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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Preserving Media

Thursday, April 10, 2014
Submitted by Emily F Shaw

Stacks of different types of mediaIn addition to millions of books, journals, and electronic resources, the University of Iowa Libraries is also the permanent home for film, audio, and video collections.

Projecting an original 16mm film can be risky, and using playback equipment that is dirty or in disrepair can cause permanent damage. Protecting the original is critical; many of our media collections are unique and most are actively degrading. In order to preserve this content and make it accessible to we need to digitize it.

I recently traveled with local historian and collector Mike Zahs to visit The Media Preserve, the vendor we contracted to digitally reformat some of Iowa’s most precious “time-based” media collections.

Racks Of Magnetic Tape Playback Equipment

Racks Of Magnetic Tape Playback Equipment

The Media Preserve is staffed by enthusiastic and knowledgeable professionals with many of experience working in the film, video, and recording industries. The studios at The Media Preserve are designed to minimize risk to customer assets, such as power surges, lightning strikes, or electromagnetic interference. Their studios are fully equipped to read and play back every type of time-based media content imaginable.

 

Inspecting Film in the Preservation Lab

Inspecting Film in the Preservation Lab


For common consumer media like VHS and ¾” Umatic tapes, the digital transfer process has been engineered to allow a small number of staff to oversee the digitization of multiple assets at once, thereby lowering transfer time and cost to their clients. In addition, The Media Preserve has a film preservation lab equipped for cleaning, repair, and high-resolution scanning of film. Their film preservation staff recently digitized half a dozen of Mr. Zahs’ badly degraded 35mm nitrate films created in the first few years of the 20th century.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Valentine’s Day Surprise

Friday, February 14, 2014
Submitted by Brenna Campbell

Letter closedBlogAs part of our normal digitization workflow, all rare materials being scanned are first assessed for condition problems by the Conservation Department. Last week, during an assessment of the McDill family papers, we ran across this mysterious folded letter.

Written on both sides were numbered sets of rhyming couplets, which seemed to have a romantic tone. By carefully unfolding the paper, we revealed the full content of the letter; it was a proposal of marriage, complete with illustrations.

Letter unfolding 1BlogLetter unfolding 2Blog
Letter unfolding 3BlogLetter openBlog

While we had it open, we tried to reverse-engineer the letter, in order to make a model of our own. Many of the folds were torn, which made it more difficult to identify the original structure. With a little help from Google, we identified it as a “Victorian Puzzle Purse,” and learned that it was a popular way to fold a letter to that special someone.
Letter starBlog

If you would like to make a Victorian Puzzle Purse for your beloved, instructions can be found here: http://www.origami-resource-center.com/puzzle-purse-instructions.html

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Clay Tablet Gets Custom Box

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Submitted by Bill Voss

Clay TabletThis neo-Sumerian clay tablet, recording the sacrifice of a kid goat dates to ca. 2050 B.C. and is frequently shown to students as an early example of writing in cuneiform accompanied by the impression of a cylinder seal. Due to its frequent use it was decided to create a custom box which would keep the object secure and viewable behind a small window, but which also has the option of being further opened to allow the object to be removed from the enclosure. The tablet rests in a fitted recess in a block of ethafoam covered with cotton and hollytex (spun polyester) and can be seen through a window of polyester sheeting. To remove the object a flap secured by embedded magnets is lifted revealing the tablet as well as a second recess containing a pair of cotton gloves for safe handling.
Clay tablet nesting in boxBox completely open

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The Wunderkammer at Grinnell: Supporting Foldouts

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Submitted by Brenna Campbell

Fold out_blogMany of the books in the Wunderkammer show at Grinnell had elaborate foldout illustrations, which required custom supports. These were typically made separately from the cradle, and were often strapped into place once the book was in its display case. It was important to strap the book so that the illustration was easy to see, but also to allow the book to open naturally, without putting strain on the binding.

The show opened on October 4th, and will remain up through December 15th. More details can be found here: http://www.grinnell.edu/about/offices-services/faulconer-gallery/exhibitions/wunderkammer

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The Wunderkammer at Grinnell: Making Custom Cradles

Friday, November 1, 2013
Submitted by Brenna Campbell

Book Before Cradle_blog

Making the cradle_blog

Book After Strapping_blog

After all 93 items for the Wunderkammer show were unpacked and condition checked, they were prepared for exhibition. The most time consuming part of the process was constructing custom mounts for the 76 books being displayed. Bill and Brenna used a polyester sheet material called Vivak®, which was scored and bent to form the necessary shapes. Once the books were positioned on their cradles, they were secured into place using polyethylene straps.

The show opened on October 4th, and will remain up through December 15th. More details can be found here: http://www.grinnell.edu/about/offices-services/faulconer-gallery/exhibitions/wunderkammer

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The Wunderkammer at Grinnell: Unpacking and Condition Checking

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Submitted by Brenna Campbell

Condition Checking Tiny BookConservation Technician Bill Voss and Assistant Conservator Brenna Campbell recently returned from a trip to Grinnell College’s Faulconer Gallery, where they spent seven days installing the exhibition “From Wunderkammer to the Modern Museum, 1606-1884”. Ninety three items from the collection of Florence Fearrington were unpacked, checked for condition problems, and installed.

As each book was removed from its crate and unwrapped, Brenna examined it for signs of damage. Damage to a book includes a range of conditions, such as wear to the binding, weak or broken joints, failed sewing, tears, and stains. Any problems were noted, along with a brief description of the binding. This process provided a record of the condition of each book when it arrived at the gallery, and also highlighted items requiring special handling or care.

One particularly vulnerable group of bindings were those bound in parchment. Parchment is made from stretched and scraped animal skin, and is very reactive to changes in temperature and relative humidity. Because of their sensitivity, these bindings were gradually conditioned to the climate in the gallery before installation.

The show opened on October 4th, and will remain up through December 15th. More details can be found here: http://www.grinnell.edu/about/offices-services/faulconer-gallery/exhibitions/wunderkammer

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Tool Making for Conservation and Book Arts

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Raw materials -- elk bone & needles -- (left) shaped into bone folders (right)

Raw materials — elk bone & needles — (left) shaped into bone folders (right)

Last month Conservation Technician Bill Voss served as a Studio Assistant to instructor Shanna Leino, during a two week class at the Penland School of Crafts on Tool Making for Book Arts. Shanna is a well known tool maker and alumna of the UI Center for the Book, whose tools and binding models are featured in the Model Bookbinding Collection housed in the Conservation Lab. Projects covered during the class included making bone folders, awls, punches, leather pairing knives and bamboo tools.
Awl and punch using Ipe wood, steel rod, brass tube

Awl and punch using Ipe wood, steel rod, brass tube

Leather pairing knives from hacksaw blades

Leather pairing knives from hacksaw blades

Heras -- Japanese paper mending tools from bamboo (left)

Heras — Japanese paper mending tools from bamboo (left)

Tweezers from bamboo

Tweezers from bamboo

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Book Repair Reback-a-thon

Wednesday August 14, 2013
Submitted by Susan Hansen

Cart of Finished Rebacked Books

Cart of Finished Rebacked Books

Our goal in the UI Libraries’ book repair unit is to return a circulating book to the shelf as soon as possible; however, sustained speed is not a top qualification for our students. In the day-to-day operation of the unit, we don’t have races. But when I mentioned an unofficial record for number of rebacks performed, two current student assistants immediately set a plan in motion to surpass that record.

Larry Houston and Sarah Luko are students in the UI Center for the Book and work in the UI Libraries’ preservation department. Both possess exceptional hand skills and an exemplary work ethic; they have mastered the technique of rebacking. After gathering volumes with damaged spines, Sarah and Larry went into production mode. They worked in batches, side by side, replacing the damaged spines with new cloth and reattaching the original spine piece when possible. The dynamic duo ran out of books before the end of the work day. The final tally was 84 rebacks, a number roughly twice the expected production for two experienced student assistants. Kudos to Sarah and Larry!

Minor Repairs Where Needed

Minor Repairs Where Needed


Trimming Loose Threads

Trimming Loose Threads

Into the Book Press

Into the Book Press

Finished stack, showing all the spine labels that need to be re-attached

Finished stack, showing all the spine labels that need to be re-attached

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