Czech Pipe

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blog IMG_0564This carved wooden pipe from the Czech Slovak Museum was covered in mud and dust. Since it has so many small crevices it was very hard to clean. I used dampened swabs to remove the dirt. It is in three pieces and combined it took 6 hours to clean.

Below is the before (left) and after (right) cleaning of the pipe stem.
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New Volunteer Elizabeth

Friday, November 20, 2009

Blog IMG_0021Elizabeth Boyne has joined us in the lab as our newest volunteer. We have no shortage of projects. She started with cleaning and flattening newspapers from the Czech Slovak Museum but will most likely clean a collection of busts from the African American Museum and assist with cleaning and flattening manuscript files. Elizabeth is a Graduate Student enrolled in the Joint SLIS and Center for the Book program. She will be working with us in addition to working in Book Repair with Susan Hansen. We’re always excited to gain an extra pair of hands!

Where We Are Now

Monday, November 16, 2009

On October 23 we sent another round of artifacts back to the African American Museum. We also sent back the first of the manuscript boxes to be cleaned.

We hope to be out of Oakdale Hall by the end of the year and it is heartening to see it empty out a little more each time we send things back. Almost all the metal objects have been finished and we are in the process of completing the wooden items from the African American Museum. We have only a few remaining objects from the Czech Slovak Museum that need to be cleaned.

The African American Museum Manuscript box project, which consists of 105 boxes of files that need to be cleaned, flattened, and rehoused, is well underway. Twenty three boxes have been returned and there are several more in various states of progress.

The LP and 45 Collections are virtually finished, we are still researching cleaning methods for the 78s. Once we have returned the LPs we will be able to move the remaining objects at Oakdale Hall to be stored at the Library.

The fact that we are getting to the point where we can consolidate items is a pretty big deal. When the flood recovery began we were bursting at the seams wondering where on earth we would find the room to store all of these things. Now that we have some breathing room it is easier to see the progress that we have been making.

inventory fun

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Keeping order in the aftermath of a disaster is not easy to do. When the flood hit Cedar Rapids in 2008 there was very little time to get everything out of the museums and things that weren’t rescued until after they had sustained flood damage were at times so unrecognizable it was hard even to identify which museum they had come from! There was no time to take an inventory, label or organize anything.

When we got the books, maunscripts, and artifacts back to the University one of our first, and largest, tasks was to put things in some semblance of order. This was mainly done for museum artifacts as opposed to the books and manuscripts which tend to be a bit easier to identify. We had a rough idea of what we should have and the curators were extremely helpful but many items had tags obscured by mud or ink that had run.


We imposed our own organization system and began a database to keep track of which museum an item came from, the condition, proposed treatment, actual treatment, treatment time and date finished. In addition to this we photographed every thing before we started work on it. This organization system has made it much easier for us to locate items when we are in contact with the curators. It also allows us to record what we’ve done for future reference.

The African American Museum is using a program called Past Perfect which allows us to see images of items before the flood. This has been invaluable in cases where we don’t know exactly how much treatment an object needs. We don’t want to remove a finish because we think it is staining from the flood. We also do not want to “overclean” objects, taking away from their provenance.

Record Cleaning

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Caitlin and I discussed the timeline for returning the LPs and 45s to the Czech Museum yesterday, and we decided to start forging ahead with the final wash of the albums. We are using the same method we used right after the flood, when there was still a ton of mud on the records. One tray with a mild and dilute soap, and another tray filled with only water for rinsing. As you can see, we  switched brushes–we needed a slightly stiffer brush for these more sturdy records. I am also holding the record upright, in order to minimize the water contact with the paper label, as we have found some of the inks will run.  After a quick dry on a rack, I don cotton gloves and wipe them to make sure there are no drips and then stack them to dry while I wash another round. In the afternoon, I then use a microfiber brush on the dry records and sleeve them. Then, after nearly a year of separation, the freshly washed record is reunited with a clean and newly sleeved cover.

A Typical Day of Flood Recovery Work

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I checked in with the conservation lab staff this morning. I happened to have my camera with me and thought you might like to have a snapshot of a typical day. This is the activity I captured at 10AM this morning.

While the ledger from the Johnson County Historical Society dries in the press, Gary begins to inspect and separate the pages from the next ledger in the queue.

While the records from the National Czech & Slovak Library & Museum are drying, Beth is mending a record cover.

Caitlin is cleaning a manuscript from the African American Museum of Iowa and Bryan is cutting board to make folders for Czech records.

Kristin is searching for the “perfect” spill guard to put around our new water system for the “just-in-case” pipe leak. The last time we had a pipe break all the water went into the Library Director’s office. Not a good thing!

Clean Water Coming UP!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blog DSCN0612At long last we are seeing action on obtaining a new water system. Our proposal to replace our old system was first drawn up in September 2007. We finally had it accepted in the spring of 2008. Then the floods came. No more money.

We could not keep our old system clean. Projects were continually suspended as we waited for our system to get cleaned and disinfected. Given that we had agreed to clean flood damaged materials and would need a reliable, clean water system, we set out looking for funding only to find ourselves in Blog DSCN0613
a Catch-22 situation. Since the conservation lab had not been flood damaged, we did not qualify for emergency funding. Asking our clients to pay for equipment that we should have had already didn’t make sense. The State Historical Society of Iowa Historic Resource Development Program came to our rescue.

After months of consultation and reviewing proposals, work has begun. The water system will be installed first as we wait for our new sink. Our old sink was repositioned today so we can use the new water system the minute installation is completed. The very first project will be the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library phonographic record collection.

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For the Record: First Box of Czech/Slovak Museums LPs Done!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Filing the record with corresponding album cover For months now we have been slugging away, dry cleaning the Czech Museum’s LP album covers, and we are just past the half-way point. As we get closer to the end, we are filling the area that currently houses the clean records and the clean covers. I thought it may be a good time to take a break from dry cleaning and make some room by combining a box of records with its partner box of covers. 

This morning I completed the final wash on one box of records. After the records dried, I brushed them one last time with a micro-fiber brush and sleeved them. I then retrieved the corresponding box with the album covers from their cozy storage area and set to work reuniting the LPs.  Stunningly, a good portion of them seemed to be in order. A little shuffling was needed, but they are all here and clean and upstairs.

Czech letter 2

Monday, April 6, 2009

This letter, besides being filthy, had a severe crease across the center. It was a manuscript rather than printed so I couldn’t wash it. I dry cleaned the three pages of the letter and placed it in a humidification chamber to relax the paper. I then put it between slightly misted blotters and under a board with no weights to make sure I didn’t set the crease. The staining remained but I was able to stabilize and flatten the letter. Most of the manuscript is still legible with the exception of one area on the front page that couldn’t be cleaned any further without risk.