Category Archives: Preservation

Digital Fills to the Rescue!

By Rachel Pennimen, Senior Conservation Technician

This copy of Hilda Vaughan’s ‘A Thing of Nought’ was sent to the conservation lab to have a box made to protect the fragile dust jacket and cover. The illustration and lettering printed directly on the front board is visible through a transparent, blue tinted plastic dust jacket that is itself printed with the title and author’s name.

Unfortunately the poor quality plastic of the dust jacket has not aged well. Small pieces of the plastic dust jacket were in danger of flaking off with every movement and could hardly be handled safely. In order to keep the dust jacket on the book but still allow for handling of the item, Curator Andy Armacost had the idea of using a dust jacket protector similar to the type sometimes used on our general collections items. This traditional style of dust jacket cover has a Mylar front and a paper backing that wrap around the dust jacket to protect it from wear.

Slim-Fold Book Jacket Covers, University Products

 

This would have the benefit of completely surrounding the plastic dust jacket and preserving all of its parts while allowing it to stay in place on the book and be handled. The trouble is that the paper backing on this kind of product would obscure what was printed directly on the book’s cover. So I attempted to create my own dust jacket cover where the paper backing was printed with a copy of the original boards.

I tried black and white photocopies of the cover on white paper and colored papers. They gave a similar idea of the original cover design, but I was really hoping for something more detailed and accurate.

Photocopy on white paper, photocopy on cream paper, and original cover

I tried again using our photodocumentation setup to take a color photograph of the cover but when I printed out the image the color didn’t match the original at all.

Printed color photograph and original cover

Senior Conservator Erin Hammeke had previously used a tool developed by Victoria Binder to make a color accurate printed reproduction for use in an exhibit so I decided to look into that. Victoria’s article in Topics in Photographic Preservation entitled ‘Digital Fills for Photographs with Glossy Surfaces’ discusses using the Action feature in Photoshop to automatically make variations on settings like midtone color, exposure, and saturation in an easily printable contact sheet. I wasn’t looking to create a fill for a photograph, but color matching a printed image to an original was exactly what I needed. By using Victoria’s Actions Set I could easily print contact sheets with up to 15 variations on a single page, and pick the one that looked closest to the original without wasting reams of paper.

I adjusted my image in Photoshop according to the best results from the contact sheets. The printed photograph gave all the detail of the appearance of the original board decoration and the adjustments made the color an almost perfect match when printed.

Printed photograph before color correction, after color correction, and original cover

The original plastic dust jacket was placed over the printed reproduction of the book cover and a piece of Mylar was folded around both. When the jacket assembly is put on the book the visual effect is very similar to the original.

Interior of the jacket assembly around original cover

Because the cover isn’t attached in any way to the book, a researcher can simply unfold the jacket assembly and view the original book cover decoration beneath.

Final dust jacket assembly next to original cover

I’m so happy with how this project turned out. The original plastic dust jacket is much easier to handle safely, the original appearance of the item is retained, and all of the parts can still be kept together.

1091 Project: Secret Lives of Conservation Labs

1091 graphicThis month on the 1091 Project we are talking tours. I recorded eight official tours so far this fiscal year. These included tours for library donors and prospective donors; the Library Council, a group of faculty that meet with the library’s Executive Group during the school year; and most recently to the Alumni Association during the annual Alumni Weekend. That tour consisted of about 20 people, but we have had as much as twice that on large tours.

Henry Wilhelm (right) and John Baty (yellow shirt) tour DPC.
Henry Wilhelm (right) and John Baty (yellow shirt) tour DPC. Alex (left), Zeke (back to camera) from DPC, and Atlas from Internet Archives explain their work.

We also give a lot of informal, spur of the moment tours that don’t make it to the “official” record. These tours are generally for new staff and interns, faculty and visiting scholars, and other interested individuals. This year we gave a tour for artist Bea Nettles, and Henry Wilhelm, of Wilhelm Imaging Research, and John Baty, a conservation scientist. Wilhelm and Baty also toured LSC and DPC.

Tours are  an important development tool. They are also a chance to educate people about the work we do, why the work is important and how it relates to the mission of the Library. I love to see people’s faces light up when they realize that you can wash paper or resew a book and make it whole again. Of course the best part is showing off our highly skilled and talented staff.

Bea Nettles talks books with Erin (left) and Tedd (right).
Bea Nettles talks books with Erin (left) and Tedd (right).

I know some labs include tours in their yearly stats. I report our big tours in our fiscal year report, but I don’t record every tour we give. I would love to hear your experience with documenting tours and/or how you report tours to your administration in your year-end reports.

Let’s head to Parks Library Preservation to see what they do with tour groups.

 

 

 

Hello Andrea! aka Welcome Hurricane Season

radarHurricane season officially started June 1st and runs through November 30th. Today the first named storm, Andrea, hit the North Carolina coast as a tropical storm and its rain stretched into Durham. We are supposed to get over four inches of rain, and yet we are still in a moderate drought. Go figure.

With all this rain it’s a good time to talk about disaster preparedness. There are many free apps for Android, iPhone and Blackberry devices that would be useful in a disaster.

The Red Cross has several mobile apps, including ones that will track weather warnings including hurricanes, flood advisories and tornado warnings. They also have apps for earthquakes, first aid, wildfires, and a shelter tracker. All useful information when you need it.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has developed a mobile app with maps, recovery and safety tips, and information on building a disaster kit. It also has interactive lists for storing your emergency contact list and meet-up locations.

ems
Disaster Wheel in app form.

Heritage Preservation has created a mobile app based on its popular Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel. It outlines the steps to take in a disaster from “safety first” to “documentation,” and includes recovery information based on the type of materials effected. While the actual wheel seems more useful, this first version is pretty good and would be helpful if your paper copy floated away.

Of course all of these work best if you have power for your phone. You might consider putting a hand-cranked emergency radio/cell phone charger. I’m putting two of these on my Amazon wish list, one for my disaster kit at work, one for home use.

Oh, and do you have a clean change of clothes and dry socks in your disaster kit?

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 (winston.atkins@duke.edu)
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:

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

New Exhibit: Help Wanted

Banana
The banana book makes its first public appearance in our new exhibit. Don’t miss it!

“Help Wanted: You Can Help Keep Our Collections In Good Condition” focuses on what our patrons can do to keep our books on the shelf and usable for everyone. The exhibit is intended to support reinforce the information we present at our annual Care and Handling training, which will be scheduled for late September or early October.

The exhibit is open during regular library hours. It is located just outside the Conservation Lab, Room 023, Perkins Lower Level 1.

Come see the banana book in person. There is another little surprise in there, too.

Last Chance To See “What’s Missing From Your Video History”

This week will be your last opportunity to see our exhibit “What’s Missing From Your Video History” sponsored by the Preservation Department and the Digital Scholarship and Production Services.

Audio-visual materials’ rapid deterioration (relative to print media), its wide adoption for commercial and personal use, and the range of formats and playback equipment that rose and fell around analog videotape, have profound implications for preserving those pieces of our 20th century history that were captured on videotape.

The exhibit is on Perkins Lower Level 1, outside the Digital Production Center, near room 023. Open during library hours.

 

1091 Project: Training, Not Just For Athletes

Welcome to the 1091 Project, a collaborative blogging endeavor between the conservation labs at Duke University Libraries and Iowa State Libraries. Today we are highlighting the kinds of training we do that supports the long-term preservation of our materials.

Care and Handling Training

Conservation Services provides training in both informal and formal ways. We are often contacted by Technical Services for advice on proper handling or housing procedures for fragile materials. Sometimes we get a call from the reading room requesting our help to show a patron how to turn fragile pages or unfold brittle documents.

Care and Handling Training (2009)

Conservation offers annual Care and Handling sessions for staff and student assistants. We usually offer multiple sessions in multiple locations to catch as many people as possible. For those unable to attend we put PDF’s of the handouts and Power Point slides on our intranet site (Duke NetID required).

In these sessions participants learn how to identify damaged materials and what the process is to send them to Conservation. We also demonstrate proper handling techniques such as shelving spine down, how to safely remove books from the shelf, and packing book trucks and mail bins for transport. Because of the current renovation projects we may not be able to offer on-site training this year. To that end, I’ve updated our handouts and Power Point presentations and will make sure student supervisors know where to find them.

New Directions

We are investigating the use of short videos as a fresh and fast way to get information to our patrons, staff and students. This is our first video in the series. What do you think? What sorts of videos would you want to see or show to your patrons?

Other Training
We do a lot of other training, too:

  • We participate in the disaster preparedness and recovery training sessions offered by the Preservation Department.
  • We work with the staff in the Digital Production Center and the Internet Archives to make sure they are comfortable handling fragile materials during digitization. Sometimes we will actually help during imaging for particularly fragile or delicate items.
  • We train our Conservation student assistants and volunteers on how to repair materials and make enclosures.We couldn’t be successful without them!
  • We train ourselves, too. Each month before our staff meeting we hold a Tips Session. If we discover a neat tool, or come up with a creative solution to a problem, we demonstrate it to the entire lab staff. These session are fun, fast and foster a lot of conversation and brain storming.

Let’s go see what training Parks Library Preservation does. Please share your training regimen or ideas for videos in the comments.

New Exhibit: What’s missing from your video history?

Written by Liz Milewicz, Ph.D, Head of Digital Scholarship and Production Services. Exhibit curated by Liz Milewicz and Winston Atkins, Preservation Officer.

Calling up my favorite Bert and Ernie sketches on YouTube makes it seem like there’s no problem with accessing my video history. But a brief glance behind the institutional curtains of digital preservation casts a cloud on how often I’ll be able to revisit such happy scenes.

Audio-visual materials’ rapid deterioration (relative to print media), its wide adoption for commercial and personal use, and the range of formats and playback equipment that rose and fell around analog videotape, have profound implications for preserving those pieces of our 20th century history that were captured on videotape.

“Generation Loss,” a new exhibit that I’ve co-curated with Winston Atkins, Preservation Officer, presents just a few of the many videotape formats introduced during the 20th century and collected in Duke University Libraries, as well as the signs of their deterioration and the factors that contribute to their loss. Because some of these signs are only visible when the tape is played, much of this loss goes unseen and unknown until someone tries to play the tape. The video display in this exhibit demonstrates some of common signs of audio-visual deterioration.

The exhibit is open during regular Perkins/Bostock hours. We are located on the Lower Level (same level as the Link), by Perkins Room 023.  Come and have a look!

May Day: Occupy Your Disaster Plan

May Day Heritage PreservationHappy May Day! Today, we will be welcoming the coming of spring by dancing around the May Pole and celebrating International Workers Day. Since May Day is also the traditional day to prepare for an emergency in your cultural institution, we will also be making sure we are ready in our library.

Disasters often strike with little or no warning. Waiting until a water pipe bursts or a hurricane hits is not a disaster plan. Today we invite you to do one thing to prepare for an emergency. If you don’t know where to start, we have some ideas for you below and in previous posts. Pick one, any one, just do something to prepare for an emergency today.

Do One Thing

  • Download the new Heritage Preservation Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel iPhone app on your iPhone. It’s free!
  • If you don’t have a smart phone, buy a copy of the Field Guide to Emergency Response and the Salvage Wheel. The combo is on sale through May 31st for $25.95, that’s less than the member rate! This is an excellent resource to help you get your disaster plan together and to respond to any emergency in your collections.
  • Check your disaster kit. Do you need to restock or replace anything? Do you have a pair of warm socks in there? [I still haven’t replaced my respirator, bad conservator!]
  • Review your emergency phone tree. Are the correct people listed and the phone numbers still correct? For those of you in the 919 area code, put a reminder in your document that you now need to dial the 919 area code for local numbers.
  • Review your plan. What’s missing or needs updating? You don’t have to make those changes today, but make an appointment on your calendar to do it…then DO it!
  • If you are not the one responsible for disaster planning or recovery in your institution, find out who is and ask for a copy of the disaster plan. And remember, if it is in electronic form, be sure to print out a copy and take it home. The internet doesn’t work when the power is out and cell phone towers are down.
  • And don’t forget you need a plan at home, too. The Red Cross has some good information on how to put a disaster kit together for your home and family.

Thanks to Heritage Preservation and their efforts over the years to raise awareness of the need for disaster planning and recovery training in cultural institutions. Be sure to check out their home page, and friend them on Face Book.

Now…back to the dancing.

1091 Project: Digitization and Conservation

Welcome to this month’s 1091 Project wherein Parks Library Preservation and Preservation Underground talk about how we collaborate with our respective digitization programs.

Where Digitization Happens

At Duke Libraries digitization happens in three departments:

  1. Winston Atkins, head of the Preservation Department, advises on and coordinates preservation reformatting projects for both born digital collections and analog materials (especially non-print materials such as moving image).
  2. The staff in the Digital Production Center (DPC) is part of the Digital Scholarship and Production Services Department headed by Liz Milewicz. DPC digitizes print, manuscript and A/V materials for both library-driven projects and individual patron requests. They use a variety of imaging hardware in their workflow, choosing the appropriate one based on the size, condition and type of material they are imaging.
  3. Internet Archive has one operator and overhead-scanning equipment on site to digitize print materials from special collections.

Conservation Services works to some extent with all three of these workflows to be sure our materials are safe and in good condition for imaging.

Louisa Whitman letter, before treatment
Louisa Whitman letter before digitization and conservation treatment.

Project Evaluation Prior To Imaging

We review projects under consideration for digitization to be sure the materials are stable enough for reformatting. We meet with DPC and library staff to look at the collection (or a representational portion of it if it is very large) to determine what kind of materials they are, what their condition is, and what treatment may be needed prior to digitization.

Treatment Before And After Imaging

Our main concern is that damaged materials are stabilized prior to reformatting so they can be handled without further deterioration. The most common problems that we treat before imaging include:

  • page tears or losses
  • mis-folds or detached pieces of fold-outs
  • loose or detached pages
  • old repairs (if they obscure text)
  • uncut pages
  • old Mylar encapsulations sealed with tape

We don’t normally fix binding problems such as loose or missing spines or boards until after imaging if the book can be handled carefully as is. But if we feel a book should be repaired first, we will consult with the librarians and decide on a treatment plan prior to sending it to DPC.

After imaging we will do any repairs or put those items into our repair request database to do at a later date. We will also provide a custom enclosure for anything that is fragile or needs protection, just as we would for any other treatment in the lab.

Removing old, taped encapsulations.

An example of a pre-imaging workflow is the ongoing broadside project. Decades ago it was standard practice to tape the edges of the broadsides to protect them from tearing (we obviously don’t do that anymore). Over the years, the adhesive has made the paper very brittle, yet it is still sticky. DPC cannot image through Mylar so the old, double-stick tape encapsulations must be removed. Because of time and resource limitations we do not remove the old tape, but we do repair any heavily damaged broadsides with paste and Japanese tissue so that they are in one piece and readable. When DPC is finished with them, we re-encapsulate the taped broadsides with our ultrasonic welder so that they do not stick to other broadsides in the folder (no more tape!).

Collaboration During Imaging

The Internet Archive is scanning an incredible number of items every day. The most often requested repairs for this workflow is cutting pages that were never cut by the publisher, or reattaching a loose page. We try to turn these around quickly to keep this workflow moving, especially if it is a patron request.

Sometimes a page or fold-out will get torn or come loose during scanning or a book is discovered to have uncut pages. DPC will bring it next door and we will quickly turn these repairs around so we don’t hold up their workflow.

Imaging Ethiopic scrolls.

Sometimes the materials themselves pose a handling challenge and we will help physically handle the books or manuscripts during imaging. Digitizing the Ethiopic scrolls is a good example of this sort of collaboration. Because these vellum scrolls were so long they could not be imaged in one shot, and they were so tightly wound that they  would roll up on their own if not weighted down.We had to devise a method to hold sections of the scrolls open while also allowing us to unroll and re-roll as we digitized.

Training

As you can imagine there is a huge volume of materials being imaged every day here in the basement of the library. Because there is so much going through DPC and Internet Archive, we simply cannot review every binding or manuscript page prior to imaging. We work very closely with the staff to be sure that they know what sort of damage to look for, how to handle fragile materials, and when to ask for assistance. We want them to feel that they have the information they need to safely handle materials, and in turn we trust their judgment to know when they should come next door to see us. I think we have a really good working relationship in this way.

Please visit Parks Library Preservation to see how they collaborate with digital projects.