What would you do with it?

Removing prior repairs is one of those topics that elicits a lot of opinions from conservators (get four conservators around a table and you will have six opinions on the matter).

As often is the case, my answer to removing a prior repair is usually “it depends.” Is the repair damaging the item or simply aesthetically a mess? How damaging would the removal be and how much more damage are you willing to incur to remove it? What is the value and use of the item and how do these weigh with the physical risk to the item that the repair or its removal pose?

Do you hate it because it is just ugly? is that enough reason to remove it? If it is functioning but ugly, can you live with it?

I found this item in our stacks today. We must remember that not all items in our special collections started out as “special,” many started in the general collections and old-style repairs were not always aesthetically pleasing or reversable (things we strive for now). I suspect this may be the case for this particular item.

What I hate about this repair is that the black book tape is downright ugly. What I love about it is that the person who did it cared enough to write in the part of the title that was covered by the book tape. This is one we probably wouldn’t remove unless we had a better reason than “it’s ugly.” But then again…

Thanks to Noah Huffman for the image as I was caught without my camera in the stacks.

Instruments of Torture (Our New Exhibit is Up!)

By Grace White

“Tools of Conservation” showcases some of the tools we use in book and paper conservation.  Small items such as scalpels, brushes and bone folders are displayed, as well as materials like Japanese paper and sewing threads.  It would have been impossible to fit a full size press in the display case, so a miniature version is presented alongside some tiny creations (since I love miniatures).  A digital display lets viewers see the tools in use.

Reviews so far have been positive, including “They look like medieval torture instruments!”

The exhibit is open during regular Perkins/Bostock hours. We are located on the Lower Level (same level as the Link), by Perkins Room 023.  Come and have a look!

No Smoking In The Library (Plus a Lesson Learned)

A couple of weeks ago we got a box from Technical Services labeled “tobacco samples.” Obviously, these needed something more than Zip Loc bags before going to the shelf.

Still riding the success of boxing the Blue Devil, I got out the CoLibri pockets and enclosed each sample in a pouch. Then I made a blue-corrugated tray with multiple compartments to contain the various packages of tobacco.

The result: the tobacco is contained but accessible for viewing without all of the loose tobacco getting everywhere. The CoLibri pouches can be easily removed if we want to exhibit these items in the future, which was a concern for the archivists. Overall, I think this was another successful non-traditional use of CoLibri.

The Lesson Learned: I made this great container, with even more little dividers than the one in the image in order to keep all the tobacco safe from rolling around.

I was so proud of my solution and showed the box to everyone in the lab. They all smiled and praised their boss for actually making something. Then I tried to put the lid on the box….and I made the tray to fit the lid of the box rather than the base of the box. DOH! Humble pie, meet fork.

50,000 And Climbing

It’s the end of the fiscal year and you know what that means…it’s statistics season! I’ve just finished compiling our FY2010-2011 stats and will now be subjecting them to feats of interpretation and contemplation.

Did you know:

  • Since FY2003 we have repaired and bound over 50,000 books and pamphlets; we have also made over 51,000 custom enclosures.
  • Last year we made 8,538 enclosures thanks in large part to the broadside project and the History of Medicine project.
  • In FY2011, 57.7% of our work came from the Perkins Library system and 42.3% from Special Collections and Archives.
  • About 78% of our output for the general collections last year was “shelf preparation” work  including pamphlet binding, CoLibri covers, and pockets for books with CD’s.
  • 90% of our output for special collections last year fits into the category of protective enclosures [see bullet #2 above].

I could go on and on, I love statistics as my staff will attest. What do these numbers mean? Several things which will become more apparent as I delve deeper into the meaning behind these numbers. One thing our data does say, our small staff is cranking out the work!

Image from the Emergence of Advertising In America 1850-1920 digital collection.

New Preservation Development Grant Announced

Big news! A new ALA ALCTS PARS award has been approved in honor of Jan Merrill-Oldham and her undying support for young professionals. You can read more about it over at PCAN, and eventually the details will be on the ALCTS PARS awards page.

For over 30 years, Merrill-Oldham has been a recognized leader in the field of library and archives preservation. She has served on key committees within ALA, the Association of Research Libraries, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the National Information Standards Organization and many others.

She has educated and mentored countless preservation librarians and conservators and her support for students and dedication to the field serves as a model to all of us. This award recognizes Merrill-Oldham’s wide ranging contributions, deep commitment to the field, and her undying support of young professionals by supporting participation in an ALA conference. In September of 2010, Merrill-Oldham announced her retirement after a long and notable career.

Each year, the Jan Merrill-Oldham Professional Development Grant will consist of $1,250 to support travel to the ALA Annual Conference for a librarian, para-professional or student new to the preservation field.  The intention is to provide the opportunity to attend an ALA conference and encourage professional development through active participation at the national level.

The recipient will have the chance to work with a member of the jury to identify relevant programs and interest group sessions to attend, must attend the Preservation Administration Interest Group meeting, and must attend at least one PARS discussion group meeting.

A standing ovation to Jan for her tireless efforts at helping to broaden and grow the field of Library Preservation and Conservation. She has encouraged and mentored so many people, including myself, and we are all better professionals for it. We love you Jan!

What We Find In Books: Fabulous Trompe L’oeil Dog Ears

Written by Erin Hammeke, Conservator for Special Collections.

This two volume set came through the lab recently for rehousing, and we were little prepared for what we found inside. The set is a from a small collection called the Jantz Early Manuscript Collection and little is known about it.

Both volumes are handwritten and illustrated and bound in wooden boards with blind-tooled leather covering. They appear to date from the 18th or 19th century. The texts seem to cover a variety of subjects from emblems to architecture and music to optics.

They contain a variety of different examples of decorated Dutch gilt paper bound in throughout the text. There are numerous hand-painted illustrations and the neatest ones involve cutouts that expose parts of the subsequent page. There is even a trompe l’oeil dog-eared page!

We look forward to learning more about this fascinating set.

Welcome to the Conservation Department: Grace White

We have a new Special Collections Conservator on our staff! Grace White has joined our team.We are especially pleased to have her skills as a paper conservator added to our staff.

We look forward to giving her many challenges from our collections that just scream out for an expert in flat paper conservation (can you say “tons of adhesive tape on giant maps”?).

When asked about her favorite conservation project so far, Grace replied:

One of my favorite conservation projects was spending the winter in Alaska in 2009, traveling among museums that did not have their own conservation departments, in a project partially funded by AIC and the Rasmuson Foundation of Alaska.

I visited beautiful Fairbanks, where I worked at the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks; remote Eagle, a tiny town of less than 100 people during winter, accessible only by plane but full of history and an impressive archive; and Barrow, the northernmost city in mainland North America and home to the Inupiat people as well as polar bears, snowy owls and arctic foxes.

I walked on the frozen ocean, saw the northern lights, ate reindeer, learned to snowshoe, and watched a dog sled race, as well as treated many paper and vellum artifacts and taught museum staff, students and the public about conservation.  The work was a challenge, so far away from the conservation supplies and equipment I’m used to having, but I loved the experience!

Grace holds a BA in English with a minor in Art from Covenant College. She earned an MA in Conservation of Fine Art, Works on Paper from Northumbria University (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK). Upon graduation in 2002 she went to work for Etherington Conservation Services in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Welcome to our team, Grace!

Duke University Libraries Preservation