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UV Photography in Buffalo

Last month, Assistant Conservator Brenna Campbell traveled to the Art Conservation Department at SUNY Buffalo State to take a workshop on using UV photography to learn more about cultural heritage objects. This qualitative technique is valuable both for identifying areas of change within an object — either from damage or treatment — as well as for tracking changes over time.

Instructors Jiuan Jiuan Chen and Dan Kushel expertly led participants through a variety of lectures and hands-on exercises. The group experimented with photographing a variety of objects, including paintings, prints, glass, baskets, and textiles. A few examples are below.

A study collection painting photographed under visible light

A study collection painting photographed under visible light

The same painting fluorescing under UV

The same painting fluorescing under UV. Areas of inpainting are easily visible.

The painting reflecting UV light

The painting reflecting UV light


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.


Book Intervention Types: A Construct of Five Types

Friday, February 6, 2015

Submitted by Gary Frost


InterventionsWhat are the consequential types of book intervention? Can the interventions found in books be allotted to some kind of categories?

We observe interventions of (1) production, (2) marketing and retailing, (3) interventions of users and owners, of (4) library re-fabrication and book processing, and interventions of (5) restorers and conservators. Given the range of these interventions it is even fair to ask if books have any unmodified state! Perhaps we should say that our study of book intervention really presents an overall examination of the physical evidence and characteristics of any book that comes to hand. So, in a spirit of reflexive and comparative study from philology legacy, let’s gather evidence and characteristics of each intervention type as we examine any book in any context.

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A Mystery Solved!

Posted on behalf of Tiffany Eng, our intern from West Dean College

While making a phase box for A New Dictionary of Medical Science (1851) from the John Martin Rare Book Room, we came across a fragment of a print on the paper used as a spine lining for the book.


The medical dictionary’s print date is 1851, and the little bit of text remaining on the paper gave a year, 1852, along with an address, which let us know that the textblock sat around for at least a year before being bound.

Out of interest, we did an internet search to find that the address was the former London office location of Punch Magazine (then known as Punch, Or, the London Chariviari). It took a bit of sleuthing, including a visit to the library stacks to borrow the 1851-1852 bound journal versions of Punch, but we found that the spine lining fragment was a part of the masthead for the magazine.


The original drawing was done by illustrator Richard Doyle and was used from 1849 to 1954. As a nice little cap on our mystery spine lining, Richard Doyle also happened to be the uncle of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, detective writer extraordinaire.

For those interested, the library has an archive of bound Punch Magazine volumes from between 1841-1900s



Book Readers’ Intermingling Paper and Screen

Wednesday, December17, 2014
Submitted by Gary Frost
Paper and Screen
Generic distinctions between a screen and paper display (of the same image) include the recto/verso (duplex) and left/right (spread) attributes of paper and the persistence and accuracy of navigation of those features. Further complexity of the multiple display navigation is presented in book format (again same content for both paper and screen display). In books navigation of expositions and discovery are eased in paper with haptic manipulation and in screen with dexterity of touch. A contended factor in book format is cognitive navigation and mapping attributes as used in reading where studies favor paper.

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Preservation & Conservation Welcomes New Equipment!


Earlier this month, Preservation & Conservation welcomed a new addition to our family: this lovely new digital image capture system from Digital Transitions!  This equipment will be essential in undertaking one of our most ambitious projects yet, the digitization of the 150 scrapbooks in the Keith/Albee Collection.

While our previous overhead scanner, the Zeutschel, has been in use and doing a wonderful job for several years, there has been a need for some time to update this equipment.  Additionally, guidelines for the Keith/Albee NEH grant require that the scrapbooks be digitized at a higher resolution than the Zeutschel is capable of.  For more information on this project, check out our previous blog posts here and here.


The setup for this new equipment is unprecedented for this department.  The main scanning room had to be cleared out entirely in order to make room for it, and it more closely resembles a portrait studio currently than a typical scanning room.  This new digital reprographic system uses a Phase One digital camera back, taking high quality images of each item.  At 80 megapixels, it uses one of the highest-quality cameras currently available.  The camera itself is attached to an electronically movable column.

Visit the growing Keith/Albee digital archive here.


Conserving and Preserving Iowa’s Constitution

UntitledIn honor of our 30th anniversary and Bill Anthony’s legacy, we are please to share two videos about the preservation of the Iowa State Constitution.  The first, made shortly after Anthony’s treatment of the Constitution was completed, outlines the history of the document, and the steps taken to conserve it.  The second, made earlier this year, describes the process of digitizing the Constitution to make it available online to all Iowans. Enjoy!

Conserving The Constitution of the State of Iowa

Preserving Iowa’s Constitution


30th Anniversary Benefit Auction: The Results Are In!

Friends and visitors came from near and far to join us in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Conservation Lab. Our Benefit Auction was a resounding success, with lovely music, delicious food, beautiful bindings, and wonderful company.  Altogether, the auction raised $15,635 for the William Anthony Conservation Fund.  Our heartfelt thanks go out to our bidders, our contributing artists, and everyone who helped make this event a success.






30th Anniversary Benefit Auction: Bid Now!

There’s still time to bid on the beautiful bindings and tools in our 30th Anniversary Auction! Click the images below for more details about each item.

Penny McKean Shanna Leino
Caitlin Moore Bill Voss
William Minter Mark Esser
Larry-Yerkes Emily Martin
Pam Spitzmueller Anna Embree
Gary Frost To bid on any of these items, please email us at Bids will be accepted until 7 pm CST on November 13th.

30th Anniversary Benefit Auction: The Anthony Fund

Proceeds from the Conservation Lab’s 30th Anniversary Auction will benefit the William Anthony Conservation Fund. To find out more about the auction, click here.

Biography of William Anthony

William (Bill) Anthony was born November 9, 1926, in Waterford, Ireland, and began his apprenticeship in bookbinding at the age of 16, later working as a journeyman in Ireland and England. In 1965 Bill came to Chicago to work as a fine binder at the Cuneo Press, where he rose to the position of art director.  In 1973, he formed a partnership with Elizabeth Kner and, on her retirement in 1982, continued the business as Anthony & Associates, Bookbinders. While conservation was the mainstay of his business, Bill also worked on edition and fine bindings, and taught apprentices and private students.

In 1984, Bill came to The University of Iowa as the first University Conservator.  He established the Conservation Department in the University’s Main Library, where he and his apprentices worked on rare books from the University collections, including the Nuremburg Chronicle (1493) and Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica (1555).  He also executed fine bindings, most of which are in Special Collections at the UI Main Library.

In the Conservation Department at Iowa, Bill continued to train apprentices and interns, and offered classes to the University community.  A former apprentice from the Chicago days, David Brock, said of Bill that he “molded me gently into a craftsman.”  All those who studied with him – apprentices, interns, students, and casual visitors – could say something similar.  Bill did not like to criticize but he had an idea of excellence and he wanted to move others in that direction.  The esteem in which he was held by his professional colleagues led to his chairing the Standards Committee of the Guild of Bookworkers from 1984 to 1988. Bill’s notable achievements at Iowa include starting the University of Iowa Bookbinding Models Collection and conserving the original constitution of the state of Iowa, which he completed shortly before his death in February 1989.

William Anthony Conservation Fund

The  William Anthony Conservation Fund was established through the generous support of Julie Scott and Jim Fluck, to honor the legacy of Bill Anthony. Since its inception, the Fund has supported a variety of departmental activities, including conservation treatment, equipment purchases, and bringing visiting lecturers to Iowa City.  Some highlights are listed below.

Conservation Rebinding of 18th Century Pamphlets

Paper Case Pamphlets









The  task of rebinding over seventy 18th century pamphlets included two challenges: separating groups of 18th century pamphlets bound in 20th century library bindings and developing a functional, graceful and sympathetic conservation treatment that would facilitate scanning and exhibition.

The treatment included a collation check, surface cleaning, disassembly of gatherings, optional water washing, mending, endpaper production and re-sewing. The covers for the pamphlets used hand made cover paper stock produced here at the University of Iowa. This distinctive paper was especially created to simulate the stocks used for historical paper case work as it provides the type of excellent handling, toughness and color qualities which are so complimentary to such 18th century text papers.

Lecture by Pamela Spitzmueller











Pamela Spitzmueller was the University of Iowa Libraries’ Conservator from 1989 – 1999. Spitzmueller’s lecture, “Books as Physical Objects or How Conserving Damaged Rare Books and Manuscripts Inspired Me to Create New Book Objects” will cover her 35 year career in library conservation and book arts, from Chicago (Newberry Library), Washington, DC (Library of Congress), Iowa City (University of Iowa Library) and Cambridge, MA (Harvard University Library).

She has presented many lectures on historical book structures and created workshops on long and link stitch sewing; girdle books; a multi-quire, wooden-boarded codex from Egypt and most recently a model of a 17th c. printed Almanac for tradesmen with erasable pages.  Pamela is also a retired Paper and Book Intensive Co-director where she has taught many classes.

To give to the William Anthony Conservation Fund, please visit