Category Archives: Collaboration

1091 Project: A Day In The Life Of The Conservation Lab

Welcome to our first 1091 Project post, a new effort in collaborative blogging!

1,091 is the number of miles between Ames, Iowa and Durham, North Carolina. Ames is the home of Iowa State University and our colleagues who write Parks Library Preservation. On the third Friday of each month, we will pick a topic and write about that topic from our own perspectives to highlight the similarities and differences between our programs. Our hope is that we will learn from each other and spark conversation between us and between our readers. If there are topics you are interested in hearing about from us, please leave them in the comments box.

The Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab is located on the lower level of Perkins Library. We work on both general (circulating) and special (non-circulating) collections. Our program has one full time technician to work primarily on general collections, plus 0.5FTE student assistants and two volunteers to help her. Three conservators and one technician work primarily on special collections materials. And there is me, the head of the Conservation Services Department. That makes six full time staff, two volunteers and our student assistants all working diligently to maintain our collections. Last fiscal year we repaired over 2,800 items from the collections and made over 8,500 custom enclosures.

1091 Project: A Day In The Life Of The Conservation Lab

A typical day begins at 8am with the collection of the damaged books from Circulation, with a stop in Shipping & Receiving to pick up books sent over from the branches or from Perkins technical services. These are brought to the lab and each item’s bar code is scanned to change it’s process status to “in preservation.” The books are sorted by the type of repair or enclosure they need and put onto our shelves. This allows staff to  pull several books needing the same repair. By working in batches our repair procedures are more streamlined and efficient, and the work turns around faster.

When the Rubenstein Library opens at 9am, we will collect any damaged items that were used in the special collections reading room. We will also pick up any special collections items sent over from Rubenstein Library’s technical services department for enclosures or pre-shelving repair needs. We will transfer these items to the lab and enter them into our Lab Log, which is a list of all the special collections materials that are in Conservation. The conservators will write a condition report for each item, then they will meet with the curators to discuss treatment options and agree on what will be done. Once they sign off on a treatment, digital photographs will be taken before treatment begins, and again after treatment. These will be filed with the written treatment documents when the items are returned to the library.

If today is Boxing Day, everyone in the lab will work on making custom enclosures for special collections. Boxing Day is great for your statistics since you create several boxes in one day, but it can be challenging to remain productive while the board shear is occupied or someone else has the corner rounder. It’s a good exercise to figure out how to remain productive while waiting for equipment, and it’s amazing how much prep work you can do while you wait.

As department head, my time is spent planning, managing the budget and staff, and gathering information, or as I call it, “keeping the wheels on the Conservation bus.” Every now and then I get to work at the bench, but it’s never as much time as I would like. My day is usually spent meeting with colleagues to find out how we can improve our services, and developing new initiatives and strategies to ensure our services are aligned with the Library’s strategic plan and direction. I may attend a lot of meetings, but I find this “strategery” to be rather fun and challenging. We are on the verge of some new and exciting initiatives that I can’t wait to roll out.

Other things our staff may be doing on any given day include helping our Exhibits Coordinator install an exhibit, working with the Digital Production Center to repair materials before imaging, and working with the Head of Preservation to record insect activity or environmental conditions in the library. And if it is April 1st, we will be holding our annual Edible Book Festival. Many of us also contribute to the profession by publishing research, presenting at conferences, and actively participate on state- and national-level committees. You can find more images from the lab on our Flickr page and you can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

That’s our typical day, let’s see what is happening over in Ames at Parks Library Preservation. [link is now working 1/20/12 1:52pm]

The end of a productive day

It Takes A Village To House A Village

The Doris Duke Archives recently sent us this “Tiny Thai Village” for boxing. Read about its history on The Devil’s Tale.

The TTV came in a small box with all of the models inside. Obviously a box half the size of a Twinkie would disappear in the stacks and make access difficult. While these models aren’t fragile per se, they are delicate and the little houses had no real protection.

Our goals for the final housing were three-fold

  • The new enclosure had to be big enough to go to the stacks
  • Each little house needed its own compartment for safety and security
  • You needed to be able to lift out each model with your giant fingers

Experimental Box-making
I thought this would be easy, but it took a lot of trial and error to figure it out. I grabbed a standard Metal-Edge box meant to house cabinet cards and started experimenting. Here’s what I did:

  • Created a tray with a compartment for each house
  • Built up the inside so that the models would be level with the top of the box
  • Inset the original box so it was at the same level as the models
  • Lined the lid with Volara to provide a cushion should they get shaken
  • Labeled the box with big “Fragile-Do Not Tilt” labels

The Final Box
While each model can still move around in its compartment, they don’t knock into each other and you can still get your fingers in to take them out. You can also quickly tell if one is missing since each compartment should be occupied.

Although I would likely do something a bit different if I were asked to house this again, I think this enclosure achieves the goals and will provide more protection than the original box.

Happy Second Birthday Devil’s Tale!

From the Gamble CollectionHappy Belated 2nd Birthday to our sister blog The Devil’s Tale. On October 8, 2009, TDT began their quest for blogging superstar-dom.

Reading The Devil’s Tale is a great way to connect to our special and archival collections as well as to our staff members. TDT’s posts (yeah Amy!) are insightful, educational and often humorous. Yes, librarians do have a sense of humor!

Without The Devil’s Tale, how would you know what new collections have come in? Or what  curious things the staff has found?

We know you want to know more about such things as gangrene and hair, don’t you? Yes you do! Surf on over to The Devil’s Tale and see what’s happening in the wild world of the Rubenstein Library.

 

Image “Two Betties” from the Sydney D. Gamble Photograph Collection, Rubenestein Library.

Repairing de Bry, One Piece At A Time

Written by Erin Hammeke, Conservator for Special Collections.

I recently completed the treatment of three separate volumes from Theodor de Bry’s account of the Americas, and I thought I would share an anecdote from the treatment of one of the volumes, Das vierdte Buch von der Neuwen Welt (Frankfurt, 1594).

This item has an engraved map of the Florida coast and Gulf of Mexico bound in at the front of the text. The curators informed me that this map was missing about a half of the complete printed map, the whole right side. They felt that it would be useful to indicate to researchers just how much of the map was missing by doing a repair and fill to the original dimensions of the plate.

An interesting thing happened. There was a small fragment, apparently tucked in with the map that I assumed belonged along the torn edge, but upon closer inspection, did not appear to line up with any part of the map along that edge.

Lucky for us, UNC Wilson Library has a version of this volume with a complete map. We contacted our conservation colleagues at UNC and arranged to see the map at their conservation lab. I took an image of the fragment with me to see if we could place it while we were there, but we couldn’t, so, we took a digital photograph of their map in its entirety and headed back to our lab.

I blew up the digital image and printed it out to the actual dimensions of the original, and I superimposed this printout onto our partial map on a light table. I was surprised to find that the small fragment actually belonged near to the center of the missing portion of the plate.

After some head-scratching, the curators and I decided that it was best to adhere the fragment in its rightful place. Again, using the light-table and printout as a guide, I adhered it precisely where it belonged.

I was pleased to be able to share this project with scholars who use these works at a recent symposium dedicated to the latest issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. And I am happy to say that all three of the treated volumes were recently digitized by the Digital Production Center and are now available through the library’s catalog.

Here is a picture of the map after washing, lining, repairing, and adhering the loose fragment with paste.

Learning On The Job

Recently Alex from the Digital Production Center came by to ask if I could fix a cassette tape. The tape broke while they were digitizing it, and they just needed it to hold together long enough to record Side B. I know a lot about the chemical and physical make-up of magnetic tapes, but I have never had to actually fix one before.

Librarian skills activate! I searched the professional literature and the internet to no avail. There are a lot of DIY articles on the web, but we try to hold ourselves to a higher standard in our lab whenever possible. I finally called a friend who actually does this for a living.

Hannah Frost, Manager of the Stanford University Media Preservation Lab, walked me through how to repair the tape and assured me that I had the skills necessary to do it correctly. In the end the repair took less than ten minutes, and now I know how to do this the next time it happens.

The thing about working in a library is that we collect everything from the usual stuff like paper and skins but we also have poison arrows, glass plate negatives, hair, textiles, paintings, glass eyeballs and magnetic media. I can’t tell you how important it is for a library conservator to create a large network of friends and colleagues who specialize in areas that are not your own. Sooner or later you will find yourself working on something completely different and unknown, and you need to know who to call. Thanks Hannah, I owe you a drink at the next AIC conference.

Building the Broadside Digital Collection

We are currently digitizing our broadside collection. Before they go to the Digital Production Center, Conservation must prepare them by removing the old encapsulations and making sure they can be handled. There is additional information on this project over at the Digital Collections Blog.

Building the Broadsides Collection, Pt. 1

Building the Broadsides Collection, A large-scale digitization approach

Wow! This Job Sure Keeps Us Hopping

Building a Digital Collection One Step at a Time

The Fall 2010 issue of Duke University Libraries Magazine includes an article on the steps it takes to create a digital collection.

Michael Adamo, Noah Huffman and Richard Murray

A visitor exploring one of the Duke Libraries’ digital collections is probably too engrossed in the content to think very much about how the collection got there. In fact, each digital collection is the product of a collaboration of eight to ten staff from several library departments who work together in a cross-functional team. The team begins each new project with a workplan and proceeds through a series of steps that culminates in the collection’s public launch.

Continue reading the article at Duke Magazine.

Care and Handling Training

Pop quiz: What is the best method of removing a book from the shelf?

This week we are presenting our annual week-long Care and Handling/Identifying Common Damage demonstrations. Each year we present our show of horrors to help new library staff and student assistants learn to identify damaged books. We also provide quick tips and helpful hints that can minimize potential damage when items are handled during our day-to-day work.

What we hope comes across is that everyone has a role to play in getting our materials to the shelf safely. We appreciate everyone’s help in keeping our collections around for a very long time.

If you work in the library, stop in to see a demonstration. Our sessions for the rest of the week are as follows (sessions are held in the conservation lab-Perkins 023-unless otherwise indicated):

10/19, 4pm, 6pm

10/20, 11:30am, 3pm (at Lily Library)

10/21, 10am (at Smith Warehouse), 1pm

10/22, 9:30am, 2pm

The answer: push the books on either side of the one you want inwards, and grasp the covers. If you pull on the top of the book to remove it, the spine is likely to tear.

Happy Anniversary Devil’s Tale!

Today, October 8th, marks the one year anniversary of the launch of The Devil’s Tale, our sister blog from the Rare Books, Manuscript and Special Collections Library (and University Archives!).

To celebrate we bring our readers a list of some of our favorite Devil’s Tale posts over the past year.
Welcome to the Devil’s Tale,” their very first post.
A Holiday Recipe From Us To You,” because no celebration is complete without frozen cheese.
Join The Preservation Underground.” Our great friend Amy (keeper of all things Devil’s Tale) named Preservation Underground and has been a great wealth of help and support. Thanks Amy, keep up the great work!
Boxing the Blue Devil,” a creepy gift that keeps on giving. A big thanks to RBMSCL for all the wonderful things they send us for Boxing Day.
As you may know, the traditional one-year anniversary gift is paper. As our one-year gift we give Devil’s Tale this historic image of us working on a broadside (paper!) from the RBMSCL library collection. This happens to also be from our first post.
May you have another interesting year ahead of you and congratulations on your achievements Devil’s Tale!

Where Art and Libraries Meet

I had the good fortune to again be called upon to help the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University install some books for their new exhibit “The Vorticists: Rebel Artists in London and New York, 1914-18”. The show opens on September 30, 2010, and runs through January 2, 2011.

Artwork from several institutions will be on display including some from the Manchester City Galleries. I got to meet and work with Sarah Rainbow, Collection Care Officer, who was there to oversee the installation of their artwork and that of the Victoria and Albert Museum. We conservators love to talk shop, and I really enjoyed talking with Sarah about her job. Of course, working with everyone at the Nasher is always fun, and this is going to be a really wonderful exhibit. I encourage you all to see it when it opens.
I had a few minutes after I was finished to see the current exhibits on display. “The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl” is a must-see (through February 6th, 2011). There is a combination of artwork that uses actual vinyl as part of the artwork, or uses the form of the discs or sleeves as inspiration. Some of the sculpture was fun, and there is mixed media, paintings, and video installations.
What most piqued my interest was the wall of records that you could choose and play yourself. What a great way to bring interactivity to your exhibit. I wonder if we could do something similar with our exhibits. Has anyone experimented with including interactivity with library exhibits in this way, beyond the guest/comment book? Let us know, we would love to hear about it.