Category Archives: Preservation

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.


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.

Florence: Days of Destruction (A Film by Franco Zeffirelli)

Written by Winston Atkins, Preservation Officer

Monday, 20 February 2012 at 2:00-4:00 p.m.
Perkins Library, Room 217 (Free and open to all)

Please join us for a showing of “Florence: Days of Destruction,” Franco Zeffirelli’s rare documentary of devastation to the city of Florence, Italy, and the art and cultural history in its museums, archives, and churches. This copy of the film, part of the University of Maryland Libraries’ collections, is one of very few in existence.

"Mud Angels" save artwork from floods.

When the Arno River overflowed its banks on November 4, 1966, it overwhelmed Florence, Italy, one of the world’s great cultural centers. Franco Zeffirelli, busy editing “The Taming of the Shrew,” quickly assembled a crew to document the damage suffered by a city filled with historic architecture, art, books and archives. His film, narrated by Richard Burton, reportedly raised $20 million for the relief effort. Those efforts culminated in an international rescue and salvage effort that fundamentally changed approaches to the preservation of cultural property.

Bryan Draper, the University of Maryland Libraries’ Collections Conservator, will host this showing. He will also display a collection of printed materials relating to the Florence Flood and its aftermath.

Co-sponsored by the Duke University Libraries’ Conservation Services and Preservation Departments.

Image from CultureGrrl.

Last Minute Gift Ideas

With contributions from Winston Atkins, Preservation Librarian

Never fear, your secret holiday helper is here! We have for you some last minute gift ideas for Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa or New Year’s.

Heck, these make great hostess gifts, thank-you gifts, or birthday gifts, especially if someone’s birthday falls smack dab in the middle of all of these holidays (ahem).

Gifts under $20

Gifts to $50

Gifts to $100

Gifts over $100

The usual disclaimer: Listing does not imply endorsement of any product or vendor.

Remembering Jan Merrill-Oldham

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of one of the greats in our field, Jan Merrill-Oldham. Jan passed away peacefully at home on October 5th.

As one colleague put it, “she was a force of nature.” Jan’s influence stretched across generations of preservation librarians and shaped what we know today as modern library and archives preservation practice.

Many stories will be told in the next few days of Jan’s perseverance, dedication, humor and humility. I have many stories myself, and will remember many more as I reflect on her life. The one thing I will always remember about Jan is her willingness to lend an ear even when she, herself, was going through a very difficult time. Jan loved life and she loved her work. She was one of the most dedicated people I know and I’m so thankful to her, and indeed to so many, for taking me under her wing. She will be sorely missed, but we will celebrate her life and then get back to work (and life) because that is what she would have wanted us to do.

Obituary for Jan Merrill-Oldham

Jan Merrill-Oldham died peacefully at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts  on October 5th 2011 . She is survived by her husband Peter Merrill-Oldham of Cambridge, her mother and father, Alice Cecarelli Merrill and James Hershy Merrill of Milford, CT, and her brother James Wallace Merrill of West Haven, CT.

Janice Elaine Merrill was born on May 10, 1947 in Milford Connecticut and lived there until she went to college, spending most of her summers with her grandparents Ed and Esther Trask in East Sumner, ME. She graduated from Jonathan Law High School in Milford in 1965 and from the University of Connecticut in Storrs in 1969. She married Peter Oldham in 1976 in Ashford, CT, and in 1978 they changed their last names to Merrill-Oldham.

As the Malloy-Rabinowitz Preservation Librarian at Harvard University, Jan directed the Weissman Preservation Center in the Harvard University Library and the Preservation & Imaging Services Department in the Harvard College Library from November 1995 to February 2010. She created and administered a comprehensive program to preserve and enhance access to the 16.5 million volumes and extensive special collections and archives held in Harvard’s more than 70 libraries.

Jan became interested in the preservation of library collections while working in the bindery at the University of Connecticut Library. In 1979, a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship at the Yale University Library allowed Jan to undertake formal training in library and archives preservation. She went on to earn a Masters in Library Science from the University of Rhode Island and to establish the University of Connecticut Libraries’ Preservation Department.

Over the course of 30 years, Jan became a recognized national and international leader in the field of library and archives preservation. Eager to learn and insatiably curious, she was an extraordinary teacher, mentor, author and administrator. Early on, her vision for libraries led her to move beyond the work of simply preserving collections to reformatting them for access via the Internet. Jan exercised her formidable powers of persuasion with university administrators, commercial suppliers, and by serving on key committees within the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of Research Libraries, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the National Information Standards Organization and many others. She authored and edited more than 40 publications.

Jan’s powerful influence within her profession was widely recognized. In 2011, the Association of Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) and the Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS) of ALA created a professional development grant in her honor. She also received the ALA/ALCTS Ross Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award (2011), the ALA/PARS Banks Harris Award (1994), a University of Connecticut Distinguished Service Award (1994) and the ALA/PARS Esther Piercy Award (1990).

Jan was one of those rare people who not only changed her profession but also the lives of the many family members, friends and colleagues who came to love and respect her. A memorial ceremony will be held at the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Saturday October 15the at 1 pm in the Storey Chapel, followed by a reception celebrating her life at Pete and Jan’s home in Cambridge.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Jan’s memory may be made to the Circle of Caring at Hospice of the Good Shepherd 617.969.6130

Preservation Video Rodeo Roundup, pt. 5 (The Rest of the Videos)

Welcome to the final day of our Preservation Week video rodeo roundup. Today is a grab bag of preservation and conservation related videos, and a couple plain ol’ library videos, that we like. If you have found others you like that are in this same genre, please leave a link in the comments.

Book artist and author Bea Nettles on learning about preservation and how it has changed her work.


LYRASIS (formerly SOLINET) shows you how to safely remove a paperclip. I know you want to send this to all of your processors, don’t you? They will also show you how to remove staples.


Library security from the T.C. Beirne Law Library at the University of Queensland, Australia.


Just for fun: In 2009 to take a break from studying, an estimated 3,000 students created a flashmob at the UNC Chapel Hill Davis Library. Hmmm, today is the last day of classes here, I wonder if our students will do something like this?


Preservation Video Rodeo Roundup, pt. 4 (Insects and Disasters)

Welcome to part four of our Preservation Week video roundup. Today we have for your enjoyment some fun videos on not-so-fun topics: insects and disasters.

First up, my favorite insect video from the University of Florida Smathers Library Preservation Department. This, my friends, is why you want to keep the lid on the trash cans.


From our former colleague comes this humorous video. Thanks to UNC-Greensboro Preservation Committee for a fun look at insects in the library.


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne Preservation Department recently put together some books on shelves to see what happens when a sprinkler head goes off. It’s always fun to watch books get wet.


After a flash flood hit the Hamilton Library on the campus of the University of Hawaii, the Conservation Department had to clean and repair the damage.


Just for fun: Mr. Bean tries to thwart security at his local library.


Preservation Video Rodeo Roundup, pt. 3 (Digital Preservation)

Welcome to part three of our Preservation Week video roundup. Today, some videos on preserving digital content. If you have favorite videos on this topic, please let us know about them in the comments section.

Team Digital Preservation always brings humor to the complicated issues of digital preservation. Tune in for their wacky, yet insightful, adventures.


Abby Smith Rumsey recently gave a lecture at Yale University titled “But Storage is Cheap…Digital Preservation in the Age of Abundance.” Well worth the time to view, and thanks to Yale for posting their Preservation Lecture Series videos online.


The Library of Congress presents basic issues of preserving digital content in this short video. Great for the non-preservation professional audience.


The Library of Congress talks to teens about longevity of digital media. We all need to do more to reach out to youth to get them interested now. Have you had success with this dear reader?


Just for fun: What would the help desk have looked like back when books were the new technology?