Highlights from 2015: DIY Collections Care

A book from the circulating collection recently came back from inter-library loan in need of some intervention from Susan Hansen, Book Repair Supervisor at the Libraries’ Preservation & Conservation department.  The copy of The Origin of the Domestic Animals of Africa showed quite a bit of damage, perhaps from an encounter with a domestic animal of the American sort.

duck tape3duck tape1duck tape2

The book’s condition also evidenced collections care from an amateur conservator. The patron did consider condition and access when pulling together the book and returning it as close to complete as s/he received it, but their choice of materials required attention.“…I’ll put it this way: it’s the most duck taped item I’ve seen,” stated Ms. Hansen, well-seasoned in the art and practice of book repair. The patron took great care in reattaching the front cover to the spine using both duck tape and clear packaging tape.  The clear tape was used, likely, so that the spine and important information would be visible.

Susan reattached the cover to the spine of the book and reattached the inside cover to the front page, replacing the title page with a facsimile.  From the Preservation & Conservation department the book will move to a commercial binder where the pages will be uniformly trimmed to remove as much of the damaged area as possible.

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Winter Solstice and National Flashlight Day!

The winter solstice in the Iowa City area will occur at 10:49 p.m., tonight, December 21st!

Sunset tonight is at 4:38 p.m. and sunrise tomorrow is at 7:30, which means that tonight is 14 hours and 54 minutes long. It is 8 hours and 42 minutes from the winter solstice to sunrise. So, if the short days of winter get you down, just think, after today, the days will be getting longer again!

The winter solstice occurs annually between December 20th and December 23rd. It is the astronomical beginning of winter. The meteorological beginning of winter begins on December 1st and lasts until the end of February. The day of the winter solstice can last 9.5 hours to no sunrise at all, depending on how far north a person is. The solstice happens at the same time all over the world, but the Earth is divided into 24 time zones, so it is observed at 24 different times of the day!

In case you don’t want to go through the longest night without some light, tomorrow, December 22nd, is National Flashlight Day! We can help you build your own flashlight (that works without batteries)  so you can keep that flashlight handy during the remaining winter nights!


David Misell, inventor, Electric Device. US patent 617.592

As with most inventions, the flashlight has a long history. First the battery had to be invented (in 1866 by French inventor George Lecianche). Then, it had to be made small enough to be portable, which happened in 1888 when the German scientist, Dr. Carl Gassner, invented the first dry cell and portable battery. From there it becomes a little muddy. According to Eveready, their company founder, Conrad Hubert, invented the flashlight. Or else Joshua Lionel Cowen, the original owner of the American Eveready Battery Company, came up with the idea – as a decorative lighting fixture for flower pots. We do know that when Joshua Cowen left Eveready, Conrad Hubert took over the company and with the help of fellow inventor David Misell, began to adapt the flashlight.

The first portable flashlights were hand-made from crude paper and fiber tubes, with a bulb and a reflector. They were only capable of a brief flash of light – thus the name flashlight. To promote the flashlight, a number of them were given to New York City policeman. The promotion was successful and soon everyone wanted a flashlight – “the light that does not flicker in a draught, extinguish in the wind, and is controlled instantly by finger pressure…”

Fibre Optic Flashlight Goves from Rilen Sepic

Fibre Optic Flashlight Goves from Rilen Sepic


Flashlights have come a long way since the beginning.  Now you can have a flashlight that fits like a glove, flashlights on your shoes, bendy book lights, key chain flashlights, kinetically powered flashlights, and of course, the smart phone flashlight….


Flashlight Without Batteries. Haywired, by Mike Rigsby. pg. 117

Flashlight Without Batteries. Haywired, by Mike Rigsby. pg. 117

Are you looking for a project to tackle while on break? How about making your own flashlight that works without batteries! Haywired: Pointless (yet awesome) Projects for the Electronically Inclined will walk you through creating your own! Author Mike Rigsby includes a complete parts list and step by step instructions. There are also pictures that illustrate the process. This great homemade flashlight takes 3 minutes to recharge and then will run for more than 24 hours! The parts include items you probably have around your house – items like electrical tape, glue, and permanent marker. You’ll also need (among other things) solder and a soldering gun, high brightness LED, and a rocker switch. Rigsby includes information about where you can purchase those items you don’t have on hand.

Ever since the ancient times, monuments have been built all over the world to commemorate the solstice. Newgrange is a huge Stone Age tomb that was built in the Irish countryside about 1,000 years before Stonehenge. In Peru (circa 800 to 100 B.C.), the desert is crisscrossed with lines of earth and rock that connect ceremonial mounds with the place where the winter solstice sun sets on the horizon. Ancient Egypt’s sprawling temple of Karnak was contructed in alignment with the winter solstice at Luxor more than 4,000 years ago.  Similar alignments can be seen from Angkor Wat to Machu Picchu.

 “What we’re here for is to celebrate the fact that the cycle of the world turns,” senior druid King Arthur Pendragon said at the 2014 Stonehenge solstice celebration. “It’s a time [when] change and hope is renewed.”

Create your own winter solstice celebration and build your own flashlight to get you through the long night!


Rigsby, Mike. 2009. Chicago, Ill : Chicago Review Press. Haywired : pointless (yet awesome) projects for the electronically inclined. 

Let There Be Light: The History of the Flashlight. 2011. Trumbull-Nelson@t-n.com

Flashlight History. 2015. Eveready Battery Company, Inc.

48 Funky Flashlight Designs. Feb. 11, 2013. TrendHunter Art & Design. Trend Hunter, Inc.

Misell, David, inventor, 1898 March 3. (EN) Electric Device. United States patent US 617,592. PatentScope

Misell, David, inventor, 1898 March 3. (EN) Electric Device. United States patent US 617,592. Google Patents.

Winter Solstice. 2015. National Day Calendar.

Shortest Day of the Year in the Northern Hemisphere.  2015. timeanddate.com

Everything You Need to Know About the Winter Solstice. Dec. 21, 2015. National Geographic Society.

Other Resources:

Winter solstice: Stonehenge crowd gathers for sunrise. Dec. 22, 2015. BBC.

Digitizing Hancher Posters

By Ben Bessman, Digitization Assistanthancher_poster 1

Hancher Auditorium had been a noteworthy stop for world famous musical acts, theatre productions, dance companies, and guest speakers in the Midwest since 1972, until its original location was flooded out in June of 2008.  Since then various community sites have served as hosts for the wide variety of performers that normally would have graced the halls of this landmark theater.  But 2016 will bring a welcomed change when the new and improved Hancher Auditorium will open its doors and once again showcase many of the world’s premiere acts.

For more than three decades many of the best Broadway shows, international dance and music troupes, and solo hancher_poster 2artists made their stop in Iowa City, with many coming back over and over again throughout the years.  And thanks to the quick thinking of Hancher Auditorium staff, many of the original posters from those early performances are still intact and have now been digitally preserved as part of the Iowa Digital Library.  The large size of these posters (or “show bills”) required a handful of people to feed them through our 54” Context HD scanner, with most of the preservation images created from this process averaging around 2.0 GB, before we trim them down a little.

These show bills beautifully represent not only Hancher Auditorium’s rich history but the astounding range of performers who have entertained and enlightened our community throughout the years.  From musical greats like Duke Ellington, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Leonid Kogan, to their more contemporary counterparts Bonnie Raitt and Bruce Springsteen- strolling through the show bills of the past is discount time travel at its best.  Discovering gems you never knew about- Ricardo Montalban headlining “Don Juan in Hell” for example, becomes a rewarding experience.

Preserving these materials, from William F. Buckley Jr.’s conservative philosophy lecture in 1974 to Hunter S. Thompson’s “gonzo” journalism speech in 1978, is an important step in celebrating Hancher’s past.  The posters themselves offer as wide a variety of artistic styles as the artists they promote- each feeling specifically designed to capture the spirit of the event being held.  Which, of course, is the idea of the show bill in the first place- it’s where art and advertisement meet.hancher_poster 3

So whether you are a fan of “Grease”, the Vienna Choir Boys, the Royal Swedish Ballet, or the Grateful Dead, these show bills from Hancher Auditorium’s esteemed past surely will have something that will interest you.  We invite you to come take a look for yourself. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/hancher

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Highlights from 2015: William Anthony Conservation Lecture


The second annual William Anthony Conservation Lecture was held on the the 8th of October, 2015.  Gary Frost, Conservator Emeritus and instructor of book conservation at SUNY Buffalo spoke about the history of bookbinding and the University of Iowa Conservation Department’s bookbinding model collection which was the creation of the lecture’s namesake.  The collection has grown into an invaluable teaching tool and asset to the conservation department and the University of Iowa Center for the Book.

Mr. Frost served as the University of Iowa Libraries’ conservator from 1999 to 2011.  Mr. Frost is credited with championing the teaching role of the conservation lab and its staff, a distinction of which the department still prides itself.

Gary Frost is a book conservator and book arts educator. His career includes faculty positions at Columbia University, University of Texas at Austin and University of Iowa. He is currently Conservator Emeritus, University of Iowa Libraries. Gary has been awarded the Banks and Harris Award of the American Library Association and the Lifetime Award of the Guild of Book Workers. He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation.

For those who could not make the lecture, a video of the event is forthcoming, and details will be posted to Preservation Beat as available.
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