Tag Archives: Conservation

Last Minute Gift Ideas

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The holiday season is upon us, and is our tradition we offer up some last minute gifts for that hard-to-buy-for conservator or preservation enthusiast on your list. This year it’s all about fiction and movies sine we read enough technical literature for our jobs. All work and no play…

Homicide in Hardcover: A Bibliophile Mystery by Kate Carlisle. The description reads, “The streets of San Francisco would be lined with hardcovers if rare book expert Brooklyn Wainwright had her way. And her mentor wouldn’t be lying in a pool of his own blood on the eve of a celebration for his latest book restoration.” Intriguing, no?

The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga. Written in 1995, the book follows a young conservator on her journey to Florence to help with the recovery of books affected by the floods of 1966 (a seminal year in the history of library conservation theory and practice). Along the way our heroine discovers more than just a rare volume of erotica.

The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva. Part of the Gabriel Allon series, the main character is an Israeli intelligence operative who also happens to be a paintings conservator. Don’t you think some of your colleagues may be secret undercover agents with mad spy skills?

National Treasure. What better way to represent conservators than one that is willing to squirt lemon juice on the U.S. Constitution in the name of discovering long lost treasure? And Nicholas Cage is just fun to watch, in my opinion.

Ghostbusters II. Admittedly not as good as the original but still a fun movie filled with ectoplasm and all around hijinks. Siguorney Weaver’s character, Dana Barrett, is a paintings conservator.

Holly Hunter also plays a paintings conservator in Home for the Holidays. Why do paintings conservators get all the character lines? Anyway, a light and funny film especially good for those of you traveling to meet family this year.

For more finds be sure to visit Conservation Online’s listing of books, movies and more, all with a conservation theme or character. If you have any to add, leave us a note.

DIY Book Repair

It’s an urge, an itch you can’t scratch. You see a broken book and you instinctively reach for the tape. You want to fix it, make it whole. We know how you feel, we feel the same way. But tape is not the way forward my friends…not for your valuable materials, the ones you want to pass down someday to your kids.

We see a lot of DIY book repairs. I think the people who try to fix our broken books at home are trying to do what they feel is right. The problem is that self adhesive tapes are too strong for brittle paper, it pulls pages out of bindings and often takes several pages at a time. Tape is very difficult or impossible to remove completely unless you use solvents, and it often can’t be removed without damaging the paper surface.

If you have something valuable and it is in need of repair don’t reach for the tape, reach out to a conservator. You can find one through the American Institute for Conservation. On their site they have information on finding and selecting a conservator as well as tips for preserving your treasures.

By the way, the image above shows an older DIY repair done with masking tape. I took a picture because the person carefully colored the tape so it would be less noticeable. I’m not sure it completely worked, but I give him/her credit for trying to make it a less obvious repair.

Going Old Skool

Remember Letraset It was a staple for me as a young art student back in the day. I found this in a book that came to the lab today. Smurfs and Letraset, totally old skool.

The book itself is a mess of problems. Besides Soccer Smurf here, the paper is very brittle, the binding is hanging on by a thread, and someone tried a DIY book repair (or three) with brown packing tape to keep pages together. Needless to say this is also on hold for a patron.

Proof of Life

Have you ever been in the front of class or demonstrating something and thought to yourself “am I getting through to them?” A couple of weeks ago we held our annual week-long care and handling training to show staff and student assistants what sort of material to send to conservation.

We got two proofs of life through campus mail this week…pieces of broken books disembodied from their texts. This one was a piece of an old acidic pamphlet binder that broke off, the other was a detached spine.
It’s nice to know that our pleas for broken books sank in. Thanks for listening and participating! And please send the actual items, too.

10 Years, 10 People: Beth Doyle

Your humble author rounds out the last of the Ten Years, Ten People series. I am the Head of Conservation Services and have been at Duke for eight years. I work with some amazing people and some equally amazing collections. The best part of my job right now is bringing you into the Underground to show you, dear reader, what it is that we do below decks. I hope you have found our sites informative and fun to visit.

In this video I share a personal story of unexpectedly finding an image of one of my ancestors in our collections in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collection Library.

Paper Crumbs

We just finished our fall semester Care and Handling sessions wherein we give out tips on safely handling library materials. We also display our “show of horrors” which covers amongst other things torn pages, food spills, damaged spines, and of course brittle paper.

These sessions are valuable to us because we get to talk to the staff and students who are our partners in keeping our materials in good condition and ready for the next reader. A great many items that come to the lab do so because they have circulated. If damaged, an alert staff member recognizes that it should go to Conservation and sets it aside for us. We could not be successful in our efforts to keep materials circulating without their help.
We also hold these sessions to get feedback on our services and how we can help create effective and efficient workflows. Over the years we have heard some comments about how much boxing we do and the perception that we prefer to box things rather than fix them. This is why we put brittle materials into our show of horrors. At some point, paper becomes too brittle to do anything for it. It cannot be sewn or glued, sometimes it can barely even be handled without self destructing.
We make every effort to repair the books and manuscripts in our care but sometimes we simply don’t have any durable repair options due to their fragility. This is why we make thousands of protective enclosures every year, a good portion of these are for brittle items. Protective enclosures keep pieces together while we make reformatting or replacement decisions, it protects the already fragile book from further damage while checked out or while on the shelf, and it alerts people to handle these books just a little more gently.
A box can sometimes be a hindrance to use. But it is our job to balance the needs of the reader with the needs and preservation of the object. This balancing act is not always an easy thing to do, but hopefully our patrons understand that it is a far better thing to have access to a brittle book than having no access to that book at all.

Care and Handling Training

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.

It’s Better Than Christmas!

I love the new fiscal year, it’s like Christmas in July or September. We got our yearly order of pamphlet binders this week. What do two tons of binders look like? Like a big ol’ pile of presents waiting to be unwrapped.

My fabulous student Anne unpacked and inventoried these in about two hours. Our shelves are fully stocked with brand new, shiny binders which means we can now get back to the business of preparing pamphlets for the shelf. Yippeee!

Yes, I’m irrationally exuberant about supplies. I’m the same way with paste recipes and statistics, just ask anyone in the lab.

Saving Serials

The Head of Acquisitions brought these over after they discovered the books were damaged during shipping. According to her, these would be very difficult to replace so she wanted us to save them if we could. As you can see, these got pretty squished, and the black smudge indicates maybe they got caught in some mechanical thing. They were very bent and had a lot of little page tears.

I put them in the press for a very long time, giving the pages the opportunity to flatten out and stay that way. Then, as any good manager will do, I delegated the treatment to Mary, my talented Senior Conservation Technician.

It took a lot of work and patience, but she fixed all the tears in the text blocks. She also saved the decorative covers and overlaid them onto new boards. If you look closely you can tell something happened to them, but they look so much better than they did when they came in.