Category Archives: Training

Learning Together: Leather Repair Tips and Tricks

lab workshopSo much of what we know as conservators is based on learning at the elbow of someone else. Discovering the perfect tip or trick is immensely valuable and can mean the difference between an elegant repair and one that is “good enough.”

This week we held an extended in-house workshop covering several types of leather repair techniques: headcap repair, Etherington tissue hinge, Brock split hinge repair, tacketing and rebacking. Our colleague, Craig Fansler, came up from Wake Forest University to learn along side us.

inserting headcap tissue
Mary shows us headcap fills.

Mary demonstrated reconstructing damaged leather headcaps. This repair needs to not only look good, but it needs to function well and stand up to the flexing of the spine. Mary is very skilled at making these repairs, so she showed us her tips on creating well integrated and beautiful replacement headcaps.

Along the way we discussed the benefits of various adhesives and how to maximize their working properties to achieve the desired outcome.

Erin demonstrated the Etherington tissue hinge, tacketing, the Brock split linen hinge, and rebacking with leather. She showed us some of her prior rebacks to help us understand what the end result should look like, and had models for each of the repairs so we could see those as well. We discussed the benefits and detractions of each repair and why we would select one type of repair over another.

The most important tips we learned during our session were

  • Selection is key to a successful repair, and
  • Repairs should be done in stages and allowed to dry in between each stage. Going slowly and deliberately will lead to better decisions and a better final product.

tacket drilling 2
Erin demonstrates board tacketing.

leather paring_craig
Craig practices lifting brittle leather.

I am very grateful to have such talented colleagues who are willing to share their expertise. Through this sort of collaborative training we can learn new skills and continue the tradition of passing on our knowledge. Craig has written a blog post on the Z. Reynolds Smithy blog. Be sure to check that out.

Cleaning Radio Haiti Reel-to-Reel Tapes

cleaning audio reels
Cleaning magnetic audio tapes.

This week we worked with Craig Braeden from Rubenstein Library and Zeke Graves from the Digital Production Center to test a cleaning workflow for moldy reel-to-reel audio tapes we recently received from Haiti.

Conservation doesn’t have expertise in cleaning magnetic media, so this was a chance to learn more about these materials and to do some cross training.

The method is simple enough. While the tape is running you gently hold a piece of Pellon to the tape to remove the mold. What is more difficult is learning to evaluate the tape to be sure it isn’t too fragile for this treatment,  holding the tape with just enough pressure to clean it but not too much to damage it while it is moving through the deck, and watching for splices. Craig brought over an old deck and we set it up in the fume hood in Conservation. Zeke helped clean and repair the tape when we encountered previous splices.

Craig has posted a brief video on the Devil’s Tale about this collection and what it will take to clean, digitize and make it accessible.

moldy audio tape
Moldy tape before cleaning.

audio tape after cleaning
After one cleaning pass.

Conservation Tips: Sharing knowledge, Solving Problems

Conservation Department tips session.
Conservation Department tips session.

When I first started here we had a variety of skill sets on the staff. To help build our skills, share ideas and create a forum to ask questions, I started “Tuesday Tips at Two,” a weekly meeting with the staff. On Tuesdays we would gather and share tips and tricks on everything from turning corners on cloth clamshell boxes to controlling the curling of the endsheets when putting a new case on a text block.

Those weekly tip sessions have turned into monthly ones. Before our monthly staff meeting, if someone has a tip or wants opinions about how to solve a treatment problem, we gather as a group to  learn from each other or to offer feedback.

Corner repair demo.
Jig for corner fills.

Last month we had a double-tip session. Mary presented a tip on using Japanese tissue and paste to fill lost corners on 19th Century publisher’s bindings, and Erin presented a tip on using embossing plates (sold in craft stores) to mimic the pressed-fabric you often see on 19th Century publisher’s bindings. It was an educational and fun tips session.

Embossing plates (purple).
Embossing plates (purple).
Embossed repair tissue.
Embossed repair tissue.

New Exhibit: Help Wanted

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.

1091 Project: Master Studies Workshop: Conservation of Transparent Papers

This month on 1091 we take you to Iowa State University Libraries to the home of Parks Library Preservation! In July both Melissa and I had the opportunity to take a master class in conserving transparent paper with Hildegard Homburger, a conservator in private practice in Berlin, Germany.

Presented by the Friends of the American Institute for Conservation and hosted by Iowa State University Libraries Preservation Department, this class brought together a mix of mid-career and advanced paper and book conservators from museums, libraries and private practice. The sessions combined lecture and hands-on instruction and allowed plenty of time for practice and asking questions.

Our instructor, Hildegard
Hildegard Homburger, instructor, demonstrating tear repairs.

Hildegard is an expert at conserving these materials and is a generous instructor. On day one we covered the history and manufacture of transparent papers including its unique chemistry. In the practical session we learned to mend tears and losses with aqueous adhesives and how to humidify, dry and flatten these papers to minimize distortion. I think we are all converts to the hard-soft sandwich! On day two we learned mending with synthetic adhesives, how to dye mending papers and how to line fragile transparent papers with Japanese tissue.

During the sessions Hildegard shared not only tips and techniques, but discussed previous projects and how she would do them differently now compared to several years ago. That very much impressed me. We all continue to learn throughout our careers, and it’s easy to forget that what we know now is a result of years of practice and evolving knowledge. Sharing her experiences, and walking us step-by-step through her thought process helped broaden our understanding of how to approach these papers in particular as well as our work in the larger sense.

I tend to think of transparent papers as being mainly architectural tracings, but artists have used transparent papers for printmaking and drawing, and I have seen similar papers in medical flap books and 19th century copy books. Because of its manufacturing process, transparent paper can be tricky to work with. It is very thin, often brittle, very reactive to moisture, and of course transparent so you don’t want to use repair techniques that would make it opaque. I now feel much more comfortable and capable of working with the transparent papers in our collections.

Beth (left) and Kim Nichols practicing heat set repairs with a variety of synthetic adhesives.

For more images from the workshop check out the Iowa group’s Flickr page.  The Smithsonian also hosted two sessions of this workshop and Nora Lockshin has posted about their sessions. Tahe Zalal attended the second session at Iowa State and posted photos.

Don’t forget to head over to Parks Library Preservation to read about Melissa’s experience. Thanks to Hildegard, AIC, Iowa State University and all the participants for making this a wonderful experience.