Longtime readers will remember the banana book, one of the best worst things that has come to the lab over the last 20 years. It has made its return to the Preservation Exhibit Case in our new exhibit, “SOS–Save Our Stuff: How you can help preserve library collections.” The exhibit is viewable during regular library hours on Lower Level 1, outside the Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab (Perkins 023).
The banana book is just one of several uniquely damaged items on display. Want to see what happens when you use sticky notes? Or attempt DIY book repairs? Come on down!
As mentioned last week, staff in the Collections Services division have been creating a “behind the scenes” look at the work we do to get books to the shelf. The exhibit is now up! Come see a selection of the work we do to make sure the book you need is on the shelf when you need it.
Over the past year, I’ve been working on an exhibit revolving around the work I do in Conservation Services and the Collection Services Division as a whole. As luck would have it, Beth has this wonderful miniature book press that fit perfectly into the display case I was in charge of designing.
But what is a book press without a book to press? With that in mind, I took this opportunity to make my first miniature book.
First, I made a tiny book block.
I left the paper longer than it needed to be so that I could weigh the pages down while I sewed it all together. Once that was done, I decided it would be nice to try and round the spine. This proved to be a bit difficult with the normal tools we use for rounding.
I felt I was more likely to just crush the entire spine with the hammer than actually round it. A Teflon folder made for a safer option for this tiny spine.
Next, I needed to trim the book block to a more appropriate size. I started to cut it with just a scalpel and a ruler, but as you can see that wasn’t really going well or looking particularly nice.
I decided instead to try to trim the book in a more traditional method. This meant placing the book block into a press and using a sharp, flat blade to cut across the pages evenly.
This was much more successful and I ended up with a nice and neat book block.
After that, I covered the spine with a Japanese tissue for strength. Then I added a textile spine lining as well as a paper lining for additional support.
Now I could make the covers, which ended up being the easiest part of this whole process.
The hardest part came next, which was casing the book block into the covers. Because the book is so tiny, it was difficult to make sure the book didn’t move out of place as I glued up the paper that would connect the book block to the covers.
I eventually managed to figure it out and put the book in a press to dry flat.
I have to say it looks a bit silly in the full-sized press.
But once it was dry, the book was done!
It certainly fits in much better with a press its own size.
Despite the library (and campus in general) feeling very quiet and empty this past year, there has actually been a lot going on. Library exhibits are no exception and there are currently two really wonderful shows up and available by appointment in the building. Plans are already underway for bigger and more exciting events in the fall. This very large and sturdy crate containing a loan for an upcoming show just arrived this week. Stay tuned for more details!
One of the silver linings of business travel being suspended for the foreseeable future is that so many conferences have gone virtual this year. This has provided a number of opportunities to experience the meetings of professional groups outside my usual repertoire. This week I’ve been really enjoying the International Mountmakers Forum. The organization has been very generous to record and upload the talks to Youtube.
Mounting objects for exhibition can be very challenging, and I have learned about new materials and techniques this week that could be used in the gallery spaces in our library.
The success of virtual conferencing during that pandemic gives me hope that this kind of programming will remain available, even when the world has returned to normal. Conferences are an essential fundraising opportunity for many professional organizations, and there can be financial disincentives for the organization in making content too freely available. At the same time, there are many professionals working in cultural heritage institutions or in private practice who do not have access to funding for professional development and are cut off from the debates and interactions that happen at these meetings. I’ve been very impressed with the way our professional organizations have adapted in the last year and I look forward to continued innovation and greater inclusion using these same systems in years to come.
It’s a hard to believe, but over a year ago now I posted about our new method for documenting collection material going on loan. I’ve learned a lot about the technology in that time and would like to share some of those lessons, in case others are considering adopting the method. While the system I described back then did work well to document the necessary information on a compressed schedule, ultimately some of the tools present problems for reformatting and long-term digital storage of the reports.
In my previous post, I outlined some of the benefits of using Microsoft OneNote for generating reports:
Full access to the software is included in our institution’s Office 365 license.
It seamlessly works with other Microsoft products, like Excel, which we often use to manage collection metadata for projects.
Annotation of images can be done right inside the application. When off-site, it was very quick to photograph objects using the Surface Book’s camera and make drawings directly in the report.
Organization of pages and visually managing the workflow is easy. I applied a standard naming convention to each report and then organized them into sections based on their status within the project. Kind of like a Kanban board.
While creating and using documentation inside OneNote worked well, getting that same information out without disruption presents a bit of a problem. I think a lot of these issues stem from the way the application handles page layouts and images inside pages.
A new page defaults to an “auto” size, which is essentially a standard page width with infinite length. This allows you to create a document of whatever size you need and, at first, seems pretty great.
When the page is exported as a PDF or printed, the application inserts page breaks as needed. Sometimes this works out, but more often I found that the images are broken up.
My first thought for resolving this was to set the page size as standard letter and carefully lay out the report to fit within the margins of each sheet. Surprisingly though, a “page” within OneNote can’t contain multiple “sheets”. When your report gets longer than the standard 11″ of page height, the content just starts to move off into a grey void.
When you convert this page to a PDF, page breaks are inserted in the same way they would be for an “auto” sized page. I’m puzzled why the application was designed this way.
Another major problem I found was that the horizontal position of the image tends to shift slightly left when the the page is exported or printed (see examples above). The is extremely frustrating, when you’ve taken great care to put your annotations in specific locations and I could not find a way to fix it. Unlike a lot of other Office products, the image and overlaid annotations can’t be grouped in OneNote. I have found two workarounds for this problem after the report is converted to a PDF:
Luckily, the annotations remain in the same position to one another. If the image isn’t split by a page break, I was able to use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to edit the PDF and just slide the underlying image back into place under the annotations.
If the image was split by page breaks, I found it quicker to use the Snipping Tool in Windows to copy the image and annotations out of OneNote in the correct orientation and save them as a single JPG. I would then delete the fragmented image and annotations out of the PDF report with Acrobat Pro and replace them with the snipped image.
Obviously, these workarounds come with the additional cost of an Adobe (or other PDF editor) license.
In light of these issues, how will my approach to loan documentation change in the future? Some key aspects will remain the same. For example, the Surface Book 2 performs very well for writing the report and creating accurate image annotations. I also think the overall design of the form was good.
A major change will be to annotate images in a separate application and save them as a derivative image file. This will take some additional time to set up on the front end, but will create fewer issues further down the pipe. I have created a draft template in Adobe Photoshop, which contains my photo documentation of the item and a standard annotation key in separate layers. The automation tools within Photoshop could be used to create batches of these annotation-ready images for large numbers of loan items at once.
For future loans, I will also retire Microsoft OneNote from the workflow. It is important that we be able to easily convert our documentation to PDF and print a hard copy for preservation purposes. OneNote’s export problems, particularly for annotated images, require a lot of time and effort to correct on the back end. The useful features, like check boxes and timestamps, are not an equal trade off. What software will replace it? I don’t know for certain yet, but it will definitely be a word processing application where content stays in position during printing and export! Microsoft Word will probably be fine, but we could also probably use Google Docs. I think the composing application matters less with the annotations saved in a single image file.
Tomorrow is your last opportunity to visit an exhibition of select items from the Lisa Unger Baskin collection at the Grolier Club. This exhibition opened at the beginning of December 2019 and has received a great deal of attention from media outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine , and New England Public Radio (just to name a few). We have been so pleased to hear all the positive feedback and see images of the Grolier’s ground floor gallery packed with visitors. Many of our staff put a great deal of work into making this exhibition happen, and, as we prepare to travel back to New York to pack up, I thought it would be fun to share some of the “behind the scenes” photos of installation.
The week after Thanksgiving, a team of Duke Library staff braved sleet and snow to begin our installation at the Grolier Club. We arrived to a brightly lit exhibit gallery and lot of carefully packed collection material on temporary work tables. We had five days to install five hundred years of women’s history – and it was going to be a busy week.
After a short huddle and review of our work plan, we broke up into two teams and dove right in. The first team was assigned the task of unpacking all the signage and large reproduction images that would be hung at the tops of the case walls and in the gallery alcoves.
After locating each hanging piece and placing them in the appropriate exhibit case or location, the process of actually hanging began. Some objects, like the life-size reproduction suffrage banner (pictured below), required a special platform so that staff could safely access hanging hardware above the wide table case vitrines.
As the hanging continued, Lauren Reno, Head of Rare Materials Cataloging at Duke, and I began the process of unpacking and checking the condition of over 200 collection items that would be going on display. Each object needed to be accounted for, unwrapped, and reviewed for potential changes in condition. Last summer I wrote about our new method for documenting exhibit loans. I was able to run some small field tests last fall using the new method and computing hardware, but this was the first time it had been employed for such a large loan and with such a time crunch. The new documentation system performed very well and we were able to finish condition reporting ahead of schedule. I plan to share more about the documentation system in future blog posts.
With the hanging complete and each item unpacked and checked off, it was time to sort out the exhibit supports. Yoon Kim had spent many months fabricating the custom cradles, upright angles, or support boards needed to safely support the wide variety of collection materials. During packing, we affixed small labels printed with the item’s Aeon transaction number to the underside of each piece of the support. Using a wire frame diagram of each case layout, it was easy to assemble each book cradle and place it in the correct location inside the exhibit case.
At this point the teams converged to begin mounting each item to it’s support and installing them inside the correct exhibit case. Objects were secured to their mount using polyester or polyethylene strapping.
While we were all working to ready the physical materials, Grolier staff were setting up the large digital display, which would rotate a gallery of images from the collection. Despite the crowd of tables and equipment on the floor of the gallery, you could really see the exhibition beginning to take shape.
Sometimes because of the weight distribution of an item, a cradle needed to be attached to the glass shelves or metal case decks. In those situations, we were able to use stacks of neodymium disc magnets to secure the cradle. The printed exhibit labels were also attached to the case backs and label rails with small magnets.
With all the items in place, we began the final step of lighting the space. Going case by case, we took light readings at each object and then added, removed, or adjusted LEDs to an appropriate level. It is such a challenge to achieve lighting that is bright enough for visitors to clearly see an object and is also appropriate for the light sensitivity media or photographic materials; however, after many rounds of review and tweaks, we were finally ready!
Even though we had already exhibited this same collection of items at the Rubenstein Library in early 2019, this somehow felt like a totally different exhibit. It required a great deal of planning and preparation to travel and install a loan of this size at a partner institution and we all learned so much throughout the process. In the end, I think all that work really shows in the final product and I’m glad that we were able to contribute to the mission of our institution by sharing and bringing awareness to a small sample of the cultural heritage we look after.
The folks in the Rubenstein Exhibits department are currently hard at work, putting the finishing touches on the exhibition “Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work: The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection“. This exhibition provides a glimpse of the diversity and depth of the Baskin collection, revealing the lives of women both famous and forgotten and recognizing their accomplishments. Items from the collection will be on display in the Biddle exhibit suite until June 15, 2019.
The Conservation Services Department has contributed hundreds of hours of work in support of both this exhibit and the wider Baskin collection for the last few years. To highlight some of the behind-the-scenes efforts undertaken by our staff, we have put on our own small exhibit featuring conservation treatments and custom enclosures for the items on display upstairs. If you happen to be in the library, possibly attending one of the many public events surrounding the Baskin exhibition, we invite you to stop by this exhibit case as well. The case is located on Lower Level 1 of Perkins Library, across from the Conservation Lab entrance (Room 023).
Today I traveled over to the Nasher Museum of Art to install an item from the Rubenstein Library for the upcoming Portrait of Venice exhibit. A hand-colored map of Venice from Georg Braun‘s 1572 edition of Civitates Orbis Terrarum (below) will be on display alongside the mural-sized woodblock print by Jacopo de’ Barbari.
The Nasher exhibit runs from September 7th until the end of this year. If you did not have a chance to see the Barbari print during the Glory of Venice show at NCMA, this is another good opportunity. The sheer size and detail of the piece is just incredible. The exhibit will also feature interactive multi-media displays produced through multi-disciplinary and collaborative research at the Wired! Lab at Duke.