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.

New UT Intern in Preservation Department, August 2003

The Conservation Unit will be hosting intern Melissa Bradshaw through mid-December. During her internship, Melissa will assist with routine treatment and participate in the Structure of the Handmade Book course.

Melissa comes to us from the Preservation & Conservation Studies Program, School of Information, at University of Texas at Austin.

Melissa Bradshaw
Melissa Bradshaw

UI Libraries Helps Teach Preservation Of Cultural Materials

The University of Iowa Libraries

University of Iowa News Release

Release: March 18, 2003

UI Libraries Helps Teach Preservation Of Cultural Materials

Several University of Iowa librarians will help document managers from across Iowa learn how to preserve important papers and materials in a series of lectures and workshops offered by the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium.

The program, titled “Preservation 101,” is designed for archivists, conservators, county clerks, curators, genealogists, librarians, museum workers, registrars, volunteers, and anyone else who cares about conserving and preserving our cultural heritage. Six lectures will be offered via the Iowa Communications Network (ICN), along with three hands-on practicum workshops. The first two sessions will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. April 2 and May 22 at 18 ICN sites.

The April 2 session will focus on preservation considerations and cautions about paper, ink, adhesives, and leather. The May 22 session will cover photographic, reprographic and printing processes. The training program is projected to conclude in June 2004.

University of Iowa Libraries’ Nancy E Kraft, head of the Preservation Department and Conservation Unit, is directing the preservation training program. UI Libraries Conservator Gary Frost and UI Libraries Assistant Conservator Kristin Baum, along with Iowa State University Library Conservator Ivan Hanthorn, will teach the first session. Henry Wilhelm of Grinnell, Iowa, one of the world’s leading authorities on the preservation of color photographic images, will teach the May session.

Preservation 101 is sponsored by the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium (ICPC), a membership organization seeking to initiate, encourage, and enhance preservation and conservation activities by providing basic preservation education and training. Funding for developing the preservation training program was partially supported through funding from the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) act through a Historical Resource Development Program (REAP/HRDP) grant from the State Historical Society of Iowa.

Each ICN session registration fee is $20. Discounts are available for groups, multiple sessions, and ICPC members. Request a registration form by contacting Nancy E Kraft, ICPC, University Libraries, 100 Main Library, Iowa City, IA 52242-1420 or 319-335-5286 or at ICPC website

The program will be offered through the ICN sites below:

Boone — Ericson Public Library, ICN Room, 702 Greene St.

Cedar Rapids — Kirkwood Community College, 104 Washington Hall, FARM, 6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW

Charles City — North Iowa Area Community College, Charles City Center, Room 106, 200 Harwood Dr.

Cherokee — Washington High School, Armory Building, Fiber Optic Room, 600 West Bluff St.
Clinton — Clinton High School, Room 143, Eighth Ave. S. and Ninth St.
Cresco — Northeast Iowa Community College, ICN Room, 1020 Second Avenue SE

Davenport — Davenport Public Library, Meeting Room A, 321 Main St.

Denison — National Guard Armory, ICN Room, 12 N. 35th St.

Dubuque — Carnegie – Stout Public Library, ICN Meeting Room, 360 West 11th St.

Fort Dodge — Fort Dodge Public Library, ICN Room, 424 Central Ave.

Griswold — Griswold High School, Room 105, 20 Madison

Iowa City — University of Iowa, Room 107, North Hall, End of North Madison St.

Marshalltown — Iowa Valley Community College, Room 806, Continuing Education Center, 3702 South Center St.

Mt Pleasant — Iowa Wesleyan College, Room 201, Hershey Hall, 601 Broadway

Pella — Carnegie-Viersen Public Library, ICN Room, 603 Main

Sioux City — Western Hills Area Education Agency 12, Room 209A, 1520 Morningside Ave.

Spencer — Spencer Public Library, ICN Room, 21 East Third St.

Urbandale — Urbandale Public Library, ICN Classroom, 3520 86th St.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,

Alumni Association Sponsors Memory Preservation Talk

Release: March 4, 2003

The University of Iowa Alumni Association and the UI Libraries are co-sponsoring a preservation techniques program at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, at the State Historical Society Building, 600 East Locust in Des Moines, Iowa.

Nancy E. Kraft, head of the Preservation Department and Conservation Unit at the UI Libraries, will present this Lifelong Learning program titled “Handle with Care: Preserving Memories.” Kraft, who consults on preservation issues throughout the state, will discuss preservation techniques she uses to safeguard family photos, scrapbooks, cookbooks, artwork, oral history and other cherished memories.

The Wednesday evening program is free and open to the public. For more information or to register, contact the UI Alumni Association at 1-800-IOWALUM (469-2586) or register online at:

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: George McCrory, 319-384-0012, Program: Staci Valenta, assistant director of Alumni Programs, 1-800-IOWALUM (469-2586),


Keepsakes: Preserving Your Personal and Family Treasures

2003 Friends of the Libraries Annual Event

The Preservation Department will be featured in a Friends of the Library Event on Thursday, April 10, 2003. The event, Keepsakes: Preserving Your Personal and Family Treasures, will be held in the IMU Second Floor Ballroom and will encourage participants to learn about organizing and preserving your family history materials, such as mementos, photographs, books, collectibles, digital and analog (film and magnetic).

The event starts at 6:00 pm with a reception and demonstrations by Gary Frost, University Conservator; Kristin Baum, Assistant Conservator; David McCartney, University Archivist; and Susan Hansen, Book Repair Supervisor. An illustrated lecture will be presented at 7 PM by Nancy E. Kraft, Head, Preservation Department. Demonstrations will continue after the lecture, along with a coffee and cookies reception.

This event is sponsored by the Friends of the University of Iowa Libraries and is FREE and open to the public (but reservations are appreciated). For more information call 335-6093 or e-mail

Tim Moore Delivers Maple Plow and Press, November 2002

On November 11 Tim Moore delivered a traditional lying press, tub, and plow to the UI Libraries Conservation Lab. This bookbinding equipment, in use since the 16th century, is still considered best for book edge trimming and pasteboard cutting.

Tim Moore demonstrates the vertical plough while Nancy Kraft, Head of the Preservation Department, looks on.
Tim Moore demonstrates the vertical plough while Nancy Kraft, Head of the Preservation Department, looks on.

The press and plow builder, Tim Moore, is a master crafts-man internationally recognized as one of the few remaining experts in the manufacture of traditional papermaking and bookbinding equipment. He may be the last remaining maker of traditional western paper making molds, which involves the operation of his own handmade loom for weaving the wires of mold covers.  His work in bookbinding equipment is equally important to that field. Tim has provided many innovations as well as his reproductions of traditional equipment. The innovations include his famous piercing jig, which produces accurate, saddle piercing of the sewing holes in the folds of gathered pages. The Moore piercing jig is both elegant and practical and is now a standard requirement for fine limited edition and book conservation work. Other Moore innovations include an improved tying-up press, an elevated, bench-top repair press, and his all-new vertical plow.

The traditional Moore lying press and plow will be used in the UIL/UICB course, “The Structure of the Handmade Book.” During the class on the 11th, Tim provided a comparative demonstration of both the traditional horizontal plow and the prototype for his new vertical plow.

Moore's traditional lying press, plough, and tub--the UI Conservation's Department latest addition.
Moore's traditional lying press, plough, and tub--the UI Conservation's Department latest addition.