Category Archives: Announcements

Happy Anniversary Preservation Underground!

We started Preservation Underground in 2009 as a way to bring our work out of the basement and into the light. In the past seven years, we’ve had some fun and we’ve had some disasters. What we really hope is that we’ve shown you a little bit of what we do and why our work is so important.

glass eyes
Glass eyeballs from the History of Medicine Collection. Here’s looking at you, statistics!

We wanted to take a look back at some data about our blog and highlight our most-favorited posts. The data is a bit sticky because WordPress analytics appear to begin in March 2011, while Google analytics start in September 2012. But, as my grad school chemistry professor always said, “Close enough for conservation.”

WordPress analytics appear to begin in March 2011…
87, 940 total views

Google Analytics start in September 2012
Only reporting 9,000 page views
Traffic from 95 countries.

These posts received the most hits the past seven years:

  1. Quick Pic: Mysterious Messages (January 2012)
  2. 1091 Project: Making Enclosures (March 2012)
  3. Hold me closer… protective enclosure (January 2016)
  4. Florence: Days of Destruction (A Film by Franco Zeffirelli) (February 2012)
  5. DIY Book Repair And Its Consequences (July 2012)
  6. Why I Hate Mr. Clippy (January 2013)
  7. The ‘Largest Sheet of Paper Ever Made and Printed’ (October 2015)

Do you have a favorite post you want to share? if so, tell us in the comments.

Happy Fifth Birthday to Devil’s Tale!

 Image from Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst... by George Bartisch. Published in 1583, this item was on display for the Animated Anatomies exhibit.   Photo by Mark Zupan, Senior Graphic Designer for Duke University Libraries.

Image from Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst… by George Bartisch. Published in 1583, this item was on display for the Animated Anatomies exhibit.
Photo by Mark Zupan, Senior Graphic Designer for Duke University Libraries.

Today marks the fifth birthday of our sister blog The Devil’s Tale.

Happy birthday Devil’s Tale, and may you post many more eye opening dispatches from the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

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.





New Adopt-A-Book Program Supports Conservation Dept.

Our Audubon double elephant folios are on the list of adoptable items along with many other books and manuscripts.

We are pleased to announce a new initiative we have been working on for some time. The Duke University Libraries new Adopt-a-Book Program will raise funds to support the Conservation Services Department by giving you an opportunity to adopt the costs of the conservation treatment for an item from the collection.

How Do You Decide What Is Adoptable?

We select items based on the three classic criteria used for our regular workflows: value, use and risk. An item can be valuable as an object, as part of a larger collection or because of who created or owned it. Use can be through circulation, in the Rubenstein Library reading room, in a class, publication, digital project, exhibit, etc. An item is at the most risk if it cannot be used safely without incurring further damage or loss, or if it cannot be used at all due to its current condition. We work closely with DUL and Rubenstein Library to find items to place on the adoption list that meet all three criteria.

How To Adopt

Collection materials are listed on our website. When you decide which item you would like to adopt, contact Kurt in our Development Office with your selection. He will notify us of your donation and we will schedule the project. When an item is adopted, we will remove it from the list and put a new item in its place. We hope to have a constant flow of new materials available for adoption, so check back often.

Benefits of Adoption

An electronic bookplate will be displayed in the record when you adopt its conservation treatment.

When you adopt an item we will list you as a contributor on our website, and we will place an electronic bookplate in the item’s catalog record. If you wish to remain anonymous, be sure to tell Development and we will honor your request. You may also adopt in honor of someone or something special such as your mom on Mother’s Day, your son or daughter at graduation, etc.

The adoption process is easy. One quick phone call or email can help save a book, manuscript or archival document. Your support helps us in our mission to protect our collections and make them accessible now and in the future.


Happy Birthday Devil’s Tale!

Doris Duke and her trusted steed, posted by Devil’s Tale in honor of Ms. Duke’s 100th birthday.

Today we pause to wish our sister blog a very happy birthday! Devil’s Tale, the blog of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, turns four years old today.

Over the last four years the bloggers of Devil’s Tale have brought to light not only our collection gems, but the hard work it takes to acquire, describe, arrange and preserve the collections in our care.

Their first post set in motion a series of events including the inception and naming of Preservation Underground. Together, we have created innovative blogging ideas including the What’s In The Lab series and our simultaneous blogging posts (one object, two perspectives, posted on the same day). Our enthusiasm for social media led us to start the Social Media Users Group, a grassroots effort to learn how to best use and leverage our social media endeavors.

Happy birthday friends! We hope there is some cake somewhere in an approved eating-area of the library for you today.

Great Expectations and Saying Farewell (For Now)

jenniferJennifer Blomberg, senior conservation technician, is leaving Duke today to become the Head of the Collections Management Branch in the Division of Archives and Records in the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

Jennifer started in conservation in February 2011. While working at Duke she completed her Masters of Library and Information Science with a specialization in Archives, Preservation and Records Management from the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences.

Her many accomplishments include organizing and streamlining our supply inventories and ordering processes, serving as our registrar for special collections materials coming to and leaving the lab (no small feat!), and most recently helping update the library’s disaster plan.

She has cleaned 1,622 items of mold, spent 260 hours installing exhibits, made 149 exhibit cradles for weird things like crocodile skulls and herbarium specimens, and repaired or made enclosures for over 9,000 items from special collections.

Jennifer is our resident specialist in making enclosures for NBO’s, non-booklike objects from the collections. Some of the items she has boxed include a gravestone, death mask, giant papier-mâché puppet, weathervane and World War II Japanese ceremonial swords.

We are sad to see her go, yet excited to see Jennifer start her professional career as a preservation librarian. Congratulations Jennifer, we will miss you and wish you all the best in your new job.

Help Save Timbuktu Manuscripts

Today we received the following email from Debra Hess Norris, Director of the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. She has given me permission to re-post her email in its entirety. Please consider re-posting  or linking to this information so that we can spread this widely, time is of the essence.*

Dear Friends,

In the last two days I have exchanged multiple emails with Stephanie Diakité  (see her bio below) who worked tirelessly in 2012 with others to evacuate 300,000 manuscripts from Timbuktu in the midst of  civil war.

These medieval African documents are a living testimony of the highly advanced and refined civilization in sub-Saharan Africa. They cover diverse subjects, including mathematics, chemistry, physics, optics, astronomy, medicine, Islamic sciences, history, geography, governance, legislation and treaties, jurisprudence and literary and artistic subjects, including poetry, music and even culinary arts.

contents of footlocker
Contents of a footlocker of evacuated manuscripts in a safehouse in Bamako

Subsequent to  evacuation to the south, the manuscripts were crammed in metal chests used for their transport and continued mobility. The chests are heavy and the manuscripts risk immediate physical damage as they are tightly packed, without additional housing. The rains will start later this month and many fear these irreplaceable documents risk immediate degradation, including permanent deformation and mold.

Efforts are underway to raise urgently needed funds and supplies as these documents must be protected from humidity and further damage.

Stephanie and the people of Mali need our help. Now.  Her video is compelling.

The German government, in collaboration with the Gerda Henkel Foundation, will support the conservation of 20,000 manuscripts.  280,000 manuscripts remain to be housed in archival-quality boxes buffered with silica gel to trap humidity. The work will be done in the safehouses under the protection of nightfall by members of the library families.

To raise funds and to build awareness and support, Stephanie and her colleagues have launched a world-wide initiative entitled T-160K Timbuktu Libraries in Exile. To date, more than 400 contributors have shown their support for implementation of this emergency conservation strategy through direct donations.

I hope you will join me and others in helping to save these ancient African manuscripts for the world. A donation of $30 will rehouse one manuscript. Together, we can do much more!  Donations must be received by June 20, 2013.  

Many, many thanks and with best regards, Debbie

Information About The Conservators

Stephanie Diakité, JC-JD/MBA/Phd is an attorney and a poverty eradication institutional development specialist working in more than 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa through her firm, Dintl, and a book artist and book and paper conservation specialist.  She has extensive program and funding management experience and has provided services to some of the most important multilateral and bilateral, private sector, and philanthropic donors working in Sub-Saharan Africa (see her website for a selection of organizations Dintl has worked with). 

She has trained hundreds of generational artisans back to book arts and book conservation in northern Mali.  She has designed, developed and delivered socio-economic development programming based on indigenous scholarship and revised legislation protecting the rights of stakeholders in indigenous knowledge in Mali, all ECOWAS and African Union member states.

abdel kader
Abdel Kader in his family library before it was evacuated from Timbuktu

Abdel Kader Haidara is the generational curator of one of the most important libraries of manuscripts in Timbuktu and founder of SAVAMA DCI, an association of private Timbuktu libraries committed to public access. SAVAMA DCI has extensive program implementation experience and has successfully managed grants from organizations ranging from the Ford Foundation to bilateral aid agencies (see the SAVAMA DCI website for a selection of organizations SAVAMA DCI has partnered with).  He was awarded an honorary Doctorate from the University of Lyon for his work in support of the Timbuktu Manuscripts.


*The usual disclaimer: The views and policies herein do not reflect those of Duke University or Duke University Libraries.  Duke University and Duke University Libraries do not endorse any individuals, websites or programs referred to herein.

Event: Digital Forensics, Emulation, and the Art of Restoration

By Winston Atkins, Preservation Officer

Ben Fino-Radin

Digital Forensics, Emulation, and the
Art of Restoration


Who: Ben Fino-Radin
When: Wednesday, April 24, 4:00 p.m.
Where: Perkins Library, Room 217 (Click for map)
Contact: Winston Atkins (
This event is free and open to the public.

In 1991, from a basement in lower Manhattan, contemporary artist Wolfgang Staehle founded The Thing, an electronic Bulletin Board System (BBS) that served as a cyber-utopian hub for NYC-based artists integrating computers and into their creative practice.

The Thing emerged at a moment when contemporary artists were coming to grips with personal computers and the role they played in visual art. The BBS, which began as a temporary experiment, grew to become an international network of artists and ideas. Then the World Wide Web emerged and in 1995 Staehle abandoned the BBS for a web-based iteration of The Thing. The cultural record of these crucial early years, inscribed on the platters of the hard drive that hosted the BBS, was left to sit in a dusty basement.

Fast forward to 2013. Digital conservator Ben Fino-Radin reached out to Staehle to investigate the state of the BBS. Did the machine that hosted The Thing still exist? Could the board be restored to working order?

For scholars interested in the intersection of art and technology, the ability to investigate the contents of the BBS and observe its original look and feel would help flesh out the history of the emergence of personal computers and visual art. Unhappily, it was discovered that the computer that hosted The Thing BBS was at some point discarded.

Join Ben Fino-Radin on Wednesday, April 24th, to discuss the process of digital forensics, investigation, and anthropology involved in the process of restoring The Thing BBS from the scattered bits and pieces of evidence that managed to survive, and how this story serves as a case-study in the need for a new model of digital preservation in archives.

About the Speaker

Ben Fino-Radin is a New York-based media archaeologist and conservator of born-digital and computer-based works of contemporary art. At Rhizome at the New Museum, he leads the preservation and curation of the ArtBase, one of the oldest and most comprehensive collections of born-digital works of art. He is also in practice in the Conservation Department of the Museum of Modern Art, managing the Museum’s repository for digital assets in the collection, as well as contributing to media conservation projects. He is near completion of an MFA in digital arts and MS in Library and Information Science at Pratt Institute. He holds a BFA in New Media from Alfred University.

Find Out More

Ben Fino-Radin:

The Thing:


  • Rhizome is dedicated to the creation, presentation, preservation, and critique of emerging artistic practices that engage technology.” (from the Rhizome mission statement)

Florence: Days of Destruction (A Film by Franco Zeffirelli)

Written by Winston Atkins, Preservation Officer

Monday, 20 February 2012 at 2:00-4:00 p.m.
Perkins Library, Room 217 (Free and open to all)

Please join us for a showing of “Florence: Days of Destruction,” Franco Zeffirelli’s rare documentary of devastation to the city of Florence, Italy, and the art and cultural history in its museums, archives, and churches. This copy of the film, part of the University of Maryland Libraries’ collections, is one of very few in existence.

"Mud Angels" save artwork from floods.

When the Arno River overflowed its banks on November 4, 1966, it overwhelmed Florence, Italy, one of the world’s great cultural centers. Franco Zeffirelli, busy editing “The Taming of the Shrew,” quickly assembled a crew to document the damage suffered by a city filled with historic architecture, art, books and archives. His film, narrated by Richard Burton, reportedly raised $20 million for the relief effort. Those efforts culminated in an international rescue and salvage effort that fundamentally changed approaches to the preservation of cultural property.

Bryan Draper, the University of Maryland Libraries’ Collections Conservator, will host this showing. He will also display a collection of printed materials relating to the Florence Flood and its aftermath.

Co-sponsored by the Duke University Libraries’ Conservation Services and Preservation Departments.

Image from CultureGrrl.

Last Minute Gift Ideas

With contributions from Winston Atkins, Preservation Librarian

Never fear, your secret holiday helper is here! We have for you some last minute gift ideas for Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa or New Year’s.

Heck, these make great hostess gifts, thank-you gifts, or birthday gifts, especially if someone’s birthday falls smack dab in the middle of all of these holidays (ahem).

Gifts under $20

Gifts to $50

Gifts to $100

Gifts over $100

The usual disclaimer: Listing does not imply endorsement of any product or vendor.