Shakespeare At Iowa Items Under Wraps

Friday, August 26, 2016

20160811_084533We’re keeping everything under wraps for the opening day of the Shakespeare First Folio and Shakespeare At Iowa Exhibit. As items were prepared for the exhibit, they were wrapped so not even staff could take a peek. Here some of the books are sitting in front of their individually crafted cradles. All items are now in place and will be on view this Monday, August 29. The First Folio will be here from August 29 – September 25.

Come visit the exhibit, enjoy the items on display and take a moment to notice the cradles that were created by our conservation staff. More information at http://shakespeare.lib.uiowa.edu/

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Treating A Keith-Albee Scrapbook

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Submitted by Katarzyna Bator and Bailey Kinsky

Kate examining the stability of the pages.

Kate examining the stability of the pages.

Our second project this summer is assisting with the treatment of several scrapbooks from the Keith Albee collection. Our work was being overseen by Candida Pagan, Project Conservator. The goal for our treatment is to stabilize the delicate structures for digitization. Picture 1 shows Kate examining the stability of the pages.

The Keith Albee collection includes a large number of scrapbooks that contain news articles, reviews, and programs from the Albee Theater in Rhode Island in the first half of the 20th century. To put it in better context, while examining Scrapbook #78, we found several pages dedicated to Ms. Fanny Brice, a famous vaudeville actress who was famously portrayed by Barbra Streisand in the 1968 musical, Funny Girl.

Most of the work needed for the scrapbooks included flattening of creases, removal of loose items, and repair to

Kate is using humidification to flatten creases in the paper.

Kate is using humidification to flatten creases in the paper.

the leather corners of the cover. Any loose items were placed in folders marked with the location within the book they came from so that they can be properly included during digitization.

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Finding a Hidden Gem

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

20160726_131745Finding a hidden gem makes Book Repair Supervisor Susan’s day fun. While repairing a book spine, Susan discovered this stiffener (liner) inside the spine; spine liners often were cut from scraps of paper, sometimes unused pages from books already produced by the bindery. The book she was repairing was published in 1926, so the paper liner is older.
20160726_13250720160802_144109

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Documenting and Treating Scrolls: Part 3 Final

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Submitted by Katarzyna Bator and Bailey Kinsky

Picture 1: Kate dipping the tissue through an acrylic paint bath.

Picture 1: Kate dipping the tissue through an acrylic paint bath.

The Buddhist scrolls from the Ficke collection had experienced pretty significant insect damage which greatly increased the risk of damage during handling. In order to stabilize the paper structure, Kate and I performed some basic paper mends using a remoistenable tissue. We had previously tested the inks to make sure that they were not water soluble, but we wanted to avoid exposing the scrolls to excessive moisture because tidelines easily formed and the sheets composing the scrolls were most likely adhered together using a starch-based paste.

We selected several types of Japanese tissue to prepare for the mending and began by first toning them with acrylic paint to better match the color of the scroll (Picture 1).

Picture 2: Area of loss traced on tissue.

Picture 2: Area of loss traced on tissue.

Next, a 50/50 mixture of methylcellulose and paste was brushed over the surface, and the tissues were allowed to dry.

To mend the paper, the area of loss was traced on the tissue using a needle point (Picture 2). A protective, transparent piece of Mylar was placed between the scroll and the mending tissue while tracing. Now comes the “remoistenable” phase of the treatment. The paste and methyl cellulose mixture becomes reactivated in a 1:1 mixture of water and ethanol. The mend was placed on a piece of Plexiglas or cotton blotter and the ethanol/water mix was brushed over the tissue (Picture 3). A tweezer was used to place the mend onto the loss on the paper surface (Picture 4), and then a blotter and weight are placed on top to help the repair to dry flat (Picture 5). All of the repairs were applied to the back of the scrolls so as not to interfere with the manuscript, and Picture 6 shows what a large section of mends look like after drying.

Picture 3

Picture 3

Picture 4

Picture 4

Picture 5

Picture 5

Picture 6

Picture 6

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Documenting and Treating Scrolls: Part 2

Friday, July 15, 2016
Submitted by Katarzyna Bator and Bailey Kinsky

Dry cleaning is the first step in most, if not all conservation treatments. Loose dirt and soil buildup collects on exposed portions of the object, in this case on the outermost part of the scroll. Additional dirt can find its way onto the surface of the object when it is handled with dirty hands. Soft brushes, vulcanized rubber sponges, and vinyl erasers are most commonly used in dry cleaning works of art and archival materials.

Dry cleaning with soot sponges to reduce surface soil buildup.

Dry cleaning with soot sponges to reduce surface soil buildup.

Overview shot displaying a comparison of before and after dry cleaning.  The five vertical columns of script on the left have been cleaned.

Overview shot displaying a comparison of before and after dry cleaning. The five vertical columns of script on the left have been cleaned.

A close up shot of dry cleaning with a soot sponge.

A close up shot of dry cleaning with a soot sponge.

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Documenting and Treating Scrolls: Part 1

Thursday July 7, 2016
Submitted by Katarzyna Bator and Bailey Kinsky

We are both graduate students at Buffalo State College Art Conservation Department. We are spending the summer at the University of Iowa Library Conservation Laboratory partaking in a practicum of treatment and care of library and archives material. Using theory and techniques learned during the school year, we will work to gain hand skills and real world experience in conservation treatments working side-by-side with conservators at the University.

Our first project includes photo documentation and treatment of several scrolls from the Ficke Collection. Each one is over 20 feet long and all have suffered extensive insect damage making their handling unsafe.

Picture 1 : Bailey Kinsky photographing a scroll from the Ficke Collection. The Photographic set up includes a neutral grey background, color checker, and a ruler to aid in accurate representation of the actual object.
Picture 2: Katarzyna Bator (left) and Bailey Kinsky (right) unrolling a scroll from the Ficke Collection for photo documentation.
Picture 3: Bailey Kinsky assessing the condition of the scrolls and testing ink solubility.

Photographing a scroll
Unrolling a scroll
Assessing condition

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IMALERT Disaster Hotline for Cultural Collections Live July 1, 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016

During a disaster, time is critical but help is a phone call away. IMALERT Hotline: 319-384-3673.

IMALERT Training Exercise

IMALERT Training Exercise

As of today the Iowa Museums, Archives, and Libraries Emergency Response Team (IMALERT) is providing a hotline service to cultural institutions experiencing an emergency or disaster. The IMALERT Hotline at 319-384-3673 can connect staff with the information and expertise needed to respond to, and recover from, any level of incident from a leaking pipe to a major flood. Through the team’s vast experience in conservation, preservation and emergency response and recovery, help is available to assess damage to collection materials, make recommendations for recovery, assist with decision making on drying out buildings, and demonstrate salvage techniques and/or help organize the initial salvage operation.

In 2008, rapid response by an informal emergency response team saved 90% of the flood-damaged material at the African American Museum of Iowa. I saw the huge difference having a team on the ground the minute access was allowed into the building. With a formal team in place, we are in position to help others in time of an emergency.

Support to form the team was provided through an Institute of Museum and Library Services planning grant, the State Historical Society of Iowa Historical Resource Development Program training grant, and the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium.

IMALERT is an initiative of the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium: http://www.iowaconserveandpreserve.org/
Contact: iowa.conserveandpreserve@gmail.com

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Box Making Day

Friday, June 10, 2016

It was all hands on deck yesterday, as staff made boxes for the many items awaiting protective enclosures in the conservation lab. The boxes ranged from the simple 20-point card 4-flap wraps to the more complex, double-walled, fabric covered hinged box.

Four flaps in progressDouble walled box in progressMany four flaps ready to goA medium sized box in progressLittle boxes in progress

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Rescuing Photographic Negatives

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Stack of 8 x 10 negatives with oozing emulsionWith much trepidation yesterday, I went off to work with Tish Boyer at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque to assist her in salvage efforts of significantly damaged photographic negatives. Tish had shared photos of the damaged items ahead of my visit. The sight was not pretty! The negatives had been stored in a refrigerator that quit working some days before staff discovered there was a problem. Some of the emulsion on the negatives had turned to liguid and oozed out over the edges of the negatives, making for a gooey mess. I fully expected to just provide moral support as we declared the collection a total loss. Much to our pleasant surprise, we salvaged a lot of the collection! A reinforced lesson that one should never make assumptions about a disaster until there is damage assessment.

Separating negativesTish had located a great place to work in within their building. We were able to work in an old kitchen that had a big exhaust fan. It did its job and kept the fumes away. (One of my biggest worries.) We worked with the “best” looking photographic negatives first. This allowed us to establish a work flow and to figure out how to handle the collection. We took photographs of the container or the stack of negatives if no container, before separating out the negatives and interleafing them into groups of 15 and placing into a folder. We kept a log, documenting the package or stack that the negative came from, making note of actual number per folder, and any comments on condition. We learned some tricks. If the stack of negatives got too gooey and seemed to be too stuck together, we turned the stack over and worked from the bottom up. If a stack looked completely “gone”, we looked for an edge within the stack that we could work open and worked from the inside out. It was amazing. Often we would find salvageable negatives within a very gooey, impossible looking group of negatives.

Negatives in file folders in boxWe worked for 6 hours, separated a little over 1300 negatives with a loss of 250. Not bad considering the state the negatives are in. The salvaged negatives will need additional work. They will need to be cleaned and stabilized. Many have damage around the edges. They will need to be sent off to a photo conservator and then, probably, digitized. The images are a mix of acetate and nitrate film dating around 1925-1932. We didn’t get through the entire collection. Tish has her work cut out for her for the rest of the week. I left her in good spirits. I did accomplish my goal of providing moral support!

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Soot and Dust Clean Up

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Discussion soot clean upIt really is a small world. As a volunteer for the AIC-CERT Disaster Response hotline, I had a call with a question about soot drifting in from a fire a couple doors down. On further inquiry, I discovered that the caller was from Traer, Iowa, only 90 miles away. Rather than trying to explain how to go about cleaning soot over the phone, we agreed that an on-site visit would be best.

Cleaning and dust soot from bookWhen our conservator Giselle Simón and I met with staff at the Traer Historical Museum, we were much relieved to see that the dusting of soot was very minor. We discussed cleaning techniques and strategies for organizing the volunteer cleaning session they were planning. Giselle demonstrated how to use an absorene dry cleaning sponge and a microfiber preservation quality dusting fabric cloth. We encouraged them to purchase a Nilfik HEPA vacuum cleaner and recommended supplies. They sent us a note that they did make the recommended purchases and are ready to start cleaning.

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