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Gary Frost to direct library conservation project in Peru

A University of Iowa Libraries preservation team will assist conservation of historical libraries of Arequipa, Peru. Arequipa is in the southern region of Peru near the border with Chile.  With a population of one million it is the second largest city. The city is 40 miles from the coast and surrounded by volcanoes and expansive canyon lands. The region has had long pre-Incan settlement with an archeological record of more than 6,000 years. The Incan intrusion began in the 14th century. Spanish settlement was established in 1539.

The project team will demonstrate actions needed to preserve these historical libraries. Specialists Chela Metzger from the Kilgarlin Center for the Preservation of the Cultural Record, University of Texas at Austin, Anna Embree, from the School of Library and Information Studies, The University of Alabama and  project director Gary Frost, UICB Instructor and University of Iowa Libraries will demonstrate non-damaging exhibit installation, methods for preservation of historical libraries and cleaning and stabilization of book collections.  The team will also participate in salvage of collections from earthquake damage.

Libraries for the education of clerics were founded beginning in the mid 17th century. Subsequent acquisition programs have continued to build the collections bringing together printed books imported to Peru as well as those printed in Peru over a period of five centuries. The genres collected include civil and cannon law, theology, ecclesiastic history, philosophy, sociology, and linguistics. The church libraries have also served as repositories for magazines, newspapers and regional imprints of various kinds.

Freezer preservation: Donated appliance helps UI save water-damaged goods [The Gazette]

Freezer preservation
Donated appliance helps UI save water-damaged goods

By Suzanne Barnes
The Gazette
IOWA CITY — When you reach into your grocer’s freezer for a bag of broccoli, you’re performing the same action UI Libraries Conservator Gary Frost does at the University of Iowa Libraries.  The only difference is you are taking out and he is putting in. In order to preserve books and other materials that have gotten wet, Frost places them in a 1981 Hussman freezer which was donated to the UI in 2006 by the University of Texas, where Frost also has worked. He calls the freezer, which is like the one at your grocery store, a “work horse.” Here’s how the work horse operates. “Blast freezing” a book to between minus 30 and minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit stops the damage of water wicking through it and also inhibits the growth of mold. The next step is to “freeze dry” the book, which is warming it to just below freezing. The ice within the book forms a frost on the outside, much like the frost that forms on a package in a grocer’s freezer when moist, warm air enters as the door is open. To rid the book of that ice, fans blow the ice crystals onto the colder freezer coils, where ice re-forms. That process is called subliming.  Ice on the coils is then melted and removed from the freezer during defrosting. A home refrigerator with a frost-free freezer works the same way, in a sense continually purging the compartment of frost. It’s what causes freezer burn. The freezing method, said Frost, has been around for about 25 years and is used by other libraries and institutions. Iowa State University has two of the freezers to help with conservation. And it’s not just books that benefit from the process either. Anything in the university’s “tangible collections,” such as fabrics or furniture or taxidermy, can go through the process as long as it fits in the 52-cubic-inch freezer.  For example, the Nov. 20, 2001, fire at Old Capitol also resulted in tens of thousands of gallons of water pouring into the building and onto the furnishings. One of the arms of an Old Capitol chair fell off not long ago, Frost said, because of internal moisture. Placing the chair in the freezer and going through the blast freezing, freeze drying and subliming would remove any remaining water from the chair. Incidents that result in damage to books, furniture and other items are not always as dramatic as the Old Capitol fire. Sometimes a dehumidifier can overflow or water pipes leak or a roof drain may malfunction. Frost said the UI also helps others with moisture problems, including materials from the Mississippi gulf coast. And the UI library is a member of the Iowa Preservation and Conservation Consortium, which provides help to all smaller collections and archives. “We’re always on hand to assist,” he said. The process, which always begins with blast freezing and freeze drying, also can be used to kill insects.

Contact the writer: (319) 398-8434 or suzanne.barnes@

UI Libraries Brings Historic Dental College Photos To Life

In 1883, with its first class, the College of Dentistry at the University of Iowa began a tradition of mounting individual portraits of graduates on photo boards. Over time, these boards made their home in the basement of the college’s modern building, where they were silently deteriorating until last year. Today, these images — part of university’s heritage — have been preserved in the UI Libraries’ Dentistry College Class Photos Collection.

UI Libraries Brings Historic Dental College Photos To Life

Mascagni Prints Project completed at Hardin Library

August 18, 2006

What is probably the most spectacular book in The University of Iowa Libraries is the exceedingly rare elephant-sized folio of hand-colored anatomical plates known as the Anatomia universa of Paolo Mascagni, an eighteenth-century Italian physician and teacher. So rare is this work that it is little known even to specialists, though it may be said that Mascagni’s atlas is to the field of human anatomy what the famous bird illustrations of Audubon are to the field of ornithology — most striking examples of applied art.

A gift from Dr. John Martin of Clarinda, Iowa, The University of Iowa’s copy of this masterpiece is in pristine condition, having remained until recently in the possession of the same Italian family since its publication more than 150 years ago. Comprised of two sets of 44 plates, this “book” is so large it has never been bound.


Books at Iowa 38 (April 1963)

Until recently, the size of these magnificent prints has prevented them from being shown to the public as a set.  Now, with the help and expertise of Conservator Gary Frost, they are mounted so that the entire set can be viewed at a glance while their safety remains assured.  Digital images from this collection can be viewed here.

Shown is Caitlin Moore who cut mats and assembled the forty display frames.
Shown is Caitlin Moore who cut mats and assembled the forty display frames.

Visit from Armenian Manuscript & Book Scholar, Sylvie Merian

On October 12th, 2004, Sylvie Merian, Reference Librarian at the Pierpont Morgan Library, provided the UI book studies community with a terrific illustrated lecture on the medieval Armenian manuscript book, entitled What Makes a Medieval Manuscript Medieval? Problems with the Periodization of Armenian Manuscripts. She defined the Armenian manuscript book as a medieval product despite its persistence into the modern era and despite its strangely modern visual content. The Armenian manuscript book remained medieval as a purely liturgical product that did not extend to secular genres or secular production. The Armenian manuscript book also remained medieval because of the long persistence of its distinctive materials and structural features.

Sylvie discusses Armenian Bookbinding features using the UI Armenian binding model made by Shanna Leino. Melissa Moreton, a graduate student in Medieval history and organizer for Merian's visit, looks on.
Sylvie discusses Armenian Bookbinding features using the UI Armenian binding model made by Shanna Leino. Melissa Moreton, a graduate student in Medieval history and organizer for Merian's visit, looks on.

Sylvie also provided a morning seminar session on Armenian bookbinding on October 13th. Ten workshop participants learned that the Armenian book has unique characteristics that are both hybrid and transitional to book traditions of other cultures. A  composite of reinforced chain stitching onto light cords which are seated in deep sewing kerfs, ornate and compound endbands and a tooled decoration including the vertical striation of the spine are some of the signature Armenian bookbinding features.

Below, left: Larry Yerkes and Gary Frost study an Armenian Manuscript with Sylvie.
Below, left: Larry Yerkes and Gary Frost study an Armenian Manuscript with Sylvie.

Sylvie L. Merian received her Ph.D. in Armenian Studies from Columbia University’s Department of Middle East Languages and Cultures in 1993. Her dissertation was titled “The Structure of Armenian Bookbinding and Its Relation to Near Eastern Bookmaking Traditions.” From 1993-94, she was Curatorial Assistant at the Pierpont Morgan Library, where she contributed extensively to the 1994 exhibition, “Treasures in Heaven: Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts”, and was a co-author of the accompanying catalogue. She has published and lectured on Armenian codicology and manuscript illumination, as well as the history of the book, and has curated small exhibitions on Armenian manuscripts and printed books. She is presently the Reference Librarian at the Pierpont Morgan Library.

New Minter Sonic Sealer Delivered to Conservation, November 12-13, 2003

Bill Minter has delivered and installed a new Ultrasonic Welder for polyester encapsulation at the University of Iowa Conservation department. His visit was remarkable. He had previously installed one of the earliest welders here in 1984 and he mentioned that it was unusual to be describing features of a new machine in terms of differences from the previous one.

Bill offers an in-depth history of Mylar.
Bill offers an in-depth history of Mylar.

The current OT-D4, #1147 at Iowa is the most recent of more than 160 installedmachines world wide. Bill provided many details of the history of his development of the Ultrasonic Welder and credited Sid Huttner, Head of Special Collections here at the University of Iowa, for his early encouragement. Of course, another prompt for Bill’s reminiscences was his work with Bill Anthony. Bill Minter was Bill Anthony’s first apprentice finishing his term in the late 1970s.

Bill demonstrates the Ultra-sonic welder
Bill demonstrates the Ultra-sonic welder

Bill Anthony subsequently came to the University of Iowa as its first Conservator, founding the Conservation lab here in 1984.During his stay here, Bill Minter attended and addressed the University of Iowa Bibliofiles and attended Lynn Amlie’s lecture on the production of the Oakdale papers used to underlay the Charters at the National Archives & Record Service. He also exchanged research findings on naturally aged paper stocks with another UI expert on the topic, Tim Barrett.

UI Conservator, Gary Frost, participated in a UI Children’s Hospital time campsule opening on October 16, 2003.

The event is reported upon in the Iowa City Gazette article below.

Items from 1918 time capsule.
Items from 1918 time capsule.

1918 TIME CAPSULE OPENED; holds newspapers, UI course catalog

By Tom Owen
The Gazette
Thursday, October 16, 2003, 11:15:12 AM

IOWA CITY — As a curious audience waited, two employees of the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine pried open a copper time capsule Wednesday afternoon.

The capsule had been placed in the cornerstone of the UI Children’s Hospital upon its construction in 1918. Since then, the building had been renamed the Steindler building, after Arthur Steindler, the first head of the UI’s orthopedic surgery department and the prime mover behind the Children’s Hospital.

UI officials later leveled the building to make way for the Medical Education and Biomedical Research Facility — the site of Wednesday’s event — and the Carver Biomedical Research Building, now under construction.

On Wednesday, the tension grew as the audience pondered what could be in the capsule. Some charming old instruments used in the hospital?

“We really don’t know what’s in there,” said Gary Frost, a paper conservator for the UI Libraries.

Then, the moment of truth.

Frost peered into the capsule. “It’s neat,” he said.

Nothing to get the heart racing, however.

The capsule contained some dusty newspapers, a bulletin of some kind and a moldy UI course catalog without a cover.

Two of the newspapers were a May 16, 1917, issue of the Daily Iowan and a May 15, 1918, issue of the Iowa City Citizen. One of the headlines referred to President Wilson telling Congress to keep its “hands off.”

“Some things never change,” a man said.

After the event, Frost said the capsule’s limited contents were not too surprising. Today, creating a time capsule is often a highly orchestrated production.

But historically, Frost said, time capsules have often been put together by construction workers who hastily decide to wrap up some items and put them in the building’s walls for posterity. They know the capsule will be untouched until someone comes along to see if the cornerstone has a time capsule.

“What is put in is almost an afterthought,” he said. “That could be the case here, too.”

That didn’t bother Thomas Steindler, the great-nephew of Arthur Steindler. Steindler, of the Washington, D.C., area, and his family had come to watch the capsule opening. The event coincided with the UI naming Dr. Joseph Buckwalter the Steindler chair of orthopedic surgery.

“I’m very excited to be here for this intersection of the past and the future,” he said. “I hope it will be an inspiration for the next 85 years to carry on what has happened until now.”

Visit and Demonstration from Alan Puglia

On August 25, 2003 Alan Puglia, from the Harvard University Weissman Preservation Center, provided a demonstration of solvent-set book repair tissue. This repair method is suited to leather covered bindings and provides a direct and non-damaging method of reinforcing the hinges of these, frequently fragile, books. Both Harvard Libraires and our own Preservation department use the kozo tissue produced at the Oakdale Mill as the basis for the alcohol rewettable repair material.

Alan applies Solvent-Set repair tissue to a book while Gary Frost looks on.
Alan applies Solvent-Set repair tissue to a book while Gary Frost looks on.

Preservation Department presents “Preserving Family Home Movies” at the Iowa State Fair

On August 12, 2003, Susan Hansen, Nancy E Kraft and David McCartney promoted the UI Libraries and “Preserving Family Home Movies” at the Iowa State Fair. In the morning David and Nancy joined WSUI’s (AM910) Dennis Reese in a discussion of preservation issues during “Talk of Iowa.” Website links mentioned during the radio program are listed on the Preservation Department’s website resources page.

ISU Conservator, Ivan Hanthorn (left) and Iowa State Fair participant (3rd from left) visit with UI Preservation Librarian, Nancy Kraft, and Susan Hansen (sitting).
ISU Conservator, Ivan Hanthorn (left) and Iowa State Fair participant (3rd from left) visit with UI Preservation Librarian, Nancy Kraft, and Susan Hansen (sitting).

In the evening Susan, Nancy, and David hosted a booth featuring preservation of family home movies. One of the highlights was a recently restored film created in 1939 by graduate student Thelma Dodson, UI’s Dept. of Physical Education. The film depicts a series of dance compositions composed and choreographed by Dodson as part of her master’s thesis. Bookmarks with tips on preserving home films and videos were given out to those visiting the booth.

Susan Hansen is the Preservation Department’s Book Repair Supervisor, Nancy E Kraft is Head of the Preservation Department, and David McCartney is the University Archivist.