Before & After Treatment: Keith’s New Theatre clipping book

Before treatment: Crumbling edges, misshapen spine, detached pages, overfilled pages, board detachment front and back.

After treatment: Foldered and housed detached pages in a 4-flap wrapper, sewed new endsheets front and back, lined spine and created new flange with extended liner and new endsheet, reattached text-block to case using new flange, mended edges and substrate tears with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste, humidified and flattened creased clippings.

At a future date, this clipping book will be photographed and uploaded to the Keith/Albee Digital Collection. This project has been funded in major part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Keith/Albee Vaudeville Collection in DIY History!


The University of Iowa Libraries presents a wonderful and exciting opportunity for one and for all: The Keith/Albee Vaudeville Theater Collection in glorious DIY History! Now you too can step right up and take part in transcribing these exciting behind-the-scenes reports!

The first 24 books in the Keith/Albee collection, totaling 7,774 images, are now available for transcription in DIY History.  These initial volumes consist of typed theater managers’ reports, giving one a unique behind-the-scenes glimpse of vaudeville theater during its time. The managers give their own blunt impression of every act that has graced the Keith/Albee vaudeville stages, ranging wildly from lavish praise to scathing criticism. Included in these books are many people who later became legendary stars, such as W.C. Fields, Harry Houdini, and Buster Keaton.

Page including internal review of Harry Houdini from Keith/Albee managers’ report book, March 9-December 14, 1908.

The Keith/Albee collection, one of the most important and comprehensive vaudeville archives in the country, has steadily become available in the Iowa Digital Library. This collection, spanning 150 over sized ledger volumes, documents several decades of vaudeville theater in New England. The Keith/Albee digitization project has been made possible by a generous Preservation and Access grant from the National Endowment for Humanities, with a projected completion date in 2017.

Start transcribing this collection here.

For more information contact:   Justin Baumgartner, Keith/Albee Digital Project Librarian, (319) 384-3431,

Visiting NYC – Digital Transitions Cultural Heritage Round Table

A plate from Francisco de Goya's Los Desastres de la Guerra (1863) being photographed by a camera on a copy stand.
Photographing Francisco de Goya’s Los Desastres de la Guerra with a Digital Transitions RCam & Phase One IQ180 Digital Back. Photo credit: Bethany Davis.

Last week, I flew to New York City for the very first time to attend the Digital Transitions Division of Cultural Heritage Round Table, a day-long event which brought together digital imaging professionals from a variety of institutions including the New York Public Library, Smithsonian Institution, and Frick Collection.

The day began at the Morgan Library & Museum with a handful of colleagues sharing their work in brief presentations. Several times, the audience heartily agreed with nods and laughs as the speakers shared their grips, challenges, and exasperations. Digitization of fold-outs, metadata workflows, and software limitations were among the all-too-familiar challenges. Angela Waarala from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign spoke about two projects which involve large and fragile fold-outs housed within bound volumes. As she enumerated the collections’ features and digitization rationale, I thought of our own Engineering Bachelors Theses Collection, which is likely to be both a digitization joy and stressor in 2017. At the conclusion of the presentations, Digital Transition’s Peter Siegel led the group in a round table discussion about our priorities for Phase One’s future development of Capture One CH. Back at the Digital Transitions office, I mingled with colleagues from the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC), Yale University, and Ohio State University while watching live demos of digitization techniques like focus stacking.

UI Libraries has been digitizing special collections and rare materials with a Digital Transitions RG3040 Reprographic System since November 2014. To date, we have photographed items from the Arthur and Miriam Canter Rare Book Room (Clementi’s Various piano works) and John Martin Rare Book Room (Browne’s Religio Medici) as well as more than 70 managers’ reports and clipping books from the Keith/Albee Collection in Special Collections & University Archives.

More about Digital Transitions and the UI Libraries’ work on the Keith/Albee Project:

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.

Keith/Albee Collection Update!

Some new changes have come to the Keith/Albee Vaudeville Collection project since we have last updated.  Read more about the project here and here.

  • IMG_2290Candida Pagan joined the Preservation/Conservation department in December last year as Keith/Albee Project Conservator.  Candida holds an MFA in Book Arts from the University of Iowa Center for the Book and a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Iowa. She is a member of the the Iowa Museums Archives and Libraries Emergency Response Team (IMALERT) and serves on the board of directors of the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium (ICPC). She has worked in book and paper conservation for four years at the University of Iowa Libraries and at the New Orleans Conservation Guild. As a graduate student at the University of Iowa, Candida was involved with initial Keith-Albee collection surveys and with the Fluxus West digitization project. She is experienced in cultural collections disaster response and is enthusiastic about preservation outreach.
  • In July 2015, Justin Baumgartner, Keith/Albee Digital Project Librarian, visited the Annual Conference of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations in Sydney, Australia.  He presented an original poster, “In the Spotlight: Digitization and the Keith/Albee Vaudeville Collection”.
  • 40 Keith/Albee scrapbooks and counting have been digitized and are fully available online as part of the Keith/Albee Vaudeville Collection in the Iowa Digital Library.  Browse the collection online here.
  • The Iowa Digital Library isn’t the only place you can go to find archival vaudeville materials.  Here are some links to great digital collections at other institutions:

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.


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.

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.

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.