Object conservation Category

0

inventory fun

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Keeping order in the aftermath of a disaster is not easy to do. When the flood hit Cedar Rapids in 2008 there was very little time to get everything out of the museums and things that weren’t rescued until after they had sustained flood damage were at times so unrecognizable it was hard even to identify which museum they had come from! There was no time to take an inventory, label or organize anything.

When we got the books, maunscripts, and artifacts back to the University one of our first, and largest, tasks was to put things in some semblance of order. This was mainly done for museum artifacts as opposed to the books and manuscripts which tend to be a bit easier to identify. We had a rough idea of what we should have and the curators were extremely helpful but many items had tags obscured by mud or ink that had run.

 

We imposed our own organization system and began a database to keep track of which museum an item came from, the condition, proposed treatment, actual treatment, treatment time and date finished. In addition to this we photographed every thing before we started work on it. This organization system has made it much easier for us to locate items when we are in contact with the curators. It also allows us to record what we’ve done for future reference.

The African American Museum is using a program called Past Perfect which allows us to see images of items before the flood. This has been invaluable in cases where we don’t know exactly how much treatment an object needs. We don’t want to remove a finish because we think it is staining from the flood. We also do not want to “overclean” objects, taking away from their provenance.

0

Blue Boxes

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Volunteer measuring blue corrugated board to make a boxVolunteer with blue boxes completed and one in progress

One of our volunteers has taken on the project of building custom boxes for objects to be returned to the African American Museum in November. Beth has been teaching Kallie Holt how to make boxes from the sturdy blue corrugated board we use routinely in the conservation lab.  In addition to making them easily transportable the boxes will be good for long term storage for these artifacts.

One of the advantages of our close communication with the curators is the ability to have us prioritize items. Susan Kuecker of the African American Museum is opening an exhibit in November and sent us a list of objects she needed so we could re-arrange our workflow. These are the objects that Kallie is re-boxing.  We hope to have a majority of the items from the African American Museum treated, boxed, and ready to go by December.

0

Volunteer Kallie Making a Difference

Friday, July 10, 2009

We have a new  volunteer! Kallie Holt, a Junior at the University of Iowa has volunteered to work 8 hours a week here in the Conservation Lab.

The first project I gave her was the cleaning of a collection of small miscellaneous items from the African American Museum. These objects range from pacemakers to a wooden gavel and everything in between. Most of the collection belonged to a medical doctor, hence the medical paraphernalia and miniature lungs which you can see at the bottom of the photo on the right.  Creepy.

0

Record Cleaning

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Caitlin and I discussed the timeline for returning the LPs and 45s to the Czech Museum yesterday, and we decided to start forging ahead with the final wash of the albums. We are using the same method we used right after the flood, when there was still a ton of mud on the records. One tray with a mild and dilute soap, and another tray filled with only water for rinsing. As you can see, we  switched brushes–we needed a slightly stiffer brush for these more sturdy records. I am also holding the record upright, in order to minimize the water contact with the paper label, as we have found some of the inks will run.  After a quick dry on a rack, I don cotton gloves and wipe them to make sure there are no drips and then stack them to dry while I wash another round. In the afternoon, I then use a microfiber brush on the dry records and sleeve them. Then, after nearly a year of separation, the freshly washed record is reunited with a clean and newly sleeved cover.

0

A Typical Day of Flood Recovery Work

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I checked in with the conservation lab staff this morning. I happened to have my camera with me and thought you might like to have a snapshot of a typical day. This is the activity I captured at 10AM this morning.


While the ledger from the Johnson County Historical Society dries in the press, Gary begins to inspect and separate the pages from the next ledger in the queue.


While the records from the National Czech & Slovak Library & Museum are drying, Beth is mending a record cover.


Caitlin is cleaning a manuscript from the African American Museum of Iowa and Bryan is cutting board to make folders for Czech records.


Kristin is searching for the “perfect” spill guard to put around our new water system for the “just-in-case” pipe leak. The last time we had a pipe break all the water went into the Library Director’s office. Not a good thing!

0

Suitcase Saga Part 3

Friday, May 15, 2009


For the exposed metal I started with a medium grain steel wool to loosen the more rusted areas. I continued to vacuum the loose particles. The next step will be using a double beveled knife to try to remove some of the more stubborn areas of active corrosion. When the metal is cleaned and stable, I will replace the reinforced paper to the inside of the suitcase with wheat starch paste.

0

Suitcase Saga Part 2

Thursday, May 14, 2009


After I removed a majority of the mold I began to lift the paper lining where it was detaching. I did not attempt to remove the paper where it was still adhered because it is so brittle that it would just fall apart. For the areas I could not remove, I gently rubbed the finest grain of eraser crumbs over the surface with my fingers to get some of the dirt up and then vacuumed them with the Nilfisk. You can see all the active rust that was under the paper lining.

0

For the Record: First Box of Czech/Slovak Museums LPs Done!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Filing the record with corresponding album cover For months now we have been slugging away, dry cleaning the Czech Museum’s LP album covers, and we are just past the half-way point. As we get closer to the end, we are filling the area that currently houses the clean records and the clean covers. I thought it may be a good time to take a break from dry cleaning and make some room by combining a box of records with its partner box of covers. 

This morning I completed the final wash on one box of records. After the records dried, I brushed them one last time with a micro-fiber brush and sleeved them. I then retrieved the corresponding box with the album covers from their cozy storage area and set to work reuniting the LPs.  Stunningly, a good portion of them seemed to be in order. A little shuffling was needed, but they are all here and clean and upstairs.

0

Suitcase Saga Part 1

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This metal suitcase from the African American Museum collection was covered in rust and mold. It is also lined with brittle patterned paper. It’s a mess. I consulted with Gary to determine the best course of treatment.

To begin, I used the Nilfisk Vacuum with pipette attachment to get the fuzziest mold, being very careful to avoid catching the paper lining which is detached in many areas.

 Gary shows me how to lift out the loosened lining paper. �

0

Cleaning the Rust

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The pictured objects were actively corroding after the flood. To slow that process we put the objects in sealed containers with silica gel packets. The dessicant pulls in moisture so it doesn’t permeate the objects. 

Now we are trying to clean up the effects of the corrosion and stabilize the metal so that the objects can be put on display and preserved. To begin with, we take small knives (carpenter’s marking knives or exactos) and carefully scrape away the flaking rust spots. Some of these objects were painted so we must be careful not to disturb that while we are removing the rust.

Once the large areas have been scraped a brass or bronze (named for the bristles) brush is used to begin to even out the surface. A couple different weights of steel wool are used and finally a coat of oil which is rubbed into the metal with a fine grain steel wool. 

I cleaned the drill bit last week, it took about 4 hours and the coils were very hard to clean. Looking at it now it doesn’t seem like the same object, It is amazing the difference in the condition. It is tedious work, rivaling the basket cleaning, but there is no saliva involved in this project!