Treating A Keith/Albee Scrapbook

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Submitted by Katarzyna Bator and Bailey Kinsky

Kate examining the stability of the pages.
Kate examining the stability of the pages.
Our second project this summer is assisting with the treatment of several scrapbooks from the Keith Albee collection. Our work was being overseen by Candida Pagan, Project Conservator. The goal for our treatment is to stabilize the delicate structures for digitization. Picture 1 shows Kate examining the stability of the pages.

The Keith Albee collection includes a large number of scrapbooks that contain news articles, reviews, and programs from the Albee Theater in Rhode Island in the first half of the 20th century. To put it in better context, while examining Scrapbook #78, we found several pages dedicated to Ms. Fanny Brice, a famous vaudeville actress who was famously portrayed by Barbra Streisand in the 1968 musical, Funny Girl.

Most of the work needed for the scrapbooks included flattening of creases, removal of loose items, and repair to

Kate is using humidification to flatten creases in the paper.
Kate is using humidification to flatten creases in the paper.
the leather corners of the cover. Any loose items were placed in folders marked with the location within the book they came from so that they can be properly included during digitization.

Finding a Hidden Gem

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

20160726_131745Finding a hidden gem makes Book Repair Supervisor Susan’s day fun. While repairing a book spine, Susan discovered this stiffener (liner) inside the spine; spine liners often were cut from scraps of paper, sometimes unused pages from books already produced by the bindery. The book she was repairing was published in 1926, so the paper liner is older.
20160726_13250720160802_144109

Documenting and Treating Scrolls: Part 3 Final

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Submitted by Katarzyna Bator and Bailey Kinsky

Picture 1: Kate dipping the tissue through an acrylic paint bath.
Picture 1: Kate dipping the tissue through an acrylic paint bath.
The Buddhist scrolls from the Ficke collection had experienced pretty significant insect damage which greatly increased the risk of damage during handling. In order to stabilize the paper structure, Kate and I performed some basic paper mends using a remoistenable tissue. We had previously tested the inks to make sure that they were not water soluble, but we wanted to avoid exposing the scrolls to excessive moisture because tidelines easily formed and the sheets composing the scrolls were most likely adhered together using a starch-based paste.

We selected several types of Japanese tissue to prepare for the mending and began by first toning them with acrylic paint to better match the color of the scroll (Picture 1).

Picture 2: Area of loss traced on tissue.
Picture 2: Area of loss traced on tissue.
Next, a 50/50 mixture of methylcellulose and paste was brushed over the surface, and the tissues were allowed to dry.

To mend the paper, the area of loss was traced on the tissue using a needle point (Picture 2). A protective, transparent piece of Mylar was placed between the scroll and the mending tissue while tracing. Now comes the “remoistenable” phase of the treatment. The paste and methyl cellulose mixture becomes reactivated in a 1:1 mixture of water and ethanol. The mend was placed on a piece of Plexiglas or cotton blotter and the ethanol/water mix was brushed over the tissue (Picture 3). A tweezer was used to place the mend onto the loss on the paper surface (Picture 4), and then a blotter and weight are placed on top to help the repair to dry flat (Picture 5). All of the repairs were applied to the back of the scrolls so as not to interfere with the manuscript, and Picture 6 shows what a large section of mends look like after drying.

Picture 3
Picture 3
Picture 4
Picture 4
Picture 5
Picture 5
Picture 6
Picture 6

Rescuing Photographic Negatives

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Stack of 8 x 10 negatives with oozing emulsionWith much trepidation yesterday, I went off to work with Tish Boyer at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque to assist her in salvage efforts of significantly damaged photographic negatives. Tish had shared photos of the damaged items ahead of my visit. The sight was not pretty! The negatives had been stored in a refrigerator that quit working some days before staff discovered there was a problem. Some of the emulsion layer on the negatives had turned to liguid and oozed out over the edges of the negatives, making for a gooey mess. I fully expected to just provide moral support as we declared the collection a total loss. Much to our pleasant surprise, we salvaged a lot of the collection! A reinforced lesson that one should never make assumptions about a disaster until there is damage assessment.

Separating negativesTish had located a great place to work in within their building. We were able to work in an old kitchen that had a big exhaust fan. It did its job and kept the fumes away. (One of my biggest worries.) We worked with the “best” looking photographic negatives first. This allowed us to establish a work flow and to figure out how to handle the collection. We took photographs of the container or the stack of negatives if no container, before separating out the negatives and interleafing them into groups of 15 and placing into a folder. We kept a log, documenting the package or stack that the negative came from, making note of actual number per folder, and any comments on condition. We learned some tricks. If the stack of negatives got too gooey and seemed to be too stuck together, we turned the stack over and worked from the bottom up. If a stack looked completely “gone”, we looked for an edge within the stack that we could work open and worked from the inside out. It was amazing. Often we would find salvageable negatives within a very gooey, impossible looking group of negatives.

Negatives in file folders in boxWe worked for 6 hours, separated a little over 1300 negatives with a loss of 250. Not bad considering the state the negatives are in. The salvaged negatives will need additional work. They will need to be cleaned and stabilized. Many have damage around the edges. They will need to be sent off to a photo conservator and then, probably, digitized. The images are a mix of acetate and nitrate film dating around 1925-1932. We didn’t get through the entire collection. Tish has her work cut out for her for the rest of the week. I left her in good spirits. I did accomplish my goal of providing moral support! Continue reading “Rescuing Photographic Negatives”

Highlights from 2015: DIY Collections Care

A book from the circulating collection recently came back from inter-library loan in need of some intervention from Susan Hansen, Book Repair Supervisor at the Libraries’ Preservation & Conservation department.  The copy of The Origin of the Domestic Animals of Africa showed quite a bit of damage, perhaps from an encounter with a domestic animal of the American sort.

duck tape3duck tape1duck tape2

The book’s condition also evidenced collections care from an amateur conservator. The patron did consider condition and access when pulling together the book and returning it as close to complete as s/he received it, but their choice of materials required attention.“…I’ll put it this way: it’s the most duck taped item I’ve seen,” stated Ms. Hansen, well-seasoned in the art and practice of book repair. The patron took great care in reattaching the front cover to the spine using both duck tape and clear packaging tape.  The clear tape was used, likely, so that the spine and important information would be visible.

Susan reattached the cover to the spine of the book and reattached the inside cover to the front page, replacing the title page with a facsimile.  From the Preservation & Conservation department the book will move to a commercial binder where the pages will be uniformly trimmed to remove as much of the damaged area as possible.

Digitizing Hancher Posters

By Ben Bessman, Digitization Assistanthancher_poster 1

Hancher Auditorium had been a noteworthy stop for world famous musical acts, theatre productions, dance companies, and guest speakers in the Midwest since 1972, until its original location was flooded out in June of 2008.  Since then various community sites have served as hosts for the wide variety of performers that normally would have graced the halls of this landmark theater.  But 2016 will bring a welcomed change when the new and improved Hancher Auditorium will open its doors and once again showcase many of the world’s premiere acts.

For more than three decades many of the best Broadway shows, international dance and music troupes, and solo hancher_poster 2artists made their stop in Iowa City, with many coming back over and over again throughout the years.  And thanks to the quick thinking of Hancher Auditorium staff, many of the original posters from those early performances are still intact and have now been digitally preserved as part of the Iowa Digital Library.  The large size of these posters (or “show bills”) required a handful of people to feed them through our 54” Context HD scanner, with most of the preservation images created from this process averaging around 2.0 GB, before we trim them down a little.

These show bills beautifully represent not only Hancher Auditorium’s rich history but the astounding range of performers who have entertained and enlightened our community throughout the years.  From musical greats like Duke Ellington, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Leonid Kogan, to their more contemporary counterparts Bonnie Raitt and Bruce Springsteen- strolling through the show bills of the past is discount time travel at its best.  Discovering gems you never knew about- Ricardo Montalban headlining “Don Juan in Hell” for example, becomes a rewarding experience.

Preserving these materials, from William F. Buckley Jr.’s conservative philosophy lecture in 1974 to Hunter S. Thompson’s “gonzo” journalism speech in 1978, is an important step in celebrating Hancher’s past.  The posters themselves offer as wide a variety of artistic styles as the artists they promote- each feeling specifically designed to capture the spirit of the event being held.  Which, of course, is the idea of the show bill in the first place- it’s where art and advertisement meet.hancher_poster 3

So whether you are a fan of “Grease”, the Vienna Choir Boys, the Royal Swedish Ballet, or the Grateful Dead, these show bills from Hancher Auditorium’s esteemed past surely will have something that will interest you.  We invite you to come take a look for yourself. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/hancher

Preservation & Conservation Welcomes New Equipment!

 

Earlier this month, Preservation & Conservation welcomed a new addition to our family: this lovely new digital image capture system from Digital Transitions!  This equipment will be essential in undertaking one of our most ambitious projects yet, the digitization of the 150 scrapbooks in the Keith/Albee Collection.

While our previous overhead scanner, the Zeutschel, has been in use and doing a wonderful job for several years, there has been a need for some time to update this equipment.  Additionally, guidelines for the Keith/Albee NEH grant require that the scrapbooks be digitized at a higher resolution than the Zeutschel is capable of.  For more information on this project, check out our previous blog posts here and here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The setup for this new equipment is unprecedented for this department.  The main scanning room had to be cleared out entirely in order to make room for it, and it more closely resembles a portrait studio currently than a typical scanning room.  This new digital reprographic system uses a Phase One digital camera back, taking high quality images of each item.  At 80 megapixels, it uses one of the highest-quality cameras currently available.  The camera itself is attached to an electronically movable column.

Visit the growing Keith/Albee digital archive here.