Today, Thanksgiving Day 2010, Preservation Underground turns one year old. It’s been quite a year, the department turned 10 years old and we celebrated with an exhibit and interviews with the staff (search “Tenth Anniversary Celebrations” and “Ten Years, Ten People” on our blog to find those). We’ve shared some fun projects like Boxing the Devil, scanning the Ehiopic scrolls, summer workshop adventures, and stuff we’ve found in books.
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.
In our ongoing series celebrating our ten year anniversary, we bring you the next installment of TYTP. Meg Brown is one of our Special Collections Conservators, she is also the library’s Exhibits Coordinator. In fact, today we will be installing the new exhibit, “Books + Art”, in the Perkins Gallery, just outside the the Perk. Be sure to stop by the library to see the new exhibit, and be sure to catch Meg’s favorite preservation story in her video interview.
Our next video in the 10 years, 10 People series is of Mary Yordy, Senior Conservation Technician. Mary celebrated 20 years working at Duke this year. We’ve been lucky to have her working in Conservation the past ten or so. More videos in this series can be found on Duke Libraries on You Tube.
Rachel Ingold, Senior Conservation Technician, shares her favorite conservation lab story. More videos from this series can be found on the Duke University Libraries You Tube channel.
As part of our ten-year celebration we are highlighting everyone in the department. Erin Hammeke, Conservator for Special Collections has been with us for three years. Along with other conservators and staff from Special Collections, she selects items for conservation, designs treatment strategies and carries out those repairs. She works primarily on books from the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. She documents each treatment using both photographic and written reports which we keep on file for future reference.
When asked about a favorite project, Erin replies:
“Currently I am working on a volume of De Bry’s account of the New World, and this has been an extremely fun and challenging treatment that has involved paper repair, resewing the text, and rebinding in full calf leather. I am also wrapping up treatment of the Blaeu Atlases, six large Dutch atlases that were printed in the mid-1600s and hand painted with an inspired and vibrant color palette.
Over the past three years that I have spent at Duke, my main focus has been on the conservation of the Jantz Collection of German Baroque materials and German Americana. I love working with this collection because it seems to have everything – both in terms of content (there are materials that pertain to history, travel, the occult, women’s writings, and more) and in terms of different binding styles and materials. For the most part, I am drawn to the more mundane items and the stories they tell about how they were made, why they were collected, by whom, and how they were used and cared for. I have found the Jantz Collection to be particularly rich with these stories.”
*Top illustrations from: Willem Janszoon Blaeu, “Toonneel des aerdriicx, ofte nievwe atlas, dat is Beschryving van alle landen; nu nieulycx uytgegeven.” (E ff#91 dl.5 – 1654.) Lower illustration: books from the Jantz Collection of German Baroque materials.
Yesterday we installed our exhibit “Ten Years, Ten Treatments.” As part of our year-long celebration of our tenth anniversary, we wanted to highlight some of our favorite work.
Rita Johnston, Digitization Assistant for ROAD 2.0 project has been with the department for one year. She is digitizing outdoor advertising materials described in the Resource of Outdoor Advertising Descriptions database. The bulk of materials being digitized for this project are from the OAAA Archives and OAAA Slide Library collections, but some images from the John Paver Papers and the John E. Brennan Survey Reports are also included.
The project includes about 15,000 photographs and negatives which Rita has digitized, and I have about 12,000 slides which she has sent to a vendor for digitization. She uses different equipment including flatbed scanners and the Zeutschel 14000 A2 scanner for photographs and the Phase One Camera for transparent materials such as negatives. Rita is wrapping up the digitization phase of the project and will begin focusing her attention on normalization and cleanup of the metadata in the ROAD database.
When asked what is the most interesting collection you have worked with, Rita replied:
Since I have mostly been working with materials from the OAAA Archives, the OAAA Archives is the most interesting collection I have worked with. There is a great deal of variety in the content and types of materials in the collection. Much of the subject matter is of billboards, art designs, and other forms of outdoor advertising from the 1910s to the early 1980s.
The subject matter includes food & beverages, local businesses, political propaganda, cars, financial institutions, movies, and of course, beer and cigarettes. It’s really interesting to see how much billboards have changed over time, from the beautiful hand painted signs of the early to mid 20th century to machine printed billboards of later years.
There are even a few interesting examples in the collection of cellulose acetate negatives breaking down. All negatives are prone to deterioration over time, and the process may be sped up if negatives are exposed to high heat and humidity. Some of the negatives smell strongly of vinegar and are warped and cracked where the emulsion is breaking down.
We are all eagerly awaiting Rita’s project to be online. Thanks Rita for all of your hard work!
Mike Adamo, Digital Production Developer, arrived at Duke just over five years ago. Mike graduated with a degree in Photography in 1993 after which he opened and operated a table-top advertising studio for three years in Atlanta Georgia. After that Mike worked in a stock photography studio as a black and white printer for four years. The studio switched from analog to digital photography while he was there so Mike learned about color calibration and color profiles, which was relatively new at the time. He came to Duke after working for four years as a supervisor of a digital imaging unit at a library automation software company in Virginia.
As a Digital Production Developer Mike assess Library collections for digitization, creates images for high end print projects, and designs workflows for digitization projects in the Digital Production Center. He is also responsible for calibrating and maintaining the various cameras and scanners that they use in their daily operations.
When asked about his favorite preservation project, Mike responded:
My favorite project over the years has been building the Digital Production Center. When I started on March 14, 2005, the Digital Production Center was located on Perkins lower level behind the copy room and was often used as a shortcut from the lower level to the RBMSCL. We had one Epson Expression 10000 and a BetterLight scanback fresh out of the box. The camera room had previously been a traditional wet darkroom. The sinks had been removed but some of the plumbing remained jutting out of the walls and though the tiles had been scrubbed clean the chemical stains from years past were still present.
The questions at the time were: What is a digital collection? How do we represent the physical item digitally? What metadata scheme should we use and how do we capture it? While from a distance these questions seem fairly simple and straight forward once we started building digital collections we had to apply the concepts of sustainability and scalability while being as transparent as possible. Easy… right?
Since then, we have moved 3 times and are now in our permanent space (I think). This space was specifically designed with the Digital Production Center in mind. Our air handler is HEPA filtered, the lighting is full spectrum, the monitors are color calibrated, the walls are 18% gray, the floor is cork and we have a large vault that we share with Conservation.
We added another flatbed scanner, a dedicated quality control station, a P65 Phase One R-Cam, a Zeutschel 14000 A2, a SAMMA Solo video encoder a high-end light table (for digitizing negatives on the Phase One), 2 FTE, additional students and a database to track production and collect technical metadata. In addition to all of this a few months ago we added a Scribe book scanner through the Internet Archive. Our production rates have gone from 4000 + digital images the first year to a projected 100,000 digital images this year and that doesn’t include the images created using the Scribe.
We have come a long way in a short time.
You can see some of the work that Mike and the DPC staff on the Digital Collections Blog.
Oscar Arias has been at Duke University Libraries for eleven years. Six months ago he joined the staff of the Digital Production Center as a Digitization Specialist. The DPC digitizes rare and fragile items to make them available in digital format.
Oscar is usually involved in any of the three main stages of the digitizing process: assessing the collection to develop a digitizing work flow and digitization guide, the actual scanning or digitizing of materials (using a variety of scanners or video digitizing equipment), and the quality control phase.
When asked to describe an interesting project he has worked on, Oscar replied:
One of the most interesting collections I’ve worked with is the collection of papers of Marshall T. Meyer. Dr. Meyer was an American activist Rabbi who worked in Argentina in the 1970’s, during the period of military dictatorship and repression. This period gave way to what came to be known as “La Guerra Sucia,” or the Dirty War, as it came to be known, in which thousands of Argentine citizens were “Desaparecidos,” or disappeared and presumed dead, or incarcerated without trial for suspected opposition to the government.
Rabbi Meyer was an activist and advocate for human rights during this dark period of Argentine history, and he personally advocated for the release of political prisoners. As part of the collection that we had to digitize, there were many original hand-written letters from prisoners and other original documents filled with gut wrenching testimonies of arrests, incarcerations and torture, and the desperate plight of family members of those disappeared or incarcerated.
I remember reading in school in some distant history book about the military dictatorship in Argentina in the late 1970’s. But being able to browse and read some of these hand-written, first-hand accounts in Spanish (my native language) was a profoundly different experience. It helped to remember that behind the news headlines of some distant conflict or behind the title of a chapter in a history book, there are real human beings with names and faces and real stories of tragedy during times of war and oppression. I look forward to the time of the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 4:2)
Note on image: Correspondence to Rabbi Meyers from Deborah Esther Benchoam, a political prisoner who was held in cell 55 of the Villa Devoto women’s prison during the repression. From the RBMSCL Marshall T. Meyer Collection.