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:

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:

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

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

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

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.

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.

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!”

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!