Community, outreach, education, and events Category

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UI Conservator Emeritus Gary Frost to participate in library and archives conservation program.

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The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a generous grant to the Art Conservation Department at Buffalo State College. This funding will provide expanded development of Library and Archives Conservation training.

Frost will provide student instruction and advisement in the expanded program. He will travel to Buffalo twice a semester and provide a summer course in historical book structures. Students will have an opportunity for internships and exchange with the University of Iowa Libraries Conservation and Preservation department.

Frost continues to volunteer at the University of Iowa Libraries and also welcomes UICB/SLIS applicants within the American Institute for Conservation Mentor Program.

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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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Columbia Hand Press

Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Submitted by Jessica Rogers

Columbia Press Outside Special CollectionsWe moved our Columbian hand press from the first floor of the library to the third floor, in front of Special Collections, to make more room for the Learning Commons. If you have not yet had a chance to see it, please, stop by and gaze in wonder at the remarkable craftsmanship and beauty of this historic hand press. As your eyes drift over the various decorations and counter-weights of this cast iron behemoth, take a moment to think to yourself “man, I bet this thing is really, really, really, heavy.” And it is.

Our particular Columbian was cast in 1843 at 120 Aldersgate Street, London, as stated on the brass plate which is mounted at the top of the structure. There is no indication as to when it was shipped to the U.S., where it was used, or when it arrived at the University of Iowa. It is roughly seven feet high and four feet wide (when the press bed is out) and made primarily from cast iron. Cherry Picker In Position to Move the PressHappy CrewAlthough no exact weight of the machine could be found it has been firmly established that the press is very, very heavy. Moving the press from the first to third floor took five men and a cherry-picker, a tool that is used in auto shops to lift car engines. After nearly four hours (and one almost-broken toe) the Columbian was at last settled in its new home.

The Columbian press was invented in 1813 by George Clymer, an American mechanic in Philadelphia. Sadly, Columbian presses were not as popular in the U.S. as they were overseas and Clymer moved his business across the pond where the machines proved more popular. Despite American printers rejection of his press, Clymer continued to decorate the Columbian (the name itself a tribute to Clymer’s beloved America) in patriotic symbols. In fact, Columbian presses can be most easily identified by the bald Eagle counter-weight at the top of the press. To date, there are no remaining American made Columbians and any Columbians located in the U.S. were made abroad and shipped back to American printers.Counter Balance with Eagle

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ICPC Save Our Stuff! Conference

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lynn Koos presenting Do's and Don'ts of Digitization

Lynn Koos presenting do’s and don’ts of digitization

This year’s annual Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium’s Save Our Stuff! conference was held in Mason City, Iowa, Friday, June 7. SOS! is a time to get together and share successes, current projects, and creative solutions and to be reminded that no matter the size of collection or institution we have the same challenges and can learn from each other.

This year we had sessions on the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Park Inn, dealing with mini disasters, risks and solutions for dealing with historic scrapbooks, flattening and storing architectural drawings, do’s and don’ts of digitization, restoring a greenhouse, re-housing puppets and marionettes, and preservation practices for managing storage environments.

ICPC is the only Iowa organization where staff from museums, libraries, archives, historical societies, county records, and other collection organizations work together to find solutions to preservation issues/concerns. SOS!is a great way to network and form alliances that can assist with our daily preservation challenges.

Grace Linden demonstrating creating a humidity chamber

Grace Linden demonstrating creating a humidity chamber

One example of scapbook challenges

One example of scapbook challenges

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Respirator Fit Testing

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Putting the respirator onLast week I attended the American Institute for Conservation annual meeting. To keep up with my disaster response training, I went to all the sessions of particular interest to AIC-CERT (Collections Emergency Response Team) members. One session was on respirator fitness testing, including the actual fitness test. Before we could take the fitness test, we had to turn in a signed doctor’s statement of fitness. We reviewed how to put the mask on (chin in first) and clean it and then tested for a secure fit. As you can see, a bag is put over your head and then a scent is squirted into the bag. If you do not smell anything after you’ve moved your head from side to side, up and down, and read a statement, then you have a good fit. I’m happy to report that I past my test. Getting respirator fitness tested

We also a reviewed several brands and styles of disposable N95 particulate respirators that can be purchased at a local drugstore or online. The important thing is to make sure that the disposable respirator is rated N95 or higher. The N95 mask will provide you protection during limited exposure to molds, dust and other airborne particulates (not oil). As always you should consult with your doctor before using any type of respirator and follow whatever protocol has been established for your work area.Variety of disposal respirators

This, my very first AIC annual meeting, was a wonderful learning experience. I was able to attend thanks to a partial scholarship from the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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Vinzani’s Papermaking class at PBI

Thursday, May 23, 2013
Submitted by Pamela Olson

Paper made with watermark at end of class.

Paper made with watermark at end of class.


Bernie Vinanzi, a veteran papermaker who trained at Twinrocker Handmade Paper and now teaches papermaking at the University of Maine at Machias, taught a workshop with a focus on paper history, fiber selection, and sheet formation. Workshop participants designed their own watermarks and made a wide range of textweight, Western-style paper from cotton, abaca, and hemp fibers.

Julie McLaughlin and Jana Dambrogio cutting out watermarks from vinyl lettering adhesive.

Julie McLaughlin and Jana Dambrogio cutting out watermarks from vinyl lettering adhesive.

Bill Hosterman forming sheets at the vat

Bill Hosterman forming sheets at the vat

Pamela Olson is a Graduate Student at UICB and Conservation Assistant for the University of Iowa Libraries Preservation & Conservation Department and attended Vinzani’s class. Images in this post are from the PBI Facebook page.

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Islamic Binding with Yasmeen Kahn

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Submitted by Kathleen Tandy

Dark brown book with almond shaped designFor my second session class at PBI, I took An Introduction to Islamic Binding with Yasmeen Kahn from the Library of Congress. She explained that in the Islamic tradition calligraphy is the most important aspect of book. The binding is secondary, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful. She began the class by showing us pictures of wonderfully ornate bindings and then immediately told us we weren’t going to make those bindings. What we ended up making was even better, we based some of our designs on more everyday books. The main takeaway from the class was that there isn’t really a right or wrong when it comes to these types of bindings. The Islamic world spans such a large area that there isn’t a consistent style from place to place. Each place influences the other and styles were influenced by the times.

To begin with everyone in the class made a hard cover binding with an envelope flap. We painted end papers for the books and either pasted them up and burnished them or shellacked them to create a high sheen.

White plaquette with blue and gold almond shaped designFor our second item we could go as crazy as we wanted to. Some students made soft cover bindings and some of us made lacquer plaquettes. I made a plaquette loosely based on a Turkish binding. To create the plaquette I edged the board in leather and then added shellacked paper. I drew an almond shaped design in the middle and shellacked the paper again. I then added gold paint and shellacked again.

Fingernails painted goldTo end the class Yasmeen had us all paint our fingernails gold. This is a rare moment for my fingernails to be painted as nail polish can rub off onto items in the lab, but as Yasmeen said “In Islamic Binding there can never be too much gold!”