flat because they don’t have all those pesky spine linings to control the opening. They are very vulnerable to rough handling because the binding has no protection and the board attachment is really weak.
Everyone Gets an Enclosure
This group of “Backless bindings” will have custom four-flaps created to protect the bindings. If these were special collections items we might consider a “peekaboo” box that allows the spine to be seen on the shelf. But since these are in the circulating collections, we will give them a standard four-flap enclosure or corrugated clamshell box. These provide a bit more protection from handing and reduce light exposure.
Unlike millions of old reference works in declining bindings, the 11th Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, published in 1910, has a following. Veneration of this edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica spans beyond libraries and the antiquarian book trade into popular culture. A. J. Jacobs writes about it in his book The Know-It-All, and Hans Koning, powerhouse of New Left thought, published an eloquent meditation on the world view reflected in its pages. It is discussed as THE GREAT 11th EDITION, listed alongside the works of Heidegger, Camus, and Fukuyama as one of the 100 most important non-fiction works of the 20th Century. Two websites are devoted to 11th Edition fandom. There is even a fingernail polish.
People who praise the 11th Edition Encyclopedia Britannica point to the illustriousness of the contributors, the profusion of beautifully written biographical entries with odd, sometimes questionable details (Pedro I of Portugal disinterred his dead mistress and placed her remains on the throne of the queen, Potemkin died “…in consequence of eating a whole goose in one sitting,” etc., etc…) or the detailed, illustrated accounts of manufactures, engineering, and natural history. But the veneration of this work is more diffuse and more adoring than these particularities account for. Hans Koning writes:
“The world of the Eleventh Edition was at the zenith of those ‘encyclopedic’ prerequisites, rationality and positivism. All of humanity appeared to be on the threshold of being totally understood, described, improved, and then perfected, through the logic of Anglo-American institutions and thought…it was the high point of the Enlightenment, doomed to end when the lamps went out all over Europe in the fatal summer of 1914.”
Kelly Lawton of Lilly Library had come across a single volume I repaired in the early 2000’s and asked Beth Doyle if it could be used as a model for repair of the remaining numbers in their original bindings. This repair had retained the section sewing and the boards but replaced the badly degraded leather spine and heavy, brittle end sheets. My goal had been to make it robust enough to be handled as part of the circulating collection without unduly sacrificing original components. Fortunately, the technician, the end sheet paper and the black book cloth involved in the process that produced that successful repair were still available to create a matched set.
Within the week a large bin arrived and the project began. I used a combination of poulticing and manual manipulation to remove the degraded leather on the spines and the pastedowns on the inside of the covers. This was perhaps the biggest mess I have ever made in the lab, and required a thorough cleaning of tools and work surfaces each night. There were piles of degraded leather crumbles and dust, globs and slurries of poultice, all haunted by the distinctive odor of old animal hide adhesive. Poultices had to be watched closely because some of the remaining leather glued to the back still contained green pigment that jeopardized the section backs of sheer white ‘India paper.’
Once all 14 volumes were clean, backed and fitted with new end sheets, I reused the original embossed covers in a case structure and filled my press with the newly cased Encyclopedia Britannica volumes.
It’s library renovation time…again! Duke Libraries is renovating Lilly Library and we are excited about the new spaces and features that are being designed. There is so much to do and not a lot of time to do it.
Signal Boost, the new blog from DUL Technical Services, highlighted the work Resource Description and Metadata & Discovery Strategy are doing to get the collections ready for the move. We recently met with stakeholders from Lilly, Technical Services, Shipping and Receiving, and Rubenstein Library to figure out what, when, where, and how some of the collections will be moved.
Conservation is focusing on the books that cannot go to the Library Service Center without some kind of protective housing due to their condition. We estimate there is about two years’ worth of boxing just from this project alone. Some of these will go through our commercial binder’s boxing workflow and the rest will be made in-house.
As part of the planning process for the Lilly Library renovation, Beth was invited by librarian Kelly Lawton to consult on moving and storing the artwork. I had previously helped plan moving and storing paintings from the Gothic Reading Room during the Rubenstein Library renovation so Beth asked me to come along. The great people over at Lilly Library had already made an inventory of the artwork in their building so we had a solid idea of what we needed to manage.
I have been in Lilly Library dozens if not a hundred times over my 7 years working at Duke. They hold some of my favorite collections (DevilDVDs, graphic novels, and art books). But like most people I just never spent much time looking closely at the artwork that makes up the wonderful atmosphere of Lilly. However, I had gotten to know the Gothic portraits really well during the Rubenstein renovation. I had to find wall space throughout Perkins to hang them all temporarily while the Rubenstein building was under construction and most of them ended up in staff office spaces. I had the portrait of H. Keith H. Brodie keeping me company in my cubicle area. So I was surprised when I saw thumbnail pictures of a couple paintings in the Lilly artwork inventory that I was certain were actually up in the Gothic reading room. I actually ran up two flights of stairs to the Gothic to be certain I wasn’t losing my marbles and yes, those portraits were upstairs exactly where I remembered them.
A C1 bus ride over to East Campus and I walked into Lilly Library only to have deja vu all over again. The same portraits were in Lilly too.
It’s not surprising that Duke University would have multiple portraits of prominent Duke family members, but it was a little surprising to find that the library had multiple copies of the same portrait reported to be by the same artists. This required research! I mean, I work at a library, of course my response to any mystery is to do research.
An article in the Duke Chronicle from November 4, 1925 details the acquisition of a Washington Duke portrait by John Da Costa from the Duke family with plans to hang it in a parlor in the East Duke Building. Interestingly this article is right next to an article about construction of the Lilly Library building. The next trace of the Da Costa Washington Duke portrait comes from a 1929 letter from the Frank C. Brown papers where it is listed among paintings that need to be varnished.
In the University Archives Art and Artifacts records there is an inventory of portraits in the University library (now Perkins Library) from 1943 that lists a portrait of Washington Duke by Da Costa and Benjamin Duke by Wiltschek. But another inventory from 1957 of the Women’s College Library (now Lilly Library) also list the portrait of BN Duke by Wiltschek. So there have been duplicate Dukes for decades!
I finally came across an undated note about a J.B. Duke portrait painted by Da Costa that indicated Doris Duke had the original but that additional copies by the artist were in the Board of Trustees room and in Perkins Library. There is no date on this note so it’s hard to fit into the timeline but based on some other clues I suspect it was from sometime in the 1970s. Importantly, it does verify that John Da Costa made multiple copies of at least one Duke portrait.
It was Assistant University Archivist Amy McDonald that shed light on the big key detail about these portraits. She recognized the paintings as being copied from photographs not painted from life. Check out the photos in our collections. They look very familiar.
It makes me wonder how many other duplicate Dukes might be out there. In my research I found at least one other JB Duke portrait by Da Costa at Rough Point, the Rhode Island mansion of Doris Duke. I also found a reference to another BN Duke portrait by Wiltschek that hung in the East Duke Parlor but I haven’t had a chance to go over and check if it’s still there. Perhaps I’ve been passing more Da Costa Washington Dukes and Wiltschek B.N. Dukes around campus and never even noticed.
Duke University Libraries seeks qualified applicants for the position of Senior Conservation Technician in the Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab. This position is an opportunity to work at a major ARL member library invested in the long-term care of and access to its collections. The successful candidate will demonstrate excellent hand skills, the capacity to learn new skills, customer focus, and creative problem solving. We seek candidates who will thrive in an open, engaging atmosphere that focuses on production, continuous learning, and sharing of knowledge among staff at all levels.
Major responsibilities include treating materials primarily from the circulating collections; creating custom enclosures for both circulating and special collections; overseeing the workflow of materials from circulation points in the Perkins-Bostock Library and the branch libraries; and training and oversight of student assistants. You can read the full position description and position requirements online. Candidates will be asked to submit examples of their work during the interview process.
Salary and Benefits: $18.77 per hour (minimum). Comprehensive benefits package upon eligibility includes vacation, 13 holidays, sick leave, health, dental, disability, life insurance, educational assistance, and tuition grants.
This letterpress book has been on our shelf for a very long time, too long admittedly. Mea Culpa. Letterpress books can be challenging. This one has paper as thin as Kleenex (TM) and as brittle as any mid-century newsprint. The iron gall ink has degraded and taken the substrate with it, leaving lots of tears, holes, and losses.
James Redpath was the Head of the Haitian Bureau of Emigration in Boston. I would tell you more about these letters but you literally cannot turn a page without breaking something. After a lot of consideration and consultation with Rubenstein Library we have decided the best thing to do with this item is digitize it so researchers can actually use it without destroying the original.
But before we can digitize it we need to flatten out some of the heavy creases to uncover the writing, and do some very minor stabilization so we can turn the pages without tearing off chunks of text. The goal is digitizing, not a full treatment. This book will still have page tears and losses when it leaves Conservation, but putting in hundreds of hours of conservation time to repair every tear, sinking letter, or loss isn’t practical or feasible. We want to get it ready for the camera, and help our camera operators handle it as safely as possible while they are turning the pages.
It feels good to have digitization in our toolbox as a way to increase access to this item. It will go from completely unusable to readable. What better outcome for a primary resource that is so fragile?
It’s that time of year when we report our annual statistics to our administration. We thought we would share these with you, too.
839 Book Repairs (down 23% from last year)
1,439 Pamphlets (up 35%)
12 Treatments: Other (not reported last year)
2,434 Flat Paper (up 75%)
6,822 Protective Enclosures (up 14%)
13,966 Disaster recovery (up 21,067%)
34 Exhibit mounts (up 325%)
89.25 hours of time in support of exhibits (includes meetings, treatment, installation, etc.) (down 88%)
1,206 items repaired for digital projects (up 20%)
58 items repaired for exhibits (up 2%)
2 items repaired for multi-spectral imaging (not reported last year)
72% of total work was for Special Collections
28% of total work was for Circulating Collections
90% of work was Level 1 [less than 15 minutes to complete; 22,985 items]
9% of work was Level 2 [15 minutes – 2 hours to complete; 2,228 items]
1% of work was Level 3 [2 – 5 hours to complete; 280 items]
0% of work was Level 4 [more than 5 hours; 19 items]
Level 1 work was greatly skewed by the amount of mold removal we did for one Rubenstein project. For that project we removed mold from almost 13,000 sheets of paper. You can see that reflected in our 3-year trend.
This year we also significantly changed our statistical reporting. We added a “Level 4” to the treatment levels. Until last year, Level 3 (over 2 hours) was as high as we parsed out complicated repairs. This year we decided that Level 3 would reflect 2-5 hour treatments, and Level 4 would reflect treatments over 5 hours. While statistically Level 4 treatments were zero, we did complete 19 of these repairs. We also started tracking the number of hours we spend doing administrative work such as meetings, curatorial reviews, training sessions, handling assistance, etc. This better demonstrates our cross-departmental work and shows how integrated we are in the larger library setting.
Other Things We Did Last Year
We hosted 32 tours of the lab totaling 97 people
We presented 13 Care and Handling Training sessions to DUL staff totaling 46 people
We hosted our second HBCU Library Alliance/University of Delaware-Winterthur conservation intern.
The most exciting thing about FY 2020 is that we will surpass the quarter-million mark for items sent to the lab. We are currently at 247,943 cumulative repairs/enclosures since FY 2003.
We hope you enjoy looking back at FY2019 as much as we did. We know FY 2020 holds a few interesting challenges including helping prepare the Lilly Library for renovation. We hope you will keep up with us through this blog and through our social media accounts. Happy FY 2020!