My Trunk Kit has expanded from a flashlight and a screw driver to include pliers, wrenches, screwdrivers, a hammer, mallet, crowbar, string, twine, utility knives, caution tape, duct tape, gloves, scissors, flash lights, a “head” light, and hiking boots. The crowbar is handy for prying swollen doors and drawers open. Wet books swell, become jammed into shelves, and often need to be tapped out with a mallet. Ideally, all items will have wood or rubber handles to protect from electrical conductivity. In addition to the trunk kit, I utilize whatever I can find at hand. Window screens are handy for drying out fabrics, thin paper and photographs. String or rope can be strung up between trees and CDs, DVDs, slides, and photographs can be hung up to dry.
Conservation recovery tools have also evolved over the last 25 years. We have multiple types of erasers, brushes, bone and Teflon tools, spatulas, tweezers, and knives for cleaning. We have learned to rinse off the mud and gunk, let material dry and then gently clean the remaining dirt and mud by erasing, scraping, separating pages with the use of multiple tools. I am always amazed at what can be repaired and returned to the library or museum for continued use.
Originally printed in The Gristmill, A Publication of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association, March 2019, p. 45.
With the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association Fall meeting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the fact that I assisted in responding to the flood of 2008, I thought it would be interesting to highlight the personal gear I use to respond to disasters to libraries and museums. The gear can be divided into three categories: personal protective equipment, response tools, and recovery tools.
When I became a preservation librarian in 1993, I had training and information on how to respond to a disaster to collections in a library or museum. My training included a list of needed supplies such as sponges and mops and stressed personal safety but did not include a list of response tools, conservation tools, or personal protective equipment.
Over the years, my understanding of the type of protective gear needed in response grew and continues to be refined. My protective gear has evolved from a pair of rubber boots in the office to a “go bag” which includes a wind-up flashlight (in case there is no electricity), hard hat, goggles, Tyvek suit, rain boots, two types of respiratory masks, nitrile & workman gloves. I always add water, a wide brimmed hat, sun screen, and energy bars.
Candida Pagan, project conservator, traveled to Puerto Rico in early February to participate in the Helping Puerto Rican Heritage Project (HPRH).
Puerto Rico faces specific preservation challenges due to the tropical climate. Salt and humidity, along with more catastrophic weather like hurricanes, pose issues for institutions that house archives and collections. HPRH seeks to educate participants about conservation efforts in Puerto Rico while also advising conservators about care and preservation of their collections.
During HPRH, Pagan and the other participants toured a number of cultural heritage sites including the San Juan National Historic Site, Museo de Arte de Ponce, and the Hacienda Buena Vista, a living history museum whose coffee crops were damaged during Hurricane Maria. Participants also toured the Materials Characterization Center at the University of Puerto Rico’s Molecular Science Research Center. The Project included a symposium at the Fundación Luis Muñoz Marín, during which Pagan presented on basic book care and conservation. The presentations were followed by a Q & A, one of many sessions that Pagan enjoyed throughout her time with HPRH. The final day was a work day at Casa Blanca followed by a tour of La Casa del Libro for book and paper conservators.
“There are a lot of people who care about the preservation of cultural property and history,” Pagan said. “There are over 500 years-worth of historical artifacts from the time of Spanish and US governance, and a rich archaeological history that tells us about the lives of indigenous people before then.”
Nancy Kraft, Head of Preservation & Conservation, recently traveled to Berlin for an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) meeting. The meeting was one of many work sessions to draft and publish a new international standard for emergency preparedness and response plans. The standard addresses what libraries, archives, and museums should include in their disaster response plans and is adaptable for any disaster and any size organization. Since the standard is international, the draft accounts for all kinds of disasters in different geographical locations. For example, in Iowa we must deal with floods and tornadoes, whereas California needs to think about earthquakes and forest fires.
Kraft had been corresponding with other members of the ISO Working Group via the internet since she became a member in the fall of 2015, but as the draft progressed and became more intricate she needed to start attending meetings in person. One meeting was held in Berlin from January 30th through February 1st and consisted of delegates from Sweden, France, Germany, and the U.S. “As the only native English speaker in the group, I did my best to explain nuances and best choice of words,” said Kraft. She was able to draw on her own experiences with disaster response to help inform the draft. Although the lead writer’s first language is French, she drafted the standard in English and was quite thorough in her approach.
When the disaster response standard is published, it will be available in both French and English. The ISO website says that drafting a standard normally takes around three years, and this one is no exception. It has undergone many rounds of drafts with comments from the working group and the international standards community. During the last round of comments there were over 300 editorial suggestions, so although the draft was approved for publication, it will need to be sent out for one final round of comments. Kraft hopes the standard will be published within the year.
Once the document is published, it will be reviewed every five years to keep it up to date. UI Libraries will use the standard to create a new disaster response plan.
Christine Manwiller, former UI Center for the Book (UICB) student, created a facsimile of a Burmese binding for a historical binding class she took as part of her MFA degree. The original Burmese book was from Fritz James, the retired CEO of Library Binding Service, Inc. He acquired the manuscript during his travels and gifted it to the University of Iowa Libraries shortly before Manwiller was inspired to make the model. The original book is an accordion foldout. Its palm leaf style was typical of Burmese books from the late 19th century. Its ornate binding is covered in imitation precious stones, and this elaborate design was likely chosen to highlight the manuscript’s religious significance. Manwiller recreated the text block, emulating the white Pali script written on black paper. She constructed the outside boards, finding materials that would closely match those used for the original book. Conservator Giselle Simón said that this project was an “attractive prospect” for Manwiller, who finds joy in detailed work. Manwiller is now at Buffalo State University in their advanced conservation program.
The facsimile of the Burmese binding is part of the Book Model Collection (BMC), which is housed in the UI Libraries’ Conservation Lab. The BMC was able to acquire the model thanks to the William Anthony Conservation Fund. In 1984, Anthony founded the Conservation Lab and was its first conservator. The fund is meant to honor his achievements and support ongoing and special conservation projects. To view the facsimile in the BMC contact Simón at email@example.com. More information about the original Burmese book can be found in the Iowa Digital Library and the object can be viewed in Special Collections.
At the end of last semester, the University of Iowa Staff Council recognized Linda Lundy with a Longevity Award for her 35 years of continuous service.
Linda began her UI career working in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Later, she accepted a position in the Government Publications department of the UI Libraries. When that department closed, she transitioned to the Preservation & Conservation Department. Gary Frost, Conservator at the time, taught Linda how to make custom protective boxes and enclosures.
During her career in the Preservation & Conservation Department, Linda has made more almost 6,600 boxes and other custom enclosures for collection materials. She also sews book futons, padded cradles used to support fragile books. One of Linda’s favorite projects was creating a cover for the University’s 1903 commencement podium (pictured at right).
“We are so lucky to have Linda in the Conservation Lab,” said Conservator Giselle Simón, Linda’s supervisor. “She not only makes our custom boxes, but thank goodness she’s a great sewer! If you happen to call a book in any of our special collection reading rooms (Art, Hardin, Special Collections, IWA, Music…) you’ll see her handiwork in every book “futon” cradle that supports what you are reading. Also, in this month of February, it goes without saying that the person with the biggest heart here is Linda. She is always looking out for her fellow Lab folk. Thank you, Linda!”
Congratulations Linda, we appreciate your continued service!
As part of the Preservation Department’s customer service focus, books that are placed on rush are processed faster so that patrons can have access to these materials sooner. Not long before this spring semester started, two unbound loose leaf textbooks needed to be placed on course reserves as soon as possible for student use. Books that are sent to the commercial bindery take four weeks to return, so Conservation Assistant Julie Smith decided to bind these rush textbooks by hand in-house.
The first step that the preservation department took for this in-house binding was to glue the loose leaf pages together using a fan-gluing press. During this step, the pages needed to be perfectly aligned. They were fanned in each direction and sanded to create a rough surface so the adhesive would stick to the paper. The glue was applied carefully, making sure not to miss any areas. Smith noted that the fan-gluing process can be a challenging because there is only one good chance to make sure the spine is glued properly and that the pages stay glued together.
Next the spine was covered with a cambric liner and then a paper liner and left to dry overnight. The following day the text block was ready to be glued into its German lapped case, which consisted of book board held together with heavy paper and covered in cloth. It was then placed in a press to dry. After the binding process was complete, the original textbook covers were glued onto the front. These bindings create a polished final product and allow the book to be much more user-friendly than loose leaf pages.
As part of his work in the conservation lab, Bill Voss constructs enclosures to house delicate artifacts. He recently completed a large custom enclosure for one item from Andrei Codrescu’s Art Installation Piece. Codrescu is a Romanian-American writer and artist. His artwork and poetry was acquired for the UI Libraries’ International Dada Archive in Special Collections. A spray-painted tree, wooden staff, puppets, and a pack of Russian cigarettes are just some of the artifacts in the collection.
The spray-painted tree is especially fragile and requires a container that will protect it and help maintain its artistic integrity. Voss created the design for the custom enclosure which he calls a “drawbridge box.” He built the tree’s box over the course of a couple weeks, letting the boards dry in between steps of construction. Foam was used to hold the object in place inside its container and add an extra layer of protection. One wall of the drawbridge box opens down so that the tree can be easily accessed while avoiding damage to the artwork.
Voss has made similar structures in the past to protect items like a globe, a doll, and an Emmy, but the tree’s enclosure came with its particular challenges. To accommodate all of the delicate branches, the box needed to be large. The big boards used to create the walls had a tendency to warp, and keeping them straight was an obstacle. Previous drawbridge boxes that Voss constructed were smaller and needed only a lid to keep them securely closed. The tree’s box needed reinforcement around the middle to support the large boards. This reinforcement also acted as a second closure. Codrescu’s artwork will eventually be kept in off-site storage.
As the University of Iowa community, especially the student population, returns to work, after the holidays we are reminded of the pivotal role students are in fulfilling the University’s mission. We here at the University of Iowa Libraries’ Preservation and Conservation Department are no different, and frankly we really missed our student workers over Winter Break. With our collected sigh of relief to see our diligent student employees coming back, we are extremely pleased that the Conservation Lab’s Dong Dong is the recipient of the Graduate Student Employee Academic Enrichment Award! To have yet another student employee win an award is great honor to the department and a true testament to the strength of our students. It comes with great pleasure to congratulate Dong on her scholarship and on this momentous occasion we also wanted to help people get know her, what she does in the Conservation Lab, and appreciate all this fantastic student has to offer us, the library, and the University of Iowa community as a whole.
Describing Dong’s work, Conservator Giselle Simon said, “She started as Assistant in Book Repair with Julie Smith in 2017. (Time flies!). She’s currently completing her MFA at UICB and is focusing on an artist book project for her thesis. She has an affinity for conservation work, its focus and attention to detail. She naturally understands the materials we use in treatment and these things crossover into her artist book work. Dong works mostly on Special Collections materials, which could include complex repair treatments on book structures and substrate (paper or text block), cleaning and constructing enclosures (custom box-making). She is currently working on the Smith Miniature Collection, so is having to do these kinds of repairs on a much smaller scale.”
We were able to ask Dong some questions and she was only too happy to oblige with some thoughtful answers…
What is your graduate program of study?
Center for the Book.
Where and when did you graduate from college?
I graduated in 2012 from Guangdong University of Finance in Guangzhou, China.
What did you major in?
I majored in Chinese Literature (media studies track).
Why did you choose to pursue an advanced degree in your chosen field?
I did my MA in mass communications in England. Being an international student who was interested in Western cultures, one of the most intriguing subjects to me was cultural hybridization. After graduation I worked as an editor for a cultural magazine, and got very curious about the materiality of the book. When I found that there is a program that studies not only the materiality of the book, but also the making of it, and using the book as a medium of creative expression, I thought it would be the bridge that ties my interests together, so I decided to study book arts at the University of Iowa Center for the Book.
How did you come to your position in the conservation lab?
I learned about book conservation in the Book Arts program. And I applied for the position as a student assistant in the book repair unit and worked there for a year. I learned so much working with circulating books and materials, which afforded me clarity to my professional goals to work as a book conservator. So I applied immediately when I learned that there was an opening for student technician in the conservation lab.
What has surprised you the most about working at the library?
It surprised me how accommodating it is to work as a student employee in a library. For example, the conservator and the staff in the conservation lab are always open to teach students new treatment methods, they also encourage us to practice and experiment. It is not just about working, but also about learning. I also find the library to be very accommodating to people who visit the library. The conservation lab often assists students and classes from different departments for book related researches, we also show visitors how the lab works, therefore building a community that loves and values the book.
What is the most interesting or weird thing you have come across?
Last semester I made an enclosure for a movable atlas from 1874 by G.J. Witkowski that shows the structure and functions of the brain, the cerebellum, and medulla oblongata. The movable parts are very intricate and well crafted. It was so fun to discover layers after layers and look into the brain through a drawing from the 19th century.
How do you think working in the conservation lab will impact your future?
Working in the book repair unit then in the conservation lab allowed me to gain hands-on experience and to hone my craftsmanship as a bookbinder; it also expanded my exposure to both circulating and non-circulating books and materials. I learned not only technical repairing skills, but also how to make treatment decisions regarding different materials, and how to work with people from small to large projects. These are important skills that I could carry to the professional world as I work my way to be a book conservator.
When you are not at work or class what are you most likely to be doing?
I am trying to get better at photography recently, so I bring my camera with me everywhere and look for interesting things to photograph. I also like to go out for walks and hikes. But most days I enjoy staying home alone reading or watching movies.
What was the last movie you saw?
I saw The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on a plane and it was a nice way to start a trip.
Since you work at a library here’s your obligatory book question: what are your 5 desert island books?
I would bring One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolaño, The End (尽头) by Tang Nuo (唐诺)(I read all of his books repeatedly, too bad there’s no English versions), Legend of a Suicide by David Vann, and Primeval and Other Times by Olga Tokarczuk.
The Preservation and Conservation Department are delighted to congratulate Dong with her momentous achievement, and we eagerly anticipate seeing what this gifted student does in the future. With that, her supervisor Giselle can have the last word, “Dong’s just a delight to have in the lab. She has a generous spirit and she laughs at all my jokes!”
Blog post by Abigail Evans, student employee, and Nancy Kraft, head of Preservation & Conservation
This fall we took some time to review our two commercial bindery practices for monographs: DigiCovers and standard solid-color library bindings. DigiCovers are created by color-copying and laminating original covers to make new ones using advanced photocopying techniques. While solid-color bindings make rebound books look “spiffy” and new, DigiCovers show the wear and tear of original covers and leave old library stamp markings untouched. This preserves the character of the book, as well as the original cover design.
Samples of rebound books from this month’s bindery shipment are pictured above. We love seeing the story of the book’s use preserved by the DigiCover – tears, creases, and old stamps. If you look closely at the first photo, you can see the weave of the original cloth used to bind the black and gold book.
In addition to gaining a sense of the history of the book as artifact, staff processing time is significantly reduced. With DigiCovers, there is no need to type up the author and title on the order form. Plus, as the photos illustrate, the covers for these books contain more than just a title and author name. They contain the vibrant details about the book’s history and use.