Tag Archives: Conservation

Papyrus Project

Today I started a pilot project to re-house the papyrus collection. My goal is to create enclosures that can house these fragments efficiently and safely whilst providing better access to the collection. Of course, they also have to be cost-effective.

Our papyri were digitized a while ago as part of the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS) project. At the time each fragment was carefully placed between two glass plates that were then taped together. My research indicates that this is still an accepted method of storing papyri and as long as the fragments and glass are in good condition, I’m not keen on replacing the glass.
I am keen on giving each package a better enclosure. I want to make a sink mat for each item that will securely hold the glass/papyrus package in place, and allow us to house several in one box without them rubbing against each other. This should also allow individual fragments to be served to patrons in the reading room in a safe manner. Better Enclosures + Better Access = Preservation. Wish me luck!

Here’s Your Mule

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.

Ethiopic Manuscript Digitization Project

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.”

Celebrating 10 Years of Preservation: 10 years, 10 People

This year marks the Preservation Department’s tenth year serving the Duke University Libraries. We are planning several events to mark the occasion which will include exhibits, an open house, and interviews with staff members.

We will start our staff interviews with our longest-serving team member Winston Atkins, Preservation Officer for the libraries. Winston came to Duke from NC State a decade ago and was tasked with starting the Preservation Department. You can also find this and other videos at our Duke University Libraries You Tube channel.

We would love to hear from you if you have favorite Preservation, Conservation or DPC story to share, or would just like to give us a shout out and let us know how we are doing. Contact me and I’ll compile them for a blog post later.

The Elves Have Left the Tugboat (or Thoughts on Binding Music)


Conservation does a lot of pamphlet binding for the Music Library. You would think that music scores would be fairly easy to work with, but then you would be wrong.

Scores come in a variety of sizes from miniature to over two feet tall. They often come with CD’s or multiple parts that need to go into a pocket. They can be folios printed on two sides that have been folded down the middle and stapled, or they may be printed as single-sided sheets that need to be put together in some way so the sheets don’t get separated. Scores can be adhesive bound, stapled through the fold, spiral bound or comb bound. Sometimes they are paginated, often they are not. Then there are the random arrangements wherein the musician decides on what order to play the piece.

There is nothing straight forward about getting music scores ready for the shelf. Reading music helps, and paying attention to the frontice material is a must.

Last year 30% of the pamphlets we bound came from our Music Library. Every now and then we get a title that we all fall in love with. If you have ever played Dead Elf Tugboat, we would love to hear from you!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Have you missed me? I’ve been out sick this past week and haven’t been able to post. Maybe I need more Beef Wine in my diet. While I catch up on what’s been happening around here, I thought I would give you a little luck charm for St. Patrick’s Day in case you aren’t wearing any green. We found this four leaf clover in Lloyd’s War Losses: WWII. Fun, and a bit ironic. You can see more of what we find in books on our Flickr page.

What Good Is A Box?

A brittle book from the general collections came in today whose binding is holding on only by its spine lining. The paper and sewing are brittle and several pages are loose. It failed even a single fold of a (very very tiny) double-fold test, so it is too brittle to repair. No problem, we’ll make a box and give the librarian the option of having a digital or paper surrogate made.

What caught my eye, however, was the note she wrote saying “Please repair spine, don’t put in a box since that won’t help.” Until we decide to make a surrogate, boxing actually does help:

  • It keeps a fragile book with loose pieces contained in one place
  • It provides protection from wear and tear
  • It reduces light exposure
  • It alerts a reader that this is a fragile book
  • It keeps a brittle book in the stacks and available for the next use (this book can still be used, as long as the patron is very careful…we trust that they will be)

We try to repair everything that comes to us but sometimes we just can’t and we need to do something else. Creating a protective enclosure is one of those things we can do to keep a brittle book in the collections.

‘From Caricature to Comic Strip’

On Monday we helped install the new exhibit in the Perkins Gallery. “Abusing Power” is curated by Neil McWilliam, Walter H. Annenberg Professor in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, and several of his students in his course “From Caricature to Comic Strip.” It coincides with another exhibit now at the Nasher Museum called “Lines of Attack: Conflicts in Caricature,” on display until May 16, 2010.

We love working with Meg Brown, Exhibits Curator for Perkins Library. Conservation creates many of the book supports you see in the exhibit space. We also help install the exhibits, being sure the items are well supported and in good condition for viewing. It’s great to work collaboratively in this way, and so much fun to see the new exhibit take shape. I especially enjoy seeing all of the students, faculty and staff stop to see what is happening in the space and what’s coming next. Frankly, I just love getting out of the basement and into the thick of things for a change.

I invite you to come by and see the wonderful display of 19th Century materials and learn a little about the evolution of caricatures as an art form. Be sure to check out Devil’s Tale for more on this exhibit. The online images from the exhibit were made in the Digital Production Center.