It’s Preservation Week! In an effort to raise awareness of the need for preservation of all kinds, every day this week we will highlight one of the many ways our staff support collections at Duke University Libraries. Our first stop is the circulating collection.
Today Senior Conservation Technician Mary Yordy is working on a mesmerizing book in need of some help.
This visual album about Barneys New York shows a common problem with modern art books: the flimsy case construction of the binding just doesn’t stand up to the weight of the textblock. While it is down here in the lab, Mary will repair the rear hinge of the book, rejoining the text to the binding and allowing it to function again for many more circulations.
The publisher of this item really went all out with the endpapers and “chameleon” metallic edge treatment!
One of my more recent projects has been working on this gorgeous late 19th century Japanese photograph album.
While I’m still dealing with the album itself, today I’d like to briefly share some steps I’ve taken to stabilize the decorative paper box in which the album was originally purchased and stored. When the album came to the library, it was inside the original enclosure, and both album and enclosure were packed in a regular cardboard box with medical underpads as cushioning material. Unsure of what I was really looking at, I documented the object exactly as it came out of the cardboard box – underpads included!
The underpads do have some merits as packing material, providing both cushioning and a moisture barrier. They are not the best long-term storage materials, though, so we opted to remove them. As you can see, the box was looking a little rough. I removed the photo album and laid out each piece of the enclosure to better see what remained.
The enclosure is essentially a drop-spine box, covered in decorative red and gold paper. Yellow textile pads are included in the interior of the lid and base to protect the lacquer and ivory covers. The head, tail, and fore-edge of the lid have black woven textile straps and bone pins, which originally fastened to small woven textile loops laced through the lower tray walls. As you can see, several parts of the box are missing and most of the joints have broken. The straps are also broken in several places and very weak.
This enclosure is special because it includes a great deal of information about the album’s provenance. Kusakabe Kimbei (1841-1932) is widely known for these souvenir albums, consisting of hand-colored portraiture and scenic views. Bennet (2006) describes Kusakabe’s (1841-1932) businesses at the two Benten-Dori addresses: 36 functioned as a photography studio, while 27 operated as a shop where composite albums of Kusakabe’s prints were sold (p. 135).
We want to ensure that researchers can open and closely examine the enclosure to see the information on the interior label, but it is not necessary for the heavy photo album to remain inside. The decision was made to create a new padded enclosure for the album and stabilize and store the original enclosure separately.
I began by re-assembling all the box pieces in much the same way I might repair the joints of a paper binding. Using the patterns on the decorative paper, I was able to match all the detached pieces. The original decorative paper was lifted away from the boards and strong handmade paper, toned to match, was adhered underneath with wheat starch paste. I stabilized the remains of the textile straps using toned 60/3 linen thread.
Since the enclosure will not contain the heavy album anymore, the decision was made to just reattach and stabilize the extant materials, rather than recreating the lost walls of the tray and edges of the lid with new board. With only two walls on the bottom tray, I decided to construct a small corrugated box to fit inside and act as additional support. The “filler” box is light weight and can easily be removed by a researcher. This set of two boxes will get a final, outer box to protect the textile straps.
A box, within a box, within a box.
Bennett, T. (2006). Old Japanese photographs: Collector’s data guide. London: Quaritch.
It’s library award season! Time to nominate our hard-working colleagues to thank them for a job well done. The American Library Association has several awards that represent all facets of library work. Here are some that may be of interest to you, but be sure to look at the full list. The award descriptions below come directly from ALA’s web pages.
Ross Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award
This award honors the legacy of Ross Atkinson, distinguished library leader, author, and scholar, whose extraordinary service to ALCTS and the library community at-large serves as a model for those who follow. The award is given to recognize the contribution of a library leader through demonstrated exceptional service to ALCTS and its areas of interest (acquisitions, cataloging and metadata, collection management, continuing resources, and preservation and reformatting).
This award honors the life and accomplishments of Hugh C. Atkinson by soliciting nominations and recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of an academic librarian who has worked in the areas of library automation or library management and has made contributions (including risk taking) toward the improvement of library services or to library development or research.
This award was established to honor the memory of Paul Banks and Carolyn Harris, early leaders in library preservation. The award will be given to recognize the contribution of a professional preservation specialist who has been active in the field of preservation and/or conservation for library and/or archival materials.
Editor’s note: Why are there no pictures of Carolyn Harris online? If someone knows of one, let me know and I will add it here.
George Cunha and Susan Swartzburg Award
This award honors the memory of George Cunha and Susan Swartzburg, early leaders in cooperative preservation programming and strong advocates for collaboration in the field of preservation. The award, sponsored by Hollinger Metal Edge, acknowledges and supports cooperative preservation projects and/or rewards individuals or groups that foster collaboration for preservation goals. Recipients of the award demonstrate vision, endorse cooperation, and advocate for the preservation of published and primary source resources that capture the richness of our cultural patrimony. The award recognizes the leadership and initiative required to build collaborative networks designed to achieve specific preservation goals. Since collaboration, cooperation, advocacy and outreach are key strategies that epitomize preservation, the award promotes cooperative efforts and supports equitable preservation among all libraries, archives and historical institutions.
Editor’s note: No Susan Swartzburg image online? I’m sensing a trend here. We need to better document the women in our field.
Esther J. Piercy Award
The Esther J. Piercy Award was established by the Resources and Technical Services Division of the American Library Association in 1968 in memory of Esther J. Piercy, editor of Journal of Cataloging and Classification from 1950 to 1956 and of Library Resources & Technical Services from 1957 to 1967. This award is given to recognize the contribution to those areas of librarianship included in library collections and technical services by a librarian with not more than 10 years of professional experience who has shown outstanding promise for continuing contribution and leadership.
Editor’s note: Seriously. We have lost a big chunk of history…or herstory.
Jan Merrill-Oldham Professional Development Grant
The award was established in 2011 by the Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS) of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) to honor the career and influence of Jan Merrill-Oldham, distinguished leader, author, and mentor in the field of library and archives preservation. The Jan Merrill-Oldham Professional Development Grant is awarded by the ALCTS Preservation and Reformatting Section to provide librarians and paraprofessionals new to the preservation field with the opportunity to attend a professional conference and encourages professional development through active participation at the national level. The grant is to be used for airfare, lodging, and registration fees to attend the ALA Annual Conference.
We have posted about hurricane awareness and disaster response before. With two major hurricanes hitting the United States so far this season, it is time to round up some information for those hit by these and other storms.
Help for Cultural Institutions
The National Heritage Responders (NHR) – formerly the American Institute for Conservation – Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT) – responds to the needs of cultural institutions during emergencies and disasters through coordinated efforts with first responders, state agencies, vendors and the public. Volunteers can provide advice and referrals by phone at 202.661.8068. Requests for onsite assistance will be forwarded by the volunteer to the NHR Coordinator and Emergency Programs Coordinator for response. Less urgent questions can also be answered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cultural institutions in FEMA-designated disaster areas of Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and other impacted states and U.S. territories can apply immediately for NEH Chairman’s Emergency Grants of up to $30,000 to preserve documents, books, photographs, art works, historical objects, sculptures, and structures damaged by the hurricane and subsequent flooding. Applications for emergency grants are available here (Word Document).
FEMA–The Heritage Emergency National Taskforce and the Smithsonian Institution have written documentation on saving personal treasures in multiple languages.
Other useful information
National Archives–If you were impacted by a hurricane and need priority service to obtain or replace proof of U.S. military service, you can contact the National Archives National Personnel Records Center. Information can be found on the NANPRC website.
FEMA–A good list of what entity you should contact if you need to replace important papers such as birth certificates, green cards, passports, etc., can be found on the FEMA website.
Today is Good Friday and we happen to have our three-volume octavo edition of Audubon‘s Quadrupeds of North America in the lab to get some stabilizing repairs and enclosures. The first volume of the set is absolutely teeming with prints of hares and rabbits and this seems like an auspicious day to share them. Audubon’s Quadrupeds first appeared in three folio volumes (under the title “The Vivaparous Quadrupeds of North America”) between 1845 and 1848. The first octavo edition was published by John James Audubon’s sons (John W. and Victor) following his death in 1851. Initially both editions were issued in parts. You can view full a full digitized version of this book here.
It’s that time of year. The time to rush around frantically looking for gifts for your friends and relations. If you need some last minute ideas, any of these would be a lovely gift for your conservator friends
What’s On Your Wall?
“Bitten by Witch Fever” is a beautiful book about the history of arsenic in wallpaper. The book contains 275 facsimile samples of wallpapers that were tested and found to contain arsenic. The book explains the manufacture, uses and effects of arsenic. Arsenic, it’s not just for silking documents anymore.
Shanna Leino makes wonderful tools. This little steel micro chisel is a workhorse of a chisel. It can be used on paper, leather, binder’s board, and wood. Henry says, “I use it all of the time!” Can’t argue with that.
Steel micro chisel (the website says “sold out” but there’s always Ground Hog Day to shop for).
“Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections” is a companion catalog to a multi-institutional exhibit of illuminated manuscripts that is taking place this fall. Gorgeous reproductions of over 260 manuscripts from the collections of Harvard University’s Houghton Library, the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, and more.
We got a lot of rain in the wee hours of Monday morning. Housekeeping alerted the library, and our Preservation Officer and Head of Security sprang into action. The rain found its way from the roof down three levels to the sub basement. Most of the damage was to ceiling tiles, carpeting and equipment.
It could have been worse. Less than 100 collection items got wet. We set up drying stations in the lab and in the fume hood-room and quickly got to work. At one point we ran out of fans and put out a request to our colleagues. Within minutes we had more than enough to get the job done. We had to take only one book to the freezer.
Unfortunately the water found its way inside the walls of the Digital Production Center, Conservation and our disaster supply closet (oh the irony). Our vendor had to pull the baseboards out and cut holes in the wall to allow air to get inside to dry the drywall.
We had more rain Tuesday night with additional moisture seeping through the walls. Looks like we will be working undercover for a while until they track down the problem. We’ve had some good practice at this sort of thing, so we know how to be productive even though the lab is a mess.
We are hoping for drier weather in the days to come, but July and August are our rainy seasons so anything can happen. Until then, we will do what we can and stay vigilant for more leaks.
*I realize this video has been said to be staged, but it is still pretty accurate to how we felt on Monday morning.
Welcome to Part Two of EXTREME ENCLOSURES: Miniatures.
If you ever want to feel like some sort of extreme being (a giant, perhaps, or even better: Andre the Giant), you may want to take a gander at the tiniest books that Rubenstein Library has to offer: the miniatures. The raw power you feel when holding five leather bound books in the palm of your hand is astounding. Rubenstein has almost two hundred miniature books. These little guys, known as The Minis, are often bullied by the notorious “big boys of the stacks.” Once again, Conservation has to step in to take care of at-risk books. We needed to help the Minis bulk up so they are not beat up by larger books or lost in the wild (albeit highly climate controlled) world of the stacks.
The miniatures had previously been housed in folders within document boxes; usually a dozen or so in each box. One may handle multiple volumes before finding the one they wish to access. Once the desired volume is finally found, it can be easily lost due to its miniscule size. To facilitate handling we wanted to house them individually in standard size corrugated clamshell boxes (aka “pizza boxes” or “drop spine boxes.”). First we had to decide on what that standard size would be.
The height of the standard box was set by the 8-inch-high shelves. To determine the width and depth of the standard box, I measured each miniature to find the largest amongst them. I settled on a standard box that would measure 6 inches x 1.75 inches x 4 inches. An added advantage to a standard box is the ability to batch tasks. I would measure, cut, and crease 30 or so clamshells at a time, saving a lot of time.
Once I had the standard clamshells figured, I had to determine how to settle the books into their new houses without them rattling around. I wanted to keep the inserts simple and intuitive. After a few experiments, I chose a two-tiered system of spacers made from corrugated board adhered with double stick tape. I added Volara and 10 point card stock tabs to further stabilize when necessary. Watch as this Mini “Addresses of Lincoln” gets a house.
When finishing up the nearly two hundred enclosures for all these vulnerable Minis I rejoiced. Knowing how intimidating other large volumes can be to the slighter books in the collection, it’s nice to know a conservation technician can make a petite book’s size anxiety just a little less extreme. I am comforted that the Minis now rest easy: safely tucked away in their soft foam and supportive board havens, never to feel lost or intimidated again.
Several adequately housed Minis basking in their new security:
Written by Rachel Penniman, Senior Technician for Special Collections
When two copies of a newspaper arrived in the lab I didn’t expect then to be terribly exciting.
They were folded and as is typical with old, acidic newsprint it had become brittle and split along the folds. After discussion with curator Andy Armacost we decided to carefully unfold and repair the one copy that was in slightly better condition.
Unfolding the newspaper revealed something quite unexpected: the paper was gigantic! What I expected to be multiple issues folded together was in fact a single extremely large issue.
The Constellation: Illuminated Quadruple Sheet claimed to perhaps be the largest sheet of paper ever made and printed when it was published in 1859 in New York. Created as a one-time, limited edition of 28,000 copies, it had taken ‘eight weeks of unceasing labor of nearly forty persons to produce this MASTODON PAPER!’ To generate one issue, a single sheet of 70X100” paper was printed and folded into four leaves of 35×50” each. In comparison, the massive double elephant folio Audubon Birds of America volumes currently on display in the Mary Duke Biddle room are a paltry 26×39”.
In total each copy of The Constellation has 49 square feet of paper! It is made up of 8 pages with 13 columns of text per page, and 48” per column totaling 416 feet of printing. Along with historical articles, essays, stories, and poems, there are four pages with numerous portraits and illustrations. Originally sold for 50 cents an issue, this copy was marked down to only 15 cents. This seems like a really good deal for what adds up to a small book’s worth of reading material.
Unfolding the paper also revealed the full extent of the damage. The main folds separating one leaf from another had degraded so badly that each leaf was held to the next with only a few inches of weak paper.
In order to allow for safer handling and easier storage, I got approval to completely separate each leaf. Working with individual leaves of 35×50” was much more manageable; though I still had to work on two folding tables pushed together with board across the top in order to have a large enough flat work surface.
Very carefully, bit by bit, I flattened the creases and mended the tears using a very thin toned Japanese tissue paper and wheat starch paste making the repairs almost invisible. Wherever possible, I reattached loose fragments of paper that I found loose in the old folder. With 49 square feet of paper work on, I did mending on and off for many weeks.
After mending, each leaf was encapsulated between sheets of Mylar using our ultrasonic welder. See this previous blog post for a video of our encapsulator in action.
Now that it’s finally finished, this huge newspaper is the perfect candidate for storage in the Rubenstein Library’s new super oversize cabinet drawers. It actually looks tiny in comparison to this large flat file drawer.
Part of a description of the newspaper on the back page reads:
The Publisher does not wish to conceal the honorable pride which he feels in presenting this magnificent sheet to the public. It is the off-spring of Invention, Taste, Enterprise and Herculean Industry; it is without a compeer or rival; and he believes it will never be excelled. It cannot be surpassed in typographical beauty – in its artistic splendor – in its general imperialism of thought and design. It will be the pride of every true-hearted American, and the wonder of the world; and those who are so fortunate as to obtain a copy will obtain a curiosity which they will keep and treasure with the utmost care.
I am very proud to have been able to help provide this curiosity with the utmost care its publisher desired. Though to be honest I would be happy to take a break from such oversize items and work on miniatures for a while.