Preservation & Conservation Welcomes New Hires

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beth Stone and Justin Baumgarten in front of Keith/Albee scrapbooksThe UI Libraries Preservation & Conservation department would like to welcome two new(ish) staff members, Justin Baumgartner and Elizabeth Stone. They join us as members of the Keith/Albee project team. They will be working together, along with other UI Libraries staff, to stabilize and digitize the Keith/Albee collection. Both Justin and Elizabeth are University of Iowa graduates who are no strangers to employment at the UI Libraries.

Elizabeth Stone started on July 21, 2014 as the Keith/Albee Project Conservator. She is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa Center for the Book where she studied bookbinding, letterpress printing, and book history. As a student, she worked in Preservation & Conservation salvaging flood-damaged items from the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and the African American Museum of Iowa.

Justin Baumgartner started on July 22, 2014 as the Keith/Albee Digital Project Librarian. He is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa School of Library & Information Science. As a student, he worked in the UI Libraries Special Collections & University Archives and interned for the Digital History Project at the Iowa City Public Library.

The duo will shepherd 125-150 oversize scrapbooks through conservation and digitization workflows during the next three years. Visit the growing digital collection at .

The Keith/Albee project is a three-year project to stabilize, digitize, and provide online access to the Keith/Albee collection which documents the activity of a prominent vaudeville theater company through more than 40 years of business. The records chronicle the expansion of the Keith/Albee circuit, changes in its leadership, and the eventual decline of vaudeville.ka_blog_q1bBlog

The Keith/Albee Project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Iowa Collections Emergency Response Team Training

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Selecting tools for trunk kitYesterday twenty-five individuals from around Iowa gathered at the Camp Dodge Gold Star Military Museum in Johnston to begin training as a member of the Iowa Collections Emergency Response Team (Iowa CERT). Many of Iowa’s documentary collections are scattered in museums and libraries throughout the state. These diverse collections together form an invaluable statewide historical resource. Small institutions in particular often do not have the staff or financial capacity to respond appropriately when the collections are threatened. This training will build a network of experts throughout the state who can respond quickly to emergencies of different sizes and types. The assembled team is comprised of geographically-distributed staff from libraries, museums, archives, and other collecting institutions. The training is partially funded by an Historical Resource Development Program grant awarded to the Iowa Preservation and Conservation Consortium (ICPC). Training is coordinated by the University of Iowa Libraries staff, Nancy E Kraft, Brenna Campbell, and Elizabeth Stone.

First day of training concentrated on learning how to organize, plan, and respond to disaster. Each team member received a trunk tool kit with basic tools for responding to a disaster – hammers, screw drivers, pliers, caution tape, etc.

UI Libraries receives Carver grant to renovate exhibition space

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Exhibit Hall 1960In April, the University of Iowa Libraries was awarded $500,000 by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust in support of the renovation of the Main Library Exhibition Space. Very exciting news!

Our current space was constructed in 1951 and has not changed much since then. Over the years, using the space as an exhibit became more and more challenging. Plus it was a space that people walked through to get from one side of the building to the other making it very difficult to engage anyone in an exhibit.

Due to the Learning Commons project which was completed in 2013, the current exhibition space is now a self-contained area. Anticipating the exhibition possibilities that the Exhibit Hall 2014 ConceptLearning Commons renovation would open up, we began working with consultant Liz Kadera on a gallery and exhibition space presentation. We were delighted that our new Library Director John Culshaw liked our concept drawings and pulled a team together to draft a proposal to present to the Carver Trust.

The renovation will create a more suitable and secure space dedicated to displaying books, manuscripts, maps, documents, artworks, and more from the Libraries collections.

Construction is planned to begin this fall with a proposed completion date of spring 2015.

First image courtesy of the UI Archives, 1960. Second image courtesy Liz Kadera, 2013.

UI Libraries receives NEH $300,000 three-year grant

We are pleased to announce that the UI Libraries has received a National Endowment of Humanities (NEH) $300,000 grant award for a three-year preservation and access project to provide conservation treatment and to digitize 150 oversize scrapbooks in the Keith/Albee Vaudeville Theater Collection.

A page spread from a scrapbook in the Keith/Albee Vaudeville Theater Collection
A page spread from a scrapbook in the Keith/Albee Vaudeville Theater Collection

Since its acquisition in 1976, the Keith/Albee Vaudeville Theater Collection has remained the leading vaudeville archive in the country. Documenting the activity of a prominent vaudeville theater company through more than 40 years of business, the collection is rich not only in newspaper clippings and other publicity, but in managers’ reports and financial records as well. As such, the Keith/Albee collection is more than scattered playbills and more than the personal archives of individual performers. This collection is context. The collection’s focus on the business of vaudeville provides an understanding of the industrial evolution of a major form of popular entertainment. In the end, the collection allows researchers to track the conditions that contributed to the decline of live entertainment and the rise of film—currently a field of intense scholarly interest. As a result of its strong research value, the Keith/Albee collection has been source material for a number of books and dozens of articles, reaching scholarly and popular audiences alike, throughout the past thirty years. As the study of the history and evolution of early, popular American entertainment grows, interest in the Keith/Albee Vaudeville Theater Collection is expected to grow likewise.

A look at the type of damage to some of the scrapbooks in the Keith/Albee Vaudeville Theater Collection.
A look at the type of damage to some of the scrapbooks in the Keith/Albee Vaudeville Theater Collection.

In its current condition, the collection cannot sustain increased handling—let alone the handling it receives now. All of the scrapbooks’ substrate pages are brittle; only the amount of brittleness varies as does the amount of resulting loss and damage. A recent collection survey indicated that 56 percent of the scrapbooks have incurred some degree of loss or damage as a result of brittle paper and normal handling. More than 60 percent of the scrapbooks that have incurred enough damage to have their use limited or restricted entirely. Doing so would make approximately one-third of the collection off-limits to researchers. With this grant the Preservation and Conservation Department will be able to preserve this collection while increasing its access to researchers.

A special congratulations to co-authors Bethany Davis, Digital Processing Coordinator, and Patrick Olson, Special Collections Librarian for their excellent work and dedication to crafting a successful application to one of the most competitive grant programs.

Brittle fragments of paper collect in the spine area of a scrapbook from the Keith/Albee Vaudeville Theater Collection.
Brittle fragments of paper collect in the spine area of a scrapbook from the Keith/Albee Vaudeville Theater Collection.

An Ailing Herbal Comes to Conservation Lab

This book first came to the attention of Martin Rare Book Librarian Donna Hirst when a patron requested to see some of the herbals in the collection. The poor book had been overlooked, though at one time it appears to have seen a lot if use. Or maybe just a lot of neglect. Donna Hirst sent this to the lab for Conservator Emeritus Gary Frost to shore up. While Gary treats this book and gets it to a more handleable condition, I will shadow him and attempt to discover a little bit about this book—where it may have been bound, how typical of an example it is, its condition and what is to be done about it.

The book is a 1626  Frankfurt imprint of Pier Andrea Mattioli’s herbal, originally written in Italian nearly 75 years earlier as a commentary on Diosordies’ De Materia Medica. In 1556 an illustrated edition was published and began to be translated into other languages and widely published. An herbal is a book on plants usually with visual and written descriptions, as well as medicinal, horticultural, and preparatory information.  This particular book is large and has color illustrations, but without much notation.

As you can see from the following images, the book has a rather sorry appearance. The spine has gone concave and is partly exposed. The alum taw (the book covering material) is soiled and has torn along the board edges. Part of the rear board is long missing. The spine liners of parchment are curling away and one of the endbands is gone. Many interior pages are ripped, soiled and have large losses, especially in the first and last few signatures.

Although the initial reaction may be one of disgust or sorrow for the book’s condition, it seems to be the original binding and the condition itself can reveal much about the book’s history. Stay tuned!