Training Under Helen Alten Continues

Thursday, September 17, 2008

Waking up in our dorm rooms, we went to work nearly immediately, as the lab was only fifty feet away. Caitlin and I began tackling the “George Washington Carver clay mess.”  Clay had absorbed water in the flood, slid out of its storage jar and resealed itself, becoming moldy. We needed to get the mold out. We siphoned off the water and left the portion of the clay that was still wet to dry. The clay still inside the jar was dry but moldy, and we decided to take out the clay, wash the glass with Orvus liquid, then attempt to scrape off the mold on the surface. Mold, however, had penetrated every cranny and we scraped away most of the day, in between visiting the local dollar store for bamboo sticks and cotton and containers, and learning other techniques from Helen. The objects in the photo are the items that we managed to complete under Helen’s supervision.

Training Under Helen Alten

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

After the pretty drive over to Illinois, Caitlin and I unpacked the car–a load of baskets, the clay from George Washington Carver, some metal objects, a few gourds and some supplies Helen had recommended we bring.  Although it was almost dinner time, Helen thought we should dive into some training, and then reward ourselves with dinner out. 

Helen went over the “levels of cleaning” and demonstrated on one of the baskets.  She had clipped an end from a disposable dropper and attached it to the end of the Nilfisk vacuum hose, which resulted in finer suction. Helen also
introduced us to the PVOH sponge. It was an immediate hit; the sponge took up quite a lot of grime from one of the gourds we brought. After the intro lesson, Helen then showed us the wonder of sauerkraut as a pizza topping. 









Thursday, September 4, 2008

Finished with the initial cleaning of all–yes all– the records. We had abused the Oakdale paper facility for the summer, and Tim let us use the space for a party. Nancy picked up sandwiches, Gary and Joyce brought drinks and the table decoration, and Caitlin, Kat and I cleaned up the space. Kristin, Joyce, Bryan, Bill, and Kat–who had all helped with the cleaning in various stages came as well as the nearly the entire Preservation Department from the University’s Main Library. It functioned as an open house, as it was the first time some of the staff had gotten to see the paper facility and how we had been using it to treat flood materials. Some of the staff also toured the storage facility in the research building.

45s Are Fun!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

After working on the LPs and 78s, the 45s are a breeze. First, there are only three boxes–about 300 to clean. Second, they are small and cute and easy to handle. They are not brittle, like the 78s. They have few labels running, unlike all the Supraphon from the LPs. The one problem, however, is that they are the last boxes we got to, and are smelly and moldy, and many of the plastic sleeves have adhered to the covers. This happened to the LPs as well, but it seems like these dried a bit and so stuck more to  each other.

Cleaning CDs and DVDs

Friday, July 25, 2008

The DVDs and CDs from the African-American Museum are still caked with dirt. Most had been in plastic cases, and so Bill and I pitched the covers and dry wiped these. There was a stack, however, that were only in paper sleeves, and so in worse condition. Nervous about putting the CDs and DVDs into water, Nancy tracked down some guidelines for us. We placed them into distilled water and wiped carefully from the center outward — like wheel spokes — not in a circular motion, following the ridges as we had for the records. Again, in order to dry them, we hang them in the paper drying rack at Oakdale. In order not to scratch the surface, we use soft cotton fabric between the surface of the CD/DVD and the marble.

Hanging in There

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Caitlin has gone home to visit Michigan. Which means Bill has come to help me out. Although he makes fun of the lunches I bring, and doesn’t laugh at my jokes, it is good to have two people doing this. The day goes faster and more smoothly. Plus, Bill does appreciate the silly names of the bands–and we wonder what “adult only polka” might be, as there are several in the last box.  Caitlin misses washing the last box of LPs, but we have plenty of 78 boxes ahead of us.

Drying Out LP’s

Thursday, July 3, 2008

As we are taking out the LPs from their disgusting boxes, the covers and the records themselves are still wet. And caked with mud. And they need to be dried–preferably with some semblance of the order they are in. Luckily, Tim Barrett has allowed us to take over the Paper Lab at the Oakdale campus, which means we get to use this ingenious drying rack for our own means. This rack was constructed based on European versions of paper racks–Tim told us who made it for the lab, but now I forget. It is suspended from the ceiling with enough room to walk under, and the little green specks in the picture are marbles (one is a cats eye).

The marbles are set within an angled groove–does that make sense?-so that the marble holds up the paper without putting undue pressure on the sheet. It works wonderfully for the covers, which are then pressed flat. The LPs themselves are hung from the marbles, too, without mishap.

Mass Drying

Monday, July 7, 2008

We try to utilize the entire drying rack daily. The records are hung staggered with the covers, which allows air to pass around them all. We set up a few fans around the room, not directly on the rack, as it caused some of the covers to fall, but just to move the air. It is hot and muggy outside, but we have air conditioning in the room, which also helps with drying–and makes it more comfortable in the respirators. About one length of the rack can hold twenty records, and there are usually around 55 records in a box. This means we can finish four boxes in a day. The next morning, we come and take it all down, in order, and start again.