The Content, Context and Capacity Project (CCC) was a multi-year collaborative digitization project of archival collections that documented the civil rights movement in North Carolina and the triangle. Josh Hager of Duke University Libraries’ Digital Production Center scanned several collections and approximately 66,000 individual items to contribute to this important project.
Some materials required minor repair before digitization, but since they are relatively modern, most of the materials were in stable condition and could be safely handled for scanning. There were some instances when items weren’t fragile, but because of format issues they needed attention before they could be imaged. These items included documents with attachments or bindings with restricted openings.
The Basil Lee Whitener Papers, 1889-1968 contains several government issued documents that were side stapled to form quick bindings. These bindings didn’t open freely and some had text positioned so far into the gutter that they could not be scanned as they were. In some cases the staples were rusting and damaging the paper as well. With input from curatorial staff, we decided to alter the bindings in order to better capture the content and to ensure their long term preservation.
This process involved Conservation staff removing the heavy duty metal staples — sometimes with a microspatula, and sometimes with every tool we could get our hands on — from wire clippers to vise grips. We then replaced the metal staple with a loop of linen thread that was tied very loosely to allow for unrestricted opening during scanning. After scanning, we cinched and tightened the loop of thread to form a linen “staple.”
After treatment: Metal staples replaced with thread.
Recently Alex from the Digital Production Center came by to ask if I could fix a cassette tape. The tape broke while they were digitizing it, and they just needed it to hold together long enough to record Side B. I know a lot about the chemical and physical make-up of magnetic tapes, but I have never had to actually fix one before.
Librarian skills activate! I searched the professional literature and the internet to no avail. There are a lot of DIY articles on the web, but we try to hold ourselves to a higher standard in our lab whenever possible. I finally called a friend who actually does this for a living.
Hannah Frost, Manager of the Stanford University Media Preservation Lab, walked me through how to repair the tape and assured me that I had the skills necessary to do it correctly. In the end the repair took less than ten minutes, and now I know how to do this the next time it happens.
The thing about working in a library is that we collect everything from the usual stuff like paper and skins but we also have poison arrows, glass plate negatives, hair, textiles, paintings, glass eyeballs and magnetic media. I can’t tell you how important it is for a library conservator to create a large network of friends and colleagues who specialize in areas that are not your own. Sooner or later you will find yourself working on something completely different and unknown, and you need to know who to call. Thanks Hannah, I owe you a drink at the next AIC conference.
Pop quiz: What is the best method of removing a book from the shelf?
This week we are presenting our annual week-long Care and Handling/Identifying Common Damage demonstrations. Each year we present our show of horrors to help new library staff and student assistants learn to identify damaged books. We also provide quick tips and helpful hints that can minimize potential damage when items are handled during our day-to-day work.
What we hope comes across is that everyone has a role to play in getting our materials to the shelf safely. We appreciate everyone’s help in keeping our collections around for a very long time.
If you work in the library, stop in to see a demonstration. Our sessions for the rest of the week are as follows (sessions are held in the conservation lab-Perkins 023-unless otherwise indicated):
10/19, 4pm, 6pm
10/20, 11:30am, 3pm (at Lily Library)
10/21, 10am (at Smith Warehouse), 1pm
10/22, 9:30am, 2pm
The answer: push the books on either side of the one you want inwards, and grasp the covers. If you pull on the top of the book to remove it, the spine is likely to tear.
“Join The Preservation Underground.” Our great friend Amy (keeper of all things Devil’s Tale) named Preservation Underground and has been a great wealth of help and support. Thanks Amy, keep up the great work!
As you may know, the traditional one-year anniversary gift is paper. As our one-year gift we give Devil’s Tale this historic image of us working on a broadside (paper!) from the RBMSCL library collection. This happens to also be from our first post.
May you have another interesting year ahead of you and congratulations on your achievements Devil’s Tale!
Artwork from several institutions will be on display including some from the Manchester City Galleries. I got to meet and work with Sarah Rainbow, Collection Care Officer, who was there to oversee the installation of their artwork and that of the Victoria and Albert Museum. We conservators love to talk shop, and I really enjoyed talking with Sarah about her job. Of course, working with everyone at the Nasher is always fun, and this is going to be a really wonderful exhibit. I encourage you all to see it when it opens.
I had a few minutes after I was finished to see the current exhibits on display. “The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl” is a must-see (through February 6th, 2011). There is a combination of artwork that uses actual vinyl as part of the artwork, or uses the form of the discs or sleeves as inspiration. Some of the sculpture was fun, and there is mixed media, paintings, and video installations.
What most piqued my interest was the wall of records that you could choose and play yourself. What a great way to bring interactivity to your exhibit. I wonder if we could do something similar with our exhibits. Has anyone experimented with including interactivity with library exhibits in this way, beyond the guest/comment book? Let us know, we would love to hear about it.
Today Alex and I worked together to image some pages from this Syriac Manuscript. According to a hand-written note in the box, it is from the Gospel of Mark, dated to the 10th Century.
Clearly it’s seen better days, but it is remarkable nonetheless. It looks to be to have survived a fire, at least the middle of the text block survived. The front third or so was burned off, leaving stubs that are still attached to the binding, but the spine has curled in on itself. The remaining vellum pages range from really brittle to fairly OK, if a little warped.
It’s Manuscript Day in the lab, similar to Boxing Day, wherein we all work on flat paper repair. Today we are continuing the Broadside Project, getting these items ready for their close up in the Digital Production Center. North Carolina is this month’s project, and this little gem caught my eye. It’s from the New Bern (NC) Republican Banner, dated April 1884.
Mary has been repairing the tears and losses on this broadside with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. After the tissue is applied, a blotter is placed on top with a weight until dry. When the digitization is complete, these will come back to Conservation for rehousing.
As you may know we have been working with the Digital Production Center to digitize the scrolls in the Ethiopic Manuscript collection. I’ve posted some images from that project, not the high-resolution ones the DPC is creating, but some snaps I made during the imaging of items that I found particularly interesting. You can find them in our Flickr Ethiopic Manuscript Project album.
The date ranges are fairly recent but you can see traditional vellum joins and repairs in the scrolls. I always find it interesting how people utilized defects in the skins to their advantage. I also find the graphic depictions to be wonderfully modern and very geographic, and the colors are amazing. You never know what you will find when you start digging through collections. One wooden icon (not the one shown here) has been previously repaired with dental floss. File that under “use what you have on hand.”
We are participating in an ALCTS e-forum today called “Using Web 2.0 Tools to Enhance Technical Services Work.” The question is “how can you solve problems within technical services using Web 2.0 tools?”. Anyone have good ideas to share? I’m listing some of the more interesting ones on our Face Book page.
You can sign up for future ALCTS e-forums at this link, you do not need to be an ALCTS member to participate. The forums discussion is via email.