Category Archives: Conservation

Burnt and Bent

Today Alex and I worked together to image some pages from this Syriac Manuscript. According to a hand-written note in the box, it is from the Gospel of Mark, dated to the 10th Century.

Clearly it’s seen better days, but it is remarkable nonetheless. It looks to be to have survived a fire, at least the middle of the text block survived. The front third or so was burned off, leaving stubs that are still attached to the binding, but the spine has curled in on itself. The remaining vellum pages range from really brittle to fairly OK, if a little warped.

What We Find In Books: Blaeu Bears and Deer

Erin came across these illustrations in one of the Blaeu atlases that she has been working on. These are filled with lovely, hand painted images.

We’ve been having a little fun trying to figure out what the bears were saying to each other, and whether this deer is from the lost herd of vampire deer from Transylvania. In all seriousness, look how it is ever so daintily standing on the frame whilst seemingly taking a nap. Very skillful (both the illustrator and the deer itself).

*Illustrations from: Willem Janszoon Blaeu, “Toonneel des aerdriicx, ofte nievwe atlas, dat is Beschryving van alle landen; nu nieulycx uytgegeven.” (E ff#91 dl.1 – 1649)

10 years, 10 people: Erin Hammeke

As part of our ten-year celebration we are highlighting everyone in the department. Erin Hammeke, Conservator for Special Collections has been with us for three years. Along with other conservators and staff from Special Collections, she selects items for conservation, designs treatment strategies and carries out those repairs. She works primarily on books from the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. She documents each treatment using both photographic and written reports which we keep on file for future reference.

When asked about a favorite project, Erin replies:

“Currently I am working on a volume of De Bry’s account of the New World, and this has been an extremely fun and challenging treatment that has involved paper repair, resewing the text, and rebinding in full calf leather. I am also wrapping up treatment of the Blaeu Atlases, six large Dutch atlases that were printed in the mid-1600s and hand painted with an inspired and vibrant color palette.

Over the past three years that I have spent at Duke, my main focus has been on the conservation of the Jantz Collection of German Baroque materials and German Americana. I love working with this collection because it seems to have everything – both in terms of content (there are materials that pertain to history, travel, the occult, women’s writings, and more) and in terms of different binding styles and materials. For the most part, I am drawn to the more mundane items and the stories they tell about how they were made, why they were collected, by whom, and how they were used and cared for. I have found the Jantz Collection to be particularly rich with these stories.”

*Top illustrations from: Willem Janszoon Blaeu, “Toonneel des aerdriicx, ofte nievwe atlas, dat is Beschryving van alle landen; nu nieulycx uytgegeven.” (E ff#91 dl.5 – 1654.) Lower illustration: books from the Jantz Collection of German Baroque materials.

Papyrus Project

Today I started a pilot project to re-house the papyrus collection. My goal is to create enclosures that can house these fragments efficiently and safely whilst providing better access to the collection. Of course, they also have to be cost-effective.

Our papyri were digitized a while ago as part of the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS) project. At the time each fragment was carefully placed between two glass plates that were then taped together. My research indicates that this is still an accepted method of storing papyri and as long as the fragments and glass are in good condition, I’m not keen on replacing the glass.
I am keen on giving each package a better enclosure. I want to make a sink mat for each item that will securely hold the glass/papyrus package in place, and allow us to house several in one box without them rubbing against each other. This should also allow individual fragments to be served to patrons in the reading room in a safe manner. Better Enclosures + Better Access = Preservation. Wish me luck!

10 Years, 10 Treatments

Yesterday we installed our exhibit “Ten Years, Ten Treatments.” As part of our year-long celebration of our tenth anniversary, we wanted to highlight some of our favorite work.

The exhibit is outside the Biddle Reading Room on the first floor of Perkins. While there, you can also see our display in the wall cases (on the opposite wall from the exhibit) that gives ten tips you can use to save your personal collections.
Our exhibit will be up through mid-October. We are planning a companion exhibit of Ten Projects from the Digital Production Center to be installed in our exhibit space on the Lower Level of Perkins outside the Conservation Lab. Hopefully we will have that up next week, we’ll let you know when that happens.

Here’s Your Mule

It’s Manuscript Day in the lab, similar to Boxing Day, wherein we all work on flat paper repair. Today we are continuing the Broadside Project, getting these items ready for their close up in the Digital Production Center. North Carolina is this month’s project, and this little gem caught my eye. It’s from the New Bern (NC) Republican Banner, dated April 1884.

Mary has been repairing the tears and losses on this broadside with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. After the tissue is applied, a blotter is placed on top with a weight until dry. When the digitization is complete, these will come back to Conservation for rehousing.

Ethiopic Manuscript Digitization Project

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.

The date ranges are fairly recent but you can see traditional vellum joins and repairs in the scrolls. I always find it interesting how people utilized defects in the skins to their advantage. I also find the graphic depictions to be wonderfully modern and very geographic, and the colors are amazing. You never know what you will find when you start digging through collections. One wooden icon (not the one shown here) has been previously repaired with dental floss. File that under “use what you have on hand.”