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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Preservation & Conservation Welcomes New Hires

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beth Stone and Justin Baumgarten in front of Keith/Albee scrapbooksThe UI Libraries Preservation & Conservation department would like to welcome two new(ish) staff members, Justin Baumgartner and Elizabeth Stone. They join us as members of the Keith/Albee project team. They will be working together, along with other UI Libraries staff, to stabilize and digitize the Keith/Albee collection. Both Justin and Elizabeth are University of Iowa graduates who are no strangers to employment at the UI Libraries.

Elizabeth Stone started on July 21, 2014 as the Keith/Albee Project Conservator. She is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa Center for the Book where she studied bookbinding, letterpress printing, and book history. As a student, she worked in Preservation & Conservation salvaging flood-damaged items from the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and the African American Museum of Iowa.

Justin Baumgartner started on July 22, 2014 as the Keith/Albee Digital Project Librarian. He is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa School of Library & Information Science. As a student, he worked in the UI Libraries Special Collections & University Archives and interned for the Digital History Project at the Iowa City Public Library.

The duo will shepherd 125-150 oversize scrapbooks through conservation and digitization workflows during the next three years. Visit the growing digital collection at .

The Keith/Albee project is a three-year project to stabilize, digitize, and provide online access to the Keith/Albee collection which documents the activity of a prominent vaudeville theater company through more than 40 years of business. The records chronicle the expansion of the Keith/Albee circuit, changes in its leadership, and the eventual decline of vaudeville.ka_blog_q1bBlog

The Keith/Albee Project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

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New Housing Option for Conservation

Thursday, September 11, 2014
Submitted by Bill Voss

Goblet in phase boxWith the recent acquisition of a riveter and a board creaser, the Conservation Lab has a new housing option – phase boxes constructed from sturdy 40 point featuring fore edge closures made of nylon string and riveted vinyl washers. Stronger than a regular 20 point four flap enclosure, and quicker to make than a full clamshell box, these phase boxes can also be modified with Volara foam padding or Ethafoam wells to accommodate objects of various shapes and sizes.Series of plates in phase box
Cross in phase boxCompleted phase box

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Buffalo and Iowa Connection

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
By Gary Frost

Buffalo workshopA library and archives specialty is now accommodated within art conservation programs at the University of Delaware, New York University and Buffalo State College. Iowa is among others supporting and participating in this overall initiative that is generously supported by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

UI has begun hosting short term Internships for students from the Buffalo State College. These students have elected to specialize in book conservation at their home program and welcome the opportunity to experience the varied service routines of a working preservation department.

The Buffalo and Iowa exchange is coordinated by Iowa Conservator Emeritus Gary Frost. He is traveling from Iowa to Buffalo to offer book conservation training sessions, three times a semester. Frost also presents a three-week summer workshop in Buffalo that is opened to students from all the art conservation programs.

The Buffalo/Iowa exchange has benefits for everyone. Beyond support of graduate education in library and archives preservation Iowa offers unique resources for the students. Beyond experience in a working preservation department the Iowa Center for the Book provides experience of traditional crafts of book production while intense learning going on between Buffalo and Iowa students is also an important factor. The mutual student learning suggests other initiatives including cross-program workshops hosted by Iowa and cross-program curricula.

The Buffalo/Iowa exchange is a classic win-win transaction. Considering the students benefits it is a win-win-win transaction.

explore the strange resilience of book transmission and the join adventures in library preservation today

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Friday, August 29, 2014
By Gary Frost

Psalter-SpielThe UI Libraries Preservation & Conservation Department continues assistance of the celebration of 300 years of book printing in the Amana Church community. The retrospective exhibit of the imprints, from 1714 to 2014, has been arranged and installed with the help of the conservation staff. Now we are printing the commemorative keepsakes for the various celebration dinners and conferences.

Printing of the keepsakes is underway at the Homestead Print Shop and Post Office. The Print Shop and Post Office is itself a historical exhibit. The recreation depicts printing and communication methods of the 1950’s in the Amana Colonies. The relatively late period depiction enables the inclusion of the Linotype composing machine; not until the mid-twentieth century did the German printers finally accept keyboard composition, modern types and English language.

The keepsake items feature proofs from the stereo-plates of the 1854 setting of the Psalter-Spiel. This hymnal and recitation book was produced from the beginning of the Church of True Inspirationists with the last edition from the 1854 plates printed in 1910. The plates appear to have been cast in Buffalo, New York replicating hand-set composition prepared just prior to relocation of the villages from Ebenezer, New York to the Amana Colonies.

Printing in the Inspirationist community has a long and impressive legacy of book printing. The UI Libraries Preservation & Conservation Department is proud to contribute the persistence of the craft of printing from metal type in the Amanas.

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Iowa Collections Emergency Response Team Training

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Selecting tools for trunk kitYesterday twenty-five individuals from around Iowa gathered at the Camp Dodge Gold Star Military Museum in Johnston to begin training as a member of the Iowa Collections Emergency Response Team (Iowa CERT). Many of Iowa’s documentary collections are scattered in museums and libraries throughout the state. These diverse collections together form an invaluable statewide historical resource. Small institutions in particular often do not have the staff or financial capacity to respond appropriately when the collections are threatened. This training will build a network of experts throughout the state who can respond quickly to emergencies of different sizes and types. The assembled team is comprised of geographically-distributed staff from libraries, museums, archives, and other collecting institutions. The training is partially funded by an Historical Resource Development Program grant awarded to the Iowa Preservation and Conservation Consortium (ICPC). Training is coordinated by the University of Iowa Libraries staff, Nancy E Kraft, Brenna Campbell, and Elizabeth Stone.

First day of training concentrated on learning how to organize, plan, and respond to disaster. Each team member received a trunk tool kit with basic tools for responding to a disaster – hammers, screw drivers, pliers, caution tape, etc.

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UI Libraries receives Carver grant to renovate exhibition space

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Exhibit Hall 1960In April, the University of Iowa Libraries was awarded $500,000 by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust in support of the renovation of the Main Library Exhibition Space. Very exciting news!

Our current space was constructed in 1951 and has not changed much since then. Over the years, using the space as an exhibit became more and more challenging. Plus it was a space that people walked through to get from one side of the building to the other making it very difficult to engage anyone in an exhibit.

Due to the Learning Commons project which was completed in 2013, the current exhibition space is now a self-contained area. Anticipating the exhibition possibilities that the Exhibit Hall 2014 ConceptLearning Commons renovation would open up, we began working with consultant Liz Kadera on a gallery and exhibition space presentation. We were delighted that our new Library Director John Culshaw liked our concept drawings and pulled a team together to draft a proposal to present to the Carver Trust.

The renovation will create a more suitable and secure space dedicated to displaying books, manuscripts, maps, documents, artworks, and more from the Libraries collections.

Construction is planned to begin this fall with a proposed completion date of spring 2015.

First image courtesy of the UI Archives, 1960. Second image courtesy Liz Kadera, 2013.

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Drying a Wet Book

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Interleafing a Wet Book
As a Preservation Librarian, I should know better than to read a book while taking a spa bath. Last week I did just that and dropped my book into the tub. Oops! Luckily I caught it before it was entirely submerged.

Pressing the Damp Book

I took immediate action. I grabbed some copy paper from our home printer and folded the paper in half and interleafed every few pages to start soaking up the water. Then I put the book into a “press” by using a cutting board and cast iron skillets. The press helps by putting a little pressure on the book to blot up the water and to keep the pages somewhat flat. The next day I pulled out the wet interleafing paper and inserted new but in slightly different spots.

Drying Interleafing Paper
I laid out the wet interleafing paper to dry so I could re-use. I repeated this process over several days.

Dried Book Showing a Little Edge Curl
The book is now dry but does show some evidence that it had been wet. If the book in question had been a book of value to me, I would have put the book in a zip-lock bag, stuck it in the freezer, and later taken it to a conservator.


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