We have two incunabula in the lab that illustrate the effects of unsympathetic rebinding, a practice that has played an unfortunate role in the history of repair and maintenance of bookbindings. Both of these texts were printed in the early days of printing, in the year 1501.
(Above) Grãmatica Nocolai Perotti… was printed in Cologne and still sports an early wooden board binding with blind tooled, tawed-skin covering and brass clasp. This binding may have been its original binding or was likely made not too long after the text’s printing. The insides of the wooden boards display manuscript waste fragments and an untrimmed text. Despite a large loss to a portion of the textblock, the binding remains functional and protected by an enclosure and careful handling.
(Above) Baptistae Mantuani poetae oratorisq[ue]… printed in Strasbourg in the same year, faced a very different fate and was rebound in the 20th century in a buckram-covered case binding with modern endpapers. The pages appear to have been pressed very flat, removing all type impression; the textblock has been oversewn; and the pages have been trimmed so much that marginalia has been cut.
Examples like these remind us of the value of the original and what information may be lost when we make things “new and improved.”
The Rubenstein Library recently acquired another large Torah scroll. Measuring 40″ in length, these scrolls can be quite heavy and difficult to move safely. The support on which the scroll arrived was minimal and inventive.
The scroll was wrapped in layers of cotton muslin, with cotton twill tape laced through honeycomb board to secure it. Honeycomb board is light enough for two people to easily lift, but rigid enough that it doesn’t bow or cause the scroll to shift. At the time of acquisition, we discussed keeping this support. After considering the necessary handling and pathway through the building to serve the scroll in the reading room, however, it was decided that a full enclosure would offer more protection.
Longtime readers may remember when Beth boxed a similar scroll a few years ago, and more recently you might have seen Tedd’s series on Extreme Enclosures. Each of these large enclosures employs double layers of corrugated board, covered in buckram, to cut down on weight while remaining durable enough for long term handling. Beth’s Torah enclosure is nearing its seventh birthday, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to see how it has aged. Can the double-wall corrugated board really stand up to the abuse of regular handling and re-shelving?
It turns out the box (pictured above without its telescoping lid) is still in very good shape. Despite many trips to the reading room and all the activity of the Rubenstein Renovation, the enclosure shows no wear or distortion from the weight of the contents. Research Services staff report that the lighter weight makes re-shelving (with two people) quite easy and the drop-wall design allows for convenient removal of the heavy scroll from the box.
Considering the success of the first box, I decided to adopt the popular idiom of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and duplicated the design for the recently acquired Torah.
Library conservators are often called upon to creatively engineer solutions to unique preservation problems. With ever growing and diversifying collections, it sometimes feels like all our attention is pulled toward the next object coming through the door. It’s nice to have the opportunity to go back and critically review some of those solutions, but nicer still to see that, years later, they are still working as they should.
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 I traveled over to the Nasher Museum of Art to install an item from the Rubenstein Library for the upcoming Portrait of Venice exhibit. A hand-colored map of Venice from Georg Braun‘s 1572 edition of Civitates Orbis Terrarum (below) will be on display alongside the mural-sized woodblock print by Jacopo de’ Barbari.
The Nasher exhibit runs from September 7th until the end of this year. If you did not have a chance to see the Barbari print during the Glory of Venice show at NCMA, this is another good opportunity. The sheer size and detail of the piece is just incredible. The exhibit will also feature interactive multi-media displays produced through multi-disciplinary and collaborative research at the Wired! Lab at Duke.
We couldn’t let this moment go by without participating. We put all our conservation skills to work making DIY viewers at the last minute.
The best part was being surrounded by people gathering in peace in the name of science, and watching an amazing celestial event. Everyone was sharing viewers and glasses, talking with strangers, having fun, learning things, sharing a moment. A brief glimpse of the best of humanity.
It’s the end of the fiscal year and time to write reports. We had a very productive year. The only metric we track that didn’t increase this year was mold removal. It’s difficult to be sad about that.
1,625 book repairs (up 90% due to a very large acquisition project)
1,735 pamphlets bound (up 40%)
11,007 flat paper repairs (up 390% due to a very large digitization project)
7,018 protective enclosures (up 23%)
1,333 disaster recovery (down 56%)
22 exhibit mounts created (up 47%)
135 hours of time in support of exhibits (includes meetings, treatment, installation, etc.)
339.25 hours in support of digital projects (includes meetings, treatment, evaluation, etc.)
66% of total work was for Special Collections
34% of total work was for Circulating Collections
82% of work was Level 1 [less than 15 minutes to complete]*
17% of work was Level 2 [15 minutes – 2 hours to complete]
1% of work was Level 3 [more than 2 hours to complete]
Looking at a graph of the past few years of production you can see the impact that digital projects have had on our work (mostly working on archival collections, aka “flat paper repairs”). This trend is likely to continue.
*This number is skewed from past years due some very large projects that needed a lot of minor repairs.
Not Everything Is A Statistic
We gave tours to 121 people last year.
We created a new Sewn-Board Workflow for fine-press bindings in our circulating collections.
We had a wonderful pre-program volunteer who worked with us for almost a year to learn more about library conservation and treatment.
We worked with library colleagues to set up the new multi-spectral imaging equipment; and worked with campus resources to CT-scan some objects in the History of Medicine Collection.
We hosted a “preservation of digitally printed materials” workshop taught by Daniel Burge, Senior Research Scientist at IPI.
Conservation is often asked to take archival documents out of frames. This process can be tricky due to the myriad ways framers put things together. It can be a bit like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates…you never know what you are going to get. As you take the frame apart layer by layer, you hope that nothing is stuck to the glass or adhered to acidic cardboard. A lot of times you don’t get that lucky. The thing is, you never know until the very end…
As I am pulling rusty fasteners from these frames I am reminded that everyone working in the lab really should have their tetanus shot up to date. In addition, you really shouldn’t work with rusty nails and framer’s points without protecting your hands. Don’t be like me.* I’ve asked Rachel to put cut-resistant Kevlar (R) gloves on our next supply order.
*Yes, I have a broken finger. Even so, conservation work must go on.
When I shared an image of a tape-laden document last month, I was still in the process of treatment. That treatment wrapped up a few weeks ago and here are the final results:
While the results are not that aesthetically pleasing, the document is now stable. All the oxidized tape is off and the staining has been significantly reduced. I knew there were several significant losses going in, but I did not realize just how much of the center fold was gone until all of the tape was removed. Rather than attempting to infill the areas of loss with shaped pieces of toned Japanese paper, the entire sheet was encapsulated in clear polyester. This reduced the overall treatment time, while still allowing the item to be used and handled safely.