Community, outreach, education, and events Category


Turning the Corner – Leather Paring with Jeff Altepeter

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Submitted by Kathleen Tandy

Plaquette with a KIn my first week session course at PBI, I took a leather paring class with Jeff Altepeter from the North Bennett Street School. The tricks I learned in his course were well worth the price of admissions. I feel so much more comfortable on the Sharf-fix paring machine and am more confident about my knife skills as well. Plaquette with inlayTo begin, we worked at paring leather as thin as we could to work on covering plaquettes. We also worked on paring leather thin enough to become onlay pieces. We learned how to use the ascona tool to create thin lines on our plaquettes which we would then lay in a very thin strip of leather.Ascona Tool

Notched board with endbands pasted upThe best trick that I learned all week was how to make stuck on endbands. This is something that I have done in the past and something that we occasionally do in the lab, but the process is usually a messy and gluey one. With Jeff’s trick it is simple and painless.

To begin you take a piece of book board and make a notch on either side. Then you take a piece of thread or cord and stretch it across the board and catch it in the notches. Next glue or paste up your endband material, in this case leather, and slip it under the cord. Fold the endband material over the cord and press into place with your fingers or a bone folder. Then leave to dry. It is as simple as that!Close up of endband


Historical Long and Link Stitches Lessons at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Adam Larsson, Conservator from SwedenReporting from Oxbow School of the Arts in Saugatuck, Michigan, Giselle Simon, here, attending Paper and Book Intensive, 2013. We got off to rousing start with a fantastic line up: Jeff Altepeter, binder and instructor from North Bennett St. School taught a technical leather paring class. Bernie Vinzani, Papermaking faculty from the University of Machias, Maine covered papermaking techniques involving watermarks and sheet formation. Sarah Bryant, printer from the UK covered pressure printing on the letterpress. Paula Jull, book artist and instructor from Idaho presented a page design class. Adam Larsson, Conservator from Sweden, shared with us 14th C. limp vellum structures from the National Library in Uppsala.

Close up of long stitchingLarsson’s class was of particular interest to me, as we saw a version of historical long and link stitches originating from Northern Europe. We recreated two particular bindings from the Uppsala collection, these being manuscripts. The structures featured a stiff spine piece sewn with the text, which was usually carved horn, leather or parchment. The spine piece protected the cover and allowed for bookmarks of thread or tawed skin to be tied to the linking stitches at the head of the book. Decorative elements such as colored tawed Example of long stitchingskin or silver sheets (like foil) were placed behind cut outs in the spine. The long stitching was woven with additional thread after sewing to add protection to the stitches, but also added a beautiful aesthetic touch. There was a close connection with Italian paper case structures, but clearly these bindings have a look and feel all their own, each being relatively the same size (approximately 9 inches in height), a stiff spine piece, and some type of horn or parchment “button” closure and all link or long stitch.

Book showing experimentation with other materialsDuring the final day, Larsson encouraged the class to experiment with other materials for the spine piece, with some participants finding drift wood from the nearby Oxbow lagoon. The sewing holes, which were drilled into the wood and text attached to it by the sewing (linking and long stitches), created a modern twist to the Medieval structure.

Canoe trip for relaxationAfter a brief “day-off” to prepare the studios for the next session (plus a canoe trip!), we look forward to another week of paper, book and print…intensive!


University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections Now on the Road

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Exhibit flyerSeveral items from the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections are now a part of the exhibit “Marking Territory, Cartographic Treasures of the Mississippi River and the World Beyond,” March 2- June 16, 2013 at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport.

Curator Rima Girnius from the Figge, worked with Mary McInroy and Greg Prickman to select 17 maps, 3 books and 1 copperplate for this exhibit which explores “how maps communicate highly complex ideas about identity, politics, and culture.” After selecting the objects for the show, the items were documented and prepared for exhibit by the Conservation Staff. Giselle Simón, Bill Voss, and Kat Tandy of Conservation, with the help of graduate student Pamela Olson, completed repairs, fabricated mounts, and framed the maps for delivery and installation at the Figge on February 28, 2013.

Conservation team

–submitted by Giselle Simón


The Szathmary Digitzation Project

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cover of a CookbookThe University of Iowa’s Special Collections was fortunate to receive Chef Louis Szathmary’s library of cookbooks throughout the mid-80’s.  Among the items were a number of handwritten cookbooks that Szathmary had collected over the years. In the Spring of 2012 conservation and digital preservation students began scanning the manuscripts. The first item, Josiah Ingall’s account book, went digital on March 13th, 2012. The goal was to crowd source the transcription of the pages and create legible, accessible, versions of the cookbooks, some of them dating from as far back as the 1600’s.

A little over a year later, the project reached the 100 mark with the digitization of the ‘Household recipe book of Mrs. Howard of Staines, Middlesex and Salsfield Court, Nr. Westerham, England’.  This number represents hours of work in addition to 12,674 images totaling 249,361,919,444 bytes!  Each item is assessed before scanning, treated if necessary, scanned, processed, and rehoused in a 4-fold-flap.  The DIY transcription project is also moving along at a good pace with 33,222 pages transcribed to date.

If you’re interested in browsing the digital collection go to:

Or, if you’d prefer to try your hand (or eyes) at manuscript transcription, visit the DIY transcription site at:

Lastly, if you’re feeling super adventurous, try out some of the recipes yourself, also found at the DIY site. There’s everything from dandelion wine to cures for the plague (which hopefully you don’t have).

-Jessica Rogers


Why We Assist in Disasters

Friday, February 15, 2013

Those of us who volunteer to assist in disaster response are, obviously, not in it for the money. Private conservators are not getting paid while volunteering. Many of us are away from family and friends, work hard and go to bed exhausted during recovery efforts. So what is in it for us?

For me, as for many of us, it is the giving back to our community, assisting in saving our culture, and the joy of helping someone preserve a little bit of his/her history. The piece below is a perfect example. I captured the title “For Matthew, May 14-May 15, 1976″ commemorating the birth of the artist’s son.

For Matthew, May 14-May 15, 1976

For Matthew, May 14-May 15, 1976


Teaching Moments at CRC

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Intern Assisting With Vaccuming Canvas PieceAll the work on the artwork damaged by Hurrican Sandy is done by volunteers. It’s a great opportunity for an intern to learn about assessing and cleaning paintings while on the job with a volunteer conservator. Today we had a student volunteer who is studying to become a paintings conservator. She assisted the volunteer conservator, had the opportunity to meet with two artists and work on several different pieces of art. Here she is assisting with vacuuming a canvas. You can already see the difference where they have cleaned.
Artist Cleaning Canvas Stretcher
Sometimes the best person to clean artwork is the artist because he/she knows the piece very intimately. The artist knows what materials were used to create the work and what the original looked like. For instance, the charcoal pieces that I was working with were smeared. Since I don’t know what the original looked like, I am the not the best person to clean the artwork — the artist is. I taught an artist’s assistant how to clean artwork on paper. She knows his work intimately and can consult with the artist as needed.

The paintings conservator worked with an another artist today and taught her how to vacuum clean her works on canvas. I also showed her how to clean the canvas wood stretchers. Since the wood stretchers are made of soft, porous wood, the frames will eventually need to be replaced. In the meantime, some of the mold has been cleaned off, reducing health risks.

There is no way that we can clean all the artwork in the time we have at the CRC. By training others on basic cleaning, we increase our “cleaning power.” Plus the work can continue once the CRC is closed.


Busy Day at the Cultural Recovery Center in Brooklyn

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Testing for Mold

Testing for Mold

We had a very busy day at the Cultural Recovery Center in Brooklyn. The volunteer paintings conservator examined a couple of paintings that an artist brought in during the morning, just before noon she removed an artwork from a frame and examined the piece for mold and damage, in the afternoon she examined art on canvas and tested for mold.

Cleaning a Wooden Object

Cleaning a Wooden Object

The volunteer object conservator spent most of the day cleaning a wooden object with a vacuum cleaner, brush and soot sponge.

Vacuuming a Canvas

Vacuuming a Canvas

An artist’s daughter-in-law spent several hours vacuuming his artwork on canvas.

I spent the day assisting the paintings conservator photodocumenting each piece that she examined and spent a couple hours inspecting art on paper for mold.


An Artist’s Quandary

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

CraigPaintingWhat does an artist do when his/her artwork is damaged? Throw it away because it has been changed and is no longer the same piece? Re-work it and make it a “new” painting? Repair the damage and try to keep the essence of the original? Or leave it as damaged and let it tell the story of the original and the disasterous event? Artists in New York are having this discussion. Everyone is coming up with a different answer and sometimes the same artist has different answers depending on the piece.

Craig Fisher, NYC artist, made the decision to keep this oil on canvas, 1988-89, as is, showing the damage of Hurricane Sandy. He’s decided to let the yellow show through the green.


Assessment and Cleaning

Monday, February 11, 2013

AssessmentToday I spent most of the day inspecting close to 150 art works on paper for mold. It’s very time consuming. The front and back of each piece of art needed to be entirely visually inspected — each inch. I only found a handful that I thought a paper conservator should take a second look at. With reassurance that the pieces are free of mold, the artist can take his time making decisions on how to deal with his water-damaged works.

CleaningTwo volunteer conservators spent the day at the center cleaning the backs of artwork on canvas with a soot sponge. The paintings had already been treated and vacuumed. They finished the entire group and the paintings are ready to be picked up by the artist.


Assisting Artists After Hurricane Sandy

Friday, February 8, 2013

Kraft and artist examine a painting When we inspect an artist’s work, we also ask for the story of the piece to learn more about its history and composition. The pieces that this artist brought in were her final project before graduation where she used as pure a blue, red, and yellow that she could get. She had her art studio in the basement and did not have time to get these pieces out before Hurricane Sandy. (Other higher priority items were taken out.) Each piece was in a plastic bag so there was some protection. Since the basement was flooded, she took everything outside to start drying things out. However while she had everything outside drying, it rained and then the temperature dropped. By the time the entire “hurricane event” was over, her sewer backed up twice. Staying on top of things was difficult.

Although theses pieces show a lot of damage, they are important to her. She plans salvaging them the best she can. A volunteer conservator will clean the pieces for her and then she will work on them as she has time, using advice provided by a conservator.