It’s a small world

Friday, May 18, 2012

AAMI Bible with Kolarik Bindery Check
AAMI Bible with Kolarik Bindery Check
I always love when things come together to remind us how small the world really is.  I have been working on a Bible from the African American Museum of Iowa that was damaged in the flood. The Bible was in pretty bad shape.  The binding had totally failed and it was basically just a stack of sheets.  I cleaned every page and then consulted Gary for next step.  He suggested jogging each page together and gluing using the double fan method so that the Bible could be bound once again.

As I was cleaning the sheets a cancelled check to the Kolarik Bindery fell out of the pages.  It was a check to have the Bible rebound in 1973.  This was significant to me as most of the Kolarik bindery equipment was donated to the UI Center for the Book to help establish a central location for students to study bookbinding.

While thinking about how great it was to have a book bound at the Kolarik Bindery as I was working on a book for the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, I looked down at the treatment sheet and was amazed to see that the author’s last name was Kolarik.  Suddenly it all came together – Kolarik is a Czech name.

So while working on a book for the African American Museum of Iowa, I was connected to the Kolarik Bindery and the UI Center for the Book as well as to the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library!

Good-bye Caitlin, Hello Kathleen

Kathleen Tandy working
New Flood Recovery Conservation Technician Tandy Working

Good-bye Caitlin, Hello Kathleen

Caitlin Moore, our Flood Recovery Conservation Technician, is moving on to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.  We are sad to see her go but are so thankful for all the work she has done for the past three years. Good Luck, Caitlin!

We welcome Kathleen Tandy to fill Caitlin’s position as the Flood Recovery Conservation Technician. Kathleen comes to us from the State Historical Society of Iowa where she was working on conserving Civil War Muster Rolls for the State of Iowa.  Welcome Kathleen!

Banner Repaired

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blog IMG_0858This banner from the African American Museum was signed by Jesse Jackson. The signature and surrounding illustration were sprayed with some sort of fixative which didn’t end up being very sound. The large part of the banner was fine but the areas with the fixative were detached and curling up away from the image, taking with it the signature and image.

Blog IMG_0853After consulting with Gary we decided the best course of treatment would be using diluted lascaux adhesive. I applied this with a tiny brush and tacked down all the small curling flags. It was very time consuming but for the most part successful. The image and signature remain intact.

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Moving On!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The long awaited day arrived at last. We moved out of our “dirty room” at Oakdale Hall, took down our sign, and turned in our keys! Over 18 months ago in the midst of finding space for faculty and students, University of Iowa officials took time to find us a room where we could store the flood damaged items from the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and the African American Museum of Iowa. I’m still amazed at the fast turn around time we had for the flood response. The flood waters hit these two museums June 12, 2008. We were salvaging collections by June 18 and had a place at the University secured by June 23 with collections arriving the next day. Work on collections began immediately. Wow!

I suspect that this time table seemed really slow for the staffs of the two museums. I know it would feel slow if it were my collections. However, for an area disaster on the scale we had, this is very quick response time.

At one time this room was so full of items that we could barely move. The room allowed us to put things on hold until the museums could decide how to move forward. We started to clean the Czech LPs immediately as they were the most valuable and at highest risk of further damage. The Czech/Slovak staff took several boxes of items back for volunteers to clean. The African American staff brought in a consultant conservator to assist in prioritizing material.

We stored close to 5,000 records and 500 museum objects until we had them clean enough to bring into the conservation lab. Not all items were taken to the lab for final cleaning. Many were cleaned at Oakdale either because they were too big or the cleaning process was too dirty and smelly. Several objects were sent off to other conservation labs. All the LP and 45 records are clean and returned to the Czech/Slovak Museum and close to 300 objects have been returned to the African American museum. Others are waiting to be picked up. We have less than 30 objects left to clean.

We owe a special thanks to Steve Stenstrom (Wooden Object Conservator, Windsor Heights, IA) who conducted several sessions on cleaning metals and wooden objects; Helen Alten (Objects Conservator, West Virginia) who provided training and guidance on baskets and gourds; and Gary Frost (UI Libraries Conservator) who provided assistance with cleaning of the records, miscellaneous paper items, and the Jackson banner.

We could not have provided the flood recovery work for the African American Museum of Iowa and the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library without this room.

The rest of our work will be conducted in our conservation lab.

Though we still have much to do, it was a big step (physically and psychologically) to move out of the Oakdale campus. The end is in sight!!

Banner Solution

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Blog IMG_0077For months we’ve looked at the Jesse Jackson banner trying to figure out what to do with it. It was obvious from inspecting the banner that part of the damage was from folding the banner and not from the flood. Once repaired or at least stablized we didn’t want to fold it back up. The ideal would be to store it rolled rather than flat. We thought it was too fragile to withstand a tight roll. Purchasing a tube with an 8″ or larger diameter would cost $150 or more.

I took what I thought was a brilliant idea to our conservator, Gary Frost — building our own tube using multiple layers of thin archival tan board around a 5 gallon paint can. He suggested that buying a cement forming tube would be cheaper and easier. So we did.

The tube was, of course, acidic. We chose to line the roll with book cloth which gives a double barrier Blog IMG_0658 of adhesive and cloth between the banner and acidic tube. Other type liners could have just as easily been used — several layers of Mylar, polyethylene plastic sheeting, Tyvek, or heavy-weight acid-free paper.

Gary cut the tube down to size and then Linda and Caitlin lined it. As you can see, getting the cloth on smoothly is really a two-person job!

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Cleaning Busts

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blog IMG_0920One project that Kallie is working on is cleaning a collection of busts. After Caitlin tested a couple different treatment methods she settled on using a mixture of water and photo flo roughly a 4:1 ratio. Kallie has been using swabs and cotton pads to remove the mud covering the busts. This process is particularly time consuming due to all the small crevices in the sculptures. There are 7 busts and Kallie has completed one and is halfway finished with a second.

The busts were a part of The Old Taylor Distillery Blog IMG_0922Company bourbon whisky promotion. For $5 you could buy a sculptured bust of an ingenious American. They belonged to Mrs. Gerolyn Banks, a teacher who used them as instructional tools in her classroom (incidentally, she didn’t drink alcohol). Kallie is working on Lewis Latimer who worked with Thomas Edison and developed an improved method for the production of carbon filaments in Edison’s light bulb. The ad for this particular bust can be found in Ebony, July 1967.

Other busts in the series include: Granville T. Woods who improved telegraph system for railroads; Garrett Morgan who invented the electric traffic signal; Benjamin Banneker was an astronomer, clockmaker, and surveyor who predicted eclipses; Norbert Rillieux improved sugar refining process; and Matthew Alexander Henson reached the North Pole with Admiral Peary in 1909. He was actually the first member of the team to set foot on the spot.

Two Vernons and a Typewriter

Monday, January 4, 2010

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One of our quandaries was how to clean Vernon Smith’s typewriter, an important artifact from the African American Museum. We found our answer when we contacted Vernon Steve at Steve’s Business Machines (formerly Steve’s Typewriter) in Iowa City. Vern cleaned and repaired the typewriter but did not repaint it. The typewriter shows the wear and tear of the flood but is clean and fully functional.

Vern inherited the business from his father. He not only repairs typewriters but also repairs cash registers, old calculating machines, time-clocks, etc. In fact, after seeing the results of the typewriter cleaning, we left a flood-damaged sweeper for repair.

Vernon Smith courtesy of the African American Museum of Iowa
Vernon Smith courtesy of the African American Museum of Iowa

The typewriter was a college graduation gift from Elmer Sr and Vesta Smith to their son, Vernon. He graduated from Coe College circa 1950. He used this typewriter to type up his master’s thesis at the University of Iowa. He received a master’s in Chemistry from the U of I in 1952. Before receiving his master’s he had accepted a position as a chemistry instructor at an African American college in Virginia. 10 days after receiving his master’s while he was packing to move to Virginia, he contracted polio and lost the use of both of his legs and one of his arms.

He spent 4 years recovering from polio and then found a job in the special laboratory at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. He worked there for 35 years retiring as head of the lab. He was very active in community affairs in Cedar Rapids, particularly in Civil Rights issues. He co-founded the Cedar Rapids Negro Civic Organization in 1961 and served on its scholarship committee throughout the 1960s. In addition, he served as a member of the Cedar Rapids N.A.A.C.P. and the Cedar Rapids Council on Human Relations. In 1971, he was named “Handicapped Iowan of the Year”. He married Phoebe Downs and raised five children: Ruby, Vernon, Deborah, Phoebe, and Katharine. He passed away in 2000. More at:

Endless Possibilities Grand Opening

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blog IMG_0510Last night I attended a reception for the grand opening of the African American Museum of Iowa’s permanent exhibit “Endless Possibilities” which traces the journey of Iowa’s African Americans. This event was also a farewell to curator Susan Kuecker who is moving to Pittsburgh.

Susan and I have crossed paths many times, sitting on the same board, giving presentations, sharing Blog IMG_0501preservation concerns. Since the flood I’ve gotten to know Susan even better and am impressed with all the work she’s done post flood. This exhibit is a fine example of her ability to bring a story to the public.

It was a lot of fun to go through the exhibit and see all the items that we had worked on put into context. There was no signage indicating what had and had not been in the flood. I doubt very much that anyone Blog IMG_0502going through the exhibit could discern which was which.

If you have been reading the blog, you should recognize the gourd, basket, money (the long thin metal),
suitcase, and buttons as items that we have cleaned.

Suitcase Saga Part 4: Conclusion

Thursday, December 12, 2009

After lots of fussing and fiddling the suitcase is finally done. I removed all the rust from the exterior and cleaned up the metal. The interior was trickier. I removed the paper lining and lined it with a heavy japanese paper and wheat starch paste. Underneath the paper the metal of the suitcase was extremely rusty so I removed that rust as well before re-adhering the new “lined lining”.  It wasn’t possible to remove the mold stains from the paper lining so this suitcase has ended up with a much more colorful interior than it ever had in it’s pre-flood life!

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