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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!”

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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

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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!

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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. http://www.figgeartmuseum.org/

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

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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: http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cookbooks

Or, if you’d prefer to try your hand (or eyes) at manuscript transcription, visit the DIY transcription site at: http://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu/

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

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Preservation Pencil in Action

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Preservation Pencil View with Water TankThe Conservation lab recently acquired a Preservation Pencil from Preservation Equipment Ltd. It takes cold moisture from an ultrasonic humidifier and heats it to any desired temperature up to 100 C, producing a thin stream of fine, heated mist suitable for local humidification where it is not possible or desirable to humidify the entire object. Applications include flattening of folds and creases and removal of tapes and adhesives.Preservation Pencil Close Up

Appying humdification to remove old guard.

Appying humdification to remove old guard.


Flattening creases prior to digitizing item.

Flattening creases prior to digitizing item.

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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

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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.

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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.