Category Archives: What’s In The Lab

Quick Pic: President Few’s Death Mask

William Preston Few death mask
Death Mask of William Preston Few from the collections of the Duke Unviersity Archives.

Here lies the death mask of Duke University President William Preston Few (1910-1940).

His head is in the lab having recently been on exhibit. It’s existing enclosure wasn’t providing adequate protection for the delicate plaster, so Jennifer is building an enclosure for it.

It’s creeping us all out.


It Takes A Village To House A Village

The Doris Duke Archives recently sent us this “Tiny Thai Village” for boxing. Read about its history on The Devil’s Tale.

The TTV came in a small box with all of the models inside. Obviously a box half the size of a Twinkie would disappear in the stacks and make access difficult. While these models aren’t fragile per se, they are delicate and the little houses had no real protection.

Our goals for the final housing were three-fold

  • The new enclosure had to be big enough to go to the stacks
  • Each little house needed its own compartment for safety and security
  • You needed to be able to lift out each model with your giant fingers

Experimental Box-making
I thought this would be easy, but it took a lot of trial and error to figure it out. I grabbed a standard Metal-Edge box meant to house cabinet cards and started experimenting. Here’s what I did:

  • Created a tray with a compartment for each house
  • Built up the inside so that the models would be level with the top of the box
  • Inset the original box so it was at the same level as the models
  • Lined the lid with Volara to provide a cushion should they get shaken
  • Labeled the box with big “Fragile-Do Not Tilt” labels

The Final Box
While each model can still move around in its compartment, they don’t knock into each other and you can still get your fingers in to take them out. You can also quickly tell if one is missing since each compartment should be occupied.

Although I would likely do something a bit different if I were asked to house this again, I think this enclosure achieves the goals and will provide more protection than the original box.

What’s In The Lab: Peeling Eyeballs!

By Erin Hammeke, Conservator for Special Collections

The History of Medicine collections continue to delight us in Conservation as we work to stabilize some of the most-used items. I just finished repairing Bartisch’s Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst:…, a work on Ophthalmology printed in 1583.

This item was recently featured in the exhibit, Anamated Anatomies. In addition to depicting some interesting and seemingly painful eye treatments and surgeries of the 16th century, the book contains two pages of hand-colored anatomical flaps.

I repaired a page that depicts the anatomy of the eye in layers. Like many of the flap books we have examined, the flaps were fragile and showed signs of damage from use. The eyeball flaps had received several previous repairs, including a fairly early shellac seal repair.

For this treatment, I removed one of the previous repairs that was poorly placed and causing damage to the outer flap, and I re-repaired it using tissue and wheat starch paste. I also stabilized the remaining flaps and flattened mis-folds using a light application of wheat starch paste.

Beef Wine For Your Health

Duke was giving out H1N1 flu shots today and quite by coincidence I found this ad in a bound set of Women’s Penny Papers (1889-1890). This book is going into the British Women Writers exhibit that is being installed on Monday afternoon. Since the paper and binding are fairly fragile, I’m making a custom-fit book cradle so it can be exhibited safely.
It’s also serves as a good reminder to take care of yourself as the semester winds down and the holidays begin. Get plenty of rest, eat right and stay healthy over the break. Otherwise you will be having beef wine for your holiday meal.