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.
Our group has been studying paper case bindings. These come in a remarkable array of styles and were popular in the 18th Century. They are very close in structure to limp vellum bindings which date back to the 14th Century. They are fast to make and depending on the paper you use for the cover they can be a cheap but very durable binding.
As you may know we have been working with the Digital Production Center to digitize the scrolls in the Ethiopic Manuscript collection. I’ve posted some images from that project, not the high-resolution ones the DPC is creating, but some snaps I made during the imaging of items that I found particularly interesting. You can find them in our Flickr Ethiopic Manuscript Project album.
We are participating in an ALCTS e-forum today called “Using Web 2.0 Tools to Enhance Technical Services Work.” The question is “how can you solve problems within technical services using Web 2.0 tools?”. Anyone have good ideas to share? I’m listing some of the more interesting ones on our Face Book page.
You can sign up for future ALCTS e-forums at this link, you do not need to be an ALCTS member to participate. The forums discussion is via email.
So far, some of the ideas including using social media for outreach and education (my first post to the discussion), using a wiki for your instruction manual, and using blogs for current events, and using instant messaging for large group projects.
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.
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.