It’s Preservation Week! This week, we are looking at the daily life of a conservation department and the work we each do in support of the library and its mission. Yesterday we saw Mary in repairing a book with very cool end papers.
As a department head my job is to make sure we have the budgetary and human resources that we need to do our work, advocate for my staff and department, and make sure our priorities fit into the strategic direction of the library. To that end, I attend a lot of meetings.
Duke Libraries has a culture of collaboration, so we do a lot of talking with each other. My standing meetings include departmental and individual staff meetings; Technical Services Department Head meetings; meetings with my supervisor; the monthly all-library staff meeting; the Multi-spectral Imaging team meeting; quarterly division meetings; and meetings with other department heads outside of Technical Services usually over lunch or coffee. Then there are special meetings that are called around projects or initiatives, budget setting, and other administrative duties. Then there are the meetings that happen on the fly at the bus stop, in the hallway, or in the cafe line.
By attending these meetings I am gathering the information I need for the department to be successful, I’m building relationships across the library, and I am also finding out what is happening in other departments that might impact our workflow. I know for some people all these meetings sounds like torture, but I rather enjoy getting together with colleagues to think about our collaborative future. And sometimes you get doughnuts.
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!
Conservator Erin Hammeke has been working with History of Medicine Curator, Rachel Ingold and SMIF Research and Development Engineer, Justin Gladman to facilitate the scanning of our 22 ivory manikins using a High Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Scanner (Micro CT scanner). These high resolution 3-D scans allow us to see internal components of the manikins, thoroughly document them and their component parts, and also to create 3D printed models to allow for unfettered access and handling of surrogate manikins by patrons. So far, we have imaged over half of the collection of 22 manikins to date over 7 imaging sessions.
Conservation’s support for this project has been a team effort. First we researched the safety of the process for ivory and component parts. Then we thought through the logistics of ensuring their physical safety and security during imaging. Over the past year, Conservation Specialist, Rachel Penniman has been carefully boxing each of the manikins in terrific custom padded artifact boxes (see Quick Pic: Boxing Near-Naked Ladies) to assist with their safe transport to the SMIF facility on campus. After transport to SMIF, Erin unpacks the manikins and removes their parts before securely wrapping them in low density material to support the manikin during the 20-30 minute scan. Thanks to Beth for sewing custom foam supports for this project!
Smaller, removable internal organs are imaged in separate scans to enable an adjustment to the scanning resolution and isolation of the component parts in the digital scan and 3D print.
This photos shows some of the ways in which Erin strapped and supported a manikin with a loose arm during scanning, as well as still images from the scan that show internal metal fasteners and repairs that are not visible upon external examination.
And here is an example of a 3D print of one of our solid manikins showing fantastic detail.
Keep an eye out for a more in depth Duke News story about the project by science writer Robin Smith, PhD.
A 12th century Latin manuscript was brought down to the lab yesterday and we all had to stop work for a few minutes to ogle the colorful stitching used to piece together some of the leaves.
Parchment can be oddly shaped or become damaged during production, so it was a common medieval practice to mend or patch the leaves with colorful thread. Sometimes you can tell that the stitching was done before the scribe started writing. For example, this column of text just continues around the thread.
The colors of the thread are so intense that I began to wonder if they were original. What pigments or dyes could make such a vibrant yellow/green color? A few years ago, Beth had taken Cheryl Porter’s workshop, Recreating the Medieval Palette, and just happened to have the color swatches they made on hand. You can read some excellent reviews of that workshop here and here.
The buckthorn and cochineal are actually pretty close matches to the colors of the thread in our manuscript. Being closed inside a book would also have protected them from light exposure and potentially fading. If you’d like to see more examples of colorful stitching in medieval books, check out this post from Erik Kwakkel or the post it inspired on Colossal.
On a gloomy Los Angeles morning earlier this week, I rode a driver-less tram up to the Getty Center to attend a one day seminar on Microfade Testing (MFT).
Speakers from institutions around the world discussed how they have been using this technology in recent years to support exhibits programs and make informed decisions about safely displaying cultural heritage material. The seminar concluded with demonstrations of several designs of MFT equipment, like the system pictured below.
It was such a delight to talk with other conservators about how they are using technologies like this in their own institutions. While I was able to learn a great deal about the application and some limitations of MFT, many questions remain about how we might successfully implement it here at Duke. In the meantime, the seminar highlighted some research opportunities that we can begin pursuing with technology we already have on hand, like multispectral imaging.
by Erin Hammeke, Senior Conservator for Special Collections
We recently treated and housed a collection of 19th century photo albums documenting travels in China by Charles Davis Jameson. Most of the albums had very degraded leather covers that we treated by consolidating with Klucel G, making Mylar wrappers for some, and simply housing in protective enclosures for others. One accordion album posed a particular challenge with its shaped wooden boards and silk covering. The silk cover was shattering and had become completely detached from the front board. We decided to make a wrapper for the loose front cover and house it in an enclosure with the book.
The back cover, however, was still extant but very tenuously attached.
We wanted to find a quick and simple solution to stabilize the rear covering and decided to use a lightweight Nylon netting, toned with acrylic, and wrapped around the silk covering and wooden board to contain and protect it.
The netting was adhered to a Mylar insert, cut to the size of the front cover with 3M ATG transfer tape. A leaf of archival paper that matched the tone and quality of the album paper was adhered with double-stick tape on top, sandwiching the netting between layers of archival material and protecting the facing photograph from abrasion from the netting.
The netting is stretched over the pillow-shaped wooden board and the cut end of the Nylon is left open at the board hinge. We were very happy with this quick and easy solution.
It is a bittersweet day in Conservation. Tedd Anderson has decided to leave the lab and we just won’t be the same. Tedd has been with Conservation for six years. He was hired to help with what we called “The Enabling Project.” This was work we did to help prepare the Rubenstein Library for renovation. It required a lot of boxing. So much boxing.
Once that project was over, Tedd continued to make custom enclosures for Rubenstein. He also treated materials from the general collections, and he helped with preparing special collections materials for digitization. In his time here almost 20,000 items crossed his bench. Many of those things needed custom enclosures. Tedd could make a box for just about anything. Cigarette rolling machine? Sure. Suitcase? Yep. A typewriter? No problem. He even made a pretty awesome eclipse viewer to watch last year’s solar eclipse.
Tedd also contributed to this blog. He wrote about the very large boxes he made for our four-volume Audubon set. He also wrote about designing and making enclosures for the very small books in our miniature collection.
We will miss Tedd’s sense of humor, his dedication to all things boxing, and his artistic doodling during staff meetings. So long Tedd. We wish you well and look forward to hearing about your next big adventure.
Duke University Libraries seeks qualified applicants for the position of Conservation Technician in the Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab. This position is an opportunity to work at a major ARL member library invested in the long-term care of and access to its collections. The successful candidate will demonstrate excellent hand skills, the capacity to learn new skills, customer focus, and creative problem solving. We seek candidates who will thrive in an open, engaging atmosphere that focuses on production as well as continuous learning and sharing of knowledge among staff at all levels.
Major responsibilities include treating materials primarily in the circulating collections; creating custom enclosures for both circulating and special collections; overseeing the workflow of materials from circulation points in the Perkins-Bostock Library and the branch libraries; and training and oversight of student assistants. You can see the full position description and position requirements online.
Duke University Libraries values diversity of thought, perspective, experience, and people, and is actively committed to a culture of inclusion and respect. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. An electronic resume, cover letter, and list of references should be submitted at: https://hr.duke.edu/careers/apply. Refer to requisition # 401385532.
Duke University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer committed to providing employment opportunity without regard to an individual’s age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status. Duke also makes good faith efforts to recruit, hire, and promote qualified women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and veterans. For more information on careers at Duke University, visit https://hr.duke.edu/careers.
HBCU undergraduate students interested in the humanities, arts, and sciences will have the opportunity to learn and practice hands-on library preservation skills during this full-time, eight week internship under the mentorship of professional conservators and library staff at a host site. Successful internship candidates will demonstrate a strong interest in libraries and archives and an attention to detail, as well as interest and academic success in history, the arts, and/or the sciences.
Interns will work on a range of possible projects, including:
surveying the condition of library collection materials;
conservation stabilization and treatment of historical documents, such as humidification and flattening, surface cleaning, and mending tears;
environmental monitoring; and/or
constructing custom storage enclosures for fragile archival materials.
Interns will then use their new expertise to implement a library preservation project designed in collaboration with their mentor and their home institution’s library staff, building on the success of their summer experiences with an opportunity to perform meaningful work preserving significant HBCU library collections at their institution.
The five (5) participating host sites are:
American Philosophical Society Library
The American Philosophical Society Library is a national center for research in the history of the sciences, early American history, and Native American ethnography and linguistics. The Conservation Department provides complete collection care, ranging from preventive care to single-item treatment, for all books, manuscripts, photographs, and works on paper and parchment held by the Library – numbering 350,000 bound volumes , 13 million manuscript pages, and 250,000 images.
Duke University Libraries, Durham, NC
Duke University Libraries (DUL) is committed to diversity in its patron communities, services, collections, staff and spaces. One of its guiding principles is to build, maintain, and provide access to an international and multilingual collection, representing the broadest possible spectrum of cultures, ideas, and information. Significant collections include the University Archives, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the Human Rights Archives, and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture. The core mission of the Conservation Services Department is to ensure that library materials can be used by patrons both now and in the future.
The Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin, TX
The Ransom Center is an internationally renowned humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin. Its extensive collections provide unique insight into the creative process of writers and artists, deepening our understanding and appreciation of literature, photography, film, art, and the performing arts. The Center’s Preservation and Conservation Division provides a full range of preventive and conservation treatment options for the long-term care of its collections.
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Wilmington, DE
Winterthur Library collections promote the interdisciplinary study of American material culture, including art, architecture, decorative arts, and everyday life, dating from colonial times into the twentieth century. Its resources include printed books and serials; trade and auction catalogs; manuscripts, diaries, letter books, and family papers of artists, craftspeople, and merchants; design and architectural drawings; historic photographs; printed ephemera; a large collections of modern photographs; and institutional archives. Winterthur’s Library Conservation Lab is located within a larger Conservation Department with additional specialties in paintings, textiles, objects, furniture, works of art on paper, and scientific research and analytics.
Yale University Library, New Haven, CT
The Gates Conservation Laboratory at the Yale University Library opened in the fall of 2015 and is home to the conservation and exhibitions services program for the Yale Library’s collection of 14 million books, manuscripts, archival documents, photographs and artifacts, held in 16 libraries or collections on campus. The lab is staffed by a team of four conservators, four technicians, and one exhibits program manager, who provide expertise in book, parchment, paper and photograph conservation for both circulating materials and rare, special collections. The collections of the Library, especially those of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, document much of the human record, from Egyptian papyri to early Civil War photographs, and archives of writers, artists, and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance to those of student organizations on the Yale campus.