Tag Archives: renovation

A Conservator’s Nightmare

I grew up in Dayton, Ohio. You don’t grow up in that city without knowing two things: the Wright Brothers invented the airplane there and thus Dayton was “first in flight”  (sorry North Carolina); and the city suffered a devastating flood in March of 1913. The Great Miami River flooded downtown Dayton killing almost 400 people and displacing tens of thousands. You can still see remnants of the high water mark if you look closely at the historic buildings that survived.

1913 Flood Damage at the Library

Damage to the main library in Dayton during the 1913 flood.
Image from Dayton Metro Library Local History Flickr page.

Floods and disasters are never far from a collection conservator’s mind. Just a couple weeks ago the entire American Institute for Conservation’s annual conference was on the topic of disasters. Even our own lab has been flooded during the Rubenstein Library renovation. All this is to say stuff happens, and we always seem to think about it.

Which brings me to my very true story. The other night I had a nightmare that seemed to combine just about every worst-case-scenario event that could happen to a conservator. The scene: the conservation lab. I am in my office and I hear a loud noise above my head. All of a sudden out of the ceiling comes a huge circular saw and it is cutting through my office walls sort of like how Bugs Bunny cut Florida off from the United States.

“No one told me we were under construction,” I said to myself.  At the same time, there is water coming from everywhere as if a live water pipe had been cut. It’s coming up fast and we are scrambling to get things out of the way. While all of this is happening, I am trying to conduct a tour through the lab. I said under my breath, “This is about three times the number of people Development told me would be here,” but I carried on because that is what we do, right?  I was trying to ignore what was happening around me and get the thirty or so people on the tour to focus on the amazing projects that my conservators were working on. Needless to say, it didn’t go very well. The last thing I remember is thinking, “How will I represent this on our statistics.” Then I woke up.

What does it all mean? Have you had conservation nightmares?

It’s Been A Busy Week!

papyrus
Is it just me or does this papyrus look like Bart Simpson?

It has been a very busy week in Conservation. We are neck-deep in helping with the move of the special collections to swing space. The flat files moved this week, which was a very big job indeed. Everyone in the lab has been helping either with the physical move, preparing materials for transport, or providing security as the materials are shifted to swing space.

The last complicated portion of the move project for us is to finish preparing the newspapers in both the special collections stacks as well as the older Perkins stacks. Erin is the project manager for the Rubenstein newspapers and has been working closely with Tedd, our student assistant Kelly Noel, and with Rubenstein staff to get the fragile volumes ready to move. Tedd just surpassed his 3,200th box! Considering how big some of these newspaper boxes are it is a testament to his ability to “get it done!”

The papyri project is moving forward. We have almost finished boxing the “regular sized” items. This week we pulled the oversized papyri. Everyone in the lab has been helping to create new enclosures for this collection. It is hard to believe this project started one year ago this month. We have already received very positive feedback on our housing strategy, and that always feels good.

tape removal
Meg works on tape removal in the fume hood.

Meg has been working on getting the next batch of items ready for exhibit. Her projects involve a lot of tape removal and subsequent stain removal. This is a fairly laborious process. Not only will these materials be more aesthetically pleasing for the exhibit, they will be repaired in a much more sympathetic and stable manner.

Grace has been working on a lot of scrapbooks lately. The one she finished this week had a lot of fold-outs that were mis-folded and damaged. It took a lot of patience to get through it, but it is now ready for its binding to be repaired. She finished several projects last week, so this week she is starting on new ones. One is particularly fabulous, but we will save that for future post.

Jennifer has been working double time pulling materials for Tedd and keeping track of all the work we are doing for the renovation project. As our registrar she keeps our lab log accurate, and for that we are all eternally grateful. We also got a batch of materials in from the Digital Production Center (DPC) that needed attention, so she has been doing a lot of paper repair this week. Erin has also been repairing items and getting them ready for digitization. She has been working closely with Josh Hager, who works on the Content, Context and Capacity project, to repair some manuscripts that were stuck together. They now look great and are ready for imaging.

French serial
Want to read a play in French?

Mary completed this really interesting serial set of circa 1830-40’s French plays. They were in terrible shape when they came in. She rebound them using the Princeton 305 technique, which is fantastic option for tight-joint bindings. Mary also presented two Care and Handling training sessions to student assistants in Circulation. She trained about two dozen students on proper handling methods and what materials they should set aside for Conservation.

Me? I’ve been helping move the flat files, I finished prepping the Gothic Reading Room materials, I’ve worked on all sorts of “management-y” things (emails, paperwork, receipts, etc.). I did some mold removal on one box of J.B. Matthews papers and have four more to go (in this batch…there are dozens to do). Basically I tried to keep the wheels on the conservation bus turning for one more week as my staff gets all this amazing work done. I am very lucky to be surrounded by such talented and dedicated people.

Happy Friday everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1091 Project: Today In The Lab

We have been so busy with renovation projects that we forgot that today was a scheduled 1091 post. Instead of a long, thoughtful expose on a current conservation topic, Melissa and I will share some images of what is happening in our labs today. Think of it as a glimpse behind the scenes.

Parks Library and Preservation Underground will be back next month with another riveting 1091 post. Thanks as always for reading, and be sure to click over to Parks Library Preservation to see what is happening in their lab today.

Clockwise from upper left: large phase boxes drying under bricks, ledger bindings being rehoused, the lab (everyone’s at lunch!), making four-flap boxes, Lilly Current Lit books getting CoLibri covers.

Bonus pic: Look what showed up in my mailbox! A wonderful, home-made pop-up note to thank me for some consultation I did for someone whose cat damaged some of their papers.

Can I use the word “squeeeee!” in a professional post?

 

Enabling Project: The Ledgers (with guest star William Morris)

As part of the Enabling Project we have reached the ledgers section. Our ledgers contain just about any type of western-style binding (sewn, posts, mechanical, etc.)  and binding material (leather, cloth, corduroy) you can imagine. They can be very small, or so big they require two people to carry them.

Erin is the project leader on these (pictured here with some of the ledgers). We are reviewing the condition of each ledger to determine whether it needs an enclosure to keep it safe during the move. Our options for enclosures include a Tyvek envelope, customizing a pre-made box, or making a custom enclosure or wrapper.

One of our favorite collections so far is the Sir Thomas Wardle Papers (fyi, William Morris collaborated with Sir Thomas!). These ledgers contain ink and pigment recipes as well as testing observations. One page in particular caught my attention for its cochineal information. You might recall that cochineal has been in the news lately.

This ledger is number F-6862, “Absorption Spectra of Indian Dyes, 1886, Leek, Staffordshire, England.” The binding was made by William Clemesha, Printer, Stationer, and Account Book Manufacturer.

This ledger is a prime example of what we mean when we say that in addition to the contents, the bindings themselves may contain valuable information. Not only do the binder’s tickets tell us something (who made it, where and when), but the way these are put together and the materials the binder used also tells us something about the manufacturing norms of the stationer, textile, leather and paper industries at a particular time and place.

I could go on and on about the treasures we are finding in our ledgers!  There are more images on Flickr, please take a look. You might also be interested in the Rubenstein Library’s images  and their blog posts about the renovation project. We are engaged on all fronts in preparing our collections for the upcoming move.

 

 

Enabling Project: Starting the E’s (aka the bound monographs)

Rubenstein Renovation Prep The first Enabling Project underway is to review the bound monographs that are housed across five floors of stacks to determine if they are in good enough condition to move without causing damage.

Our student assistants are reviewing each book to find broken or loose sewing, loose or detached boards or spines, detached pages, etc. If it has any of these things they put in an envelope or set it aside if it needs a custom enclosure because it is too heavy or big to fit in an envelope.

Jennifer, the project manager for this section, then goes through each section after the students have finished and looks for any missed items. She is moving the books that need boxing to a holding area so we can bring them down in manageable batches. Jennifer is also our registrar and supply manager, so she is pulling double duty these days as the enabling project is bringing so much work into the lab (thanks Jennifer!!).

Rubenstein Renovation PrepWe chose Tyvek envelopes because they are inexpensive, flexible, and can be easily sealed. Each envelope will have the item’s bar code and a label that says “return to conservation after use.” It will then be sealed so that the contents (and any loose parts) stay safe for the move.

We commonly use envelopes for items that need a minimum amount of protection or for items that have loose or missing parts that need to be kept together until we can repair them. When a book in an envelope is called for by a patron, the envelope is opened and the item sent to conservation after the patron is done with it. At that point we will review it for repair or a new enclosure.

See our web sites for more on Mr. Rubenstein’s gift to the library, current renovation news, and more images on Flickr.

We Call It “Enabling”

Conservation Services StaffWe are embarking on a new phase of renovation that will focus on the David. M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. This work will bring new environmental controls, beautiful study and event spaces, and expanded exhibit areas to create a space worthy of a world-class library. It’s very exciting but there is a lot of work to do before construction can begin.

First we must move the entire special collections library (collections and people) to make way for construction. It is no small feat to move a library and it involves not only Rubenstein staff but many people from across the library including Conservation Services. The project to prepare and move the collections is called the “Enabling Project.” Over the next year we thought we would share a little bit about what we are doing as Enablers.

Last fall conservation staff conducted several surveys of key stack areas that helped determine the human and budgetary resources needed to prepare the physical collections for the move. We have developed a timeline for major projects, assigned conservation staff members as project managers, and hired four students and one new technician to help with the work (more on our new technician soon). I’m keeping a list of “known knowns” as items are found in the stacks that will need our help before they move. I also have a list of “known and unknown unknowns” because the stacks are sometimes a mysterious place and things are lurking in corners that we know we will have to deal with at some point.

There is much more happening behind the scenes that won’t make it to the blog. Conservation staff is working very closely with Rubenstein staff to help ensure our collections are safely moved to swing space, and eventually moved back into the new space. I’d like to express a very hearty thank you to all the staff, students and volunteers in Conservation for their hard work. This will be an extraordinary year for us as we juggle the Enabling Project on top of our normal repair workflows. Our flexibility and patience will surely be tested over the next several months, but I know we have a strong team and we will get the job done. I am so proud of each and every one of you!