Friday, November 1, 2013
Submitted by Brenna Campbell
After all 93 items for the Wunderkammer show were unpacked and condition checked, they were prepared for exhibition. The most time consuming part of the process was constructing custom mounts for the 76 books being displayed. Bill and Brenna used a polyester sheet material called Vivak®, which was scored and bent to form the necessary shapes. Once the books were positioned on their cradles, they were secured into place using polyethylene straps.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Submitted by Brenna Campbell
Conservation Technician Bill Voss and Assistant Conservator Brenna Campbell recently returned from a trip to Grinnell College’s Faulconer Gallery, where they spent seven days installing the exhibition “From Wunderkammer to the Modern Museum, 1606-1884”. Ninety three items from the collection of Florence Fearrington were unpacked, checked for condition problems, and installed.
As each book was removed from its crate and unwrapped, Brenna examined it for signs of damage. Damage to a book includes a range of conditions, such as wear to the binding, weak or broken joints, failed sewing, tears, and stains. Any problems were noted, along with a brief description of the binding. This process provided a record of the condition of each book when it arrived at the gallery, and also highlighted items requiring special handling or care.
One particularly vulnerable group of bindings were those bound in parchment. Parchment is made from stretched and scraped animal skin, and is very reactive to changes in temperature and relative humidity. Because of their sensitivity, these bindings were gradually conditioned to the climate in the gallery before installation.
Last month Conservation Technician Bill Voss served as a Studio Assistant to instructor Shanna Leino, during a two week class at the Penland School of Crafts on Tool Making for Book Arts. Shanna is a well known tool maker and alumna of the UI Center for the Book, whose tools and binding models are featured in the Model Bookbinding Collection housed in the Conservation Lab. Projects covered during the class included making bone folders, awls, punches, leather pairing knives and bamboo tools.
Take a look at a couple of the newest enclosures our very own “box lady” Linda Lundy has completed. Linda has been working on some items from the Iowa Womens Archive (IWA). The latest items come from Anna Marie Mitchell.
Here is some info on Anna Marie Mitchell from Karen Mason, Curator of the IWA.
Anna Marie Mitchell of Forest City, Iowa, was a missionary for the Lutheran Church in Japan from the 1950s to the 1980s. In addition to this doll, housed in a wooden box made in Japan, she donated to the Iowa Women’s Archives a diorama of a typical Japanese home that she used when she was on furlough to show Americans what a Japanese home looked like. Anna Marie Mitchell donated extensive photo albums of her years in Japan, as well as reports of her work, to the Iowa Women’s Archives.
Wednesday August 14, 2013
Submitted by Susan Hansen
Our goal in the UI Libraries’ book repair unit is to return a circulating book to the shelf as soon as possible; however, sustained speed is not a top qualification for our students. In the day-to-day operation of the unit, we don’t have races. But when I mentioned an unofficial record for number of rebacks performed, two current student assistants immediately set a plan in motion to surpass that record.
Larry Houston and Sarah Luko are students in the UI Center for the Book and work in the UI Libraries’ preservation department. Both possess exceptional hand skills and an exemplary work ethic; they have mastered the technique of rebacking. After gathering volumes with damaged spines, Sarah and Larry went into production mode. They worked in batches, side by side, replacing the damaged spines with new cloth and reattaching the original spine piece when possible. The dynamic duo ran out of books before the end of the work day. The final tally was 84 rebacks, a number roughly twice the expected production for two experienced student assistants. Kudos to Sarah and Larry!
Friday, August 2, 2013
Submitted by Lindsay Shettler
The theatre photographs from the Frederick W. Kent Collection of Photographs are currently being stabilized, digitized, and rehoused for Special Collections. The theater photographs are organized by year and production. The first batch of photographs are pre-1936, many of these prints have unknown dates ranging from the late 1800’s up to 1936. The different photographic technologies and techniques used during the turn of the century help us determine this specific era.
The two large photo albums that I worked on were with the pre-1936 collection; each album held about 300 prints. These needed to be stabilized and rehoused before scanning. The stabilization included removing the screw posts and casing, cleaning and mending the prints, and interleaving every single page with unbuffered tissue. Custom 4-flap enclosures were created to house the prints in the original order.
The prints from 1936 and after are mounted to board with tape rather than in album form. The prints are removed from the board and cleaned. The adhesive does not completely come off the resin-coated prints and need to be removed with ethyl alcohol and cotton tipped applicators. Once the tape is fully removed the prints are ready to be scanned. After digitization the photos will return to the Conservation Lab for rehousing and then finally returned to their home in Special Collections.
We box a lot of things in the Conservation Lab. Linda Lundy, our resident box maker extraordinaire, has making clamshell boxes down to a science. Every once in a while something a little more complicated comes along, but there is no stopping Linda!
The Engineering Library brought us such a case recently. A student group has a tradition of having buttons made for their events. The Engineering Library wanted to show off their collection and store the buttons in something better than a plastic baggie.
Linda created a great display and storage solution for them. She created two partitioned trays for the buttons to rest in. Behind each button there is a small piece of foam so the button can be attached for display and storage.
Linda then created a clamshell box for both of the trays to live in. The resulting box was beautiful, useful for storage and doubled well for display!
During the second week of PBI, I participated in a workshop by Pamela Spitzmueller, former conservator for the University of Iowa Libraries and currently a rare book conservator for Harvard University. The focus of her workshop was to study and create a model of an Elizabethan pocket almanac housed at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. We began by viewing exemplars and images of almanacs, writing tables, and calendar books from various collections throughout the world.
The Houghton almanac is dated from 1581 and includes a calendar for 24 years, tables of weights and measures, prayers, a history of England, and five bifolios of erasable pages for notetaking. It measures 4 3/8 x 3 inches with the spine at the head of the text block, and a full-leather cover impressed with a decorative block and line tooling. A stylus is housed in a groove in the back cover, and the erasable pages are made of parchment coated with gesso and animal glue, to be written upon with the stylus and erased with a damp cloth or sponge. Because this type of book was used daily and discarded when finished, extant copies are rare.
Following an in-depth discussion of the exemplar, we began making our own models as Spitzmueller presented demonstrations of creating erasable surfaces with parchment size and gouache, making the stylus, sewing the text block onto three cords, trimming and shaping the wood covers, rounding and lining the spine, attaching boards to the text block, adhering and embossing the leather cover, and making hooks and clasps out of brass. By the end of a productive week, each participant brought home their own historical model of this rare and unusual book.
*Pamela is currently in travel mode conducting research for her thesis.
Last week I attended the American Institute for Conservation annual meeting. To keep up with my disaster response training, I went to all the sessions of particular interest to AIC-CERT (Collections Emergency Response Team) members. One session was on respirator fitness testing, including the actual fitness test. Before we could take the fitness test, we had to turn in a signed doctor’s statement of fitness. We reviewed how to put the mask on (chin in first) and clean it and then tested for a secure fit. As you can see, a bag is put over your head and then a scent is squirted into the bag. If you do not smell anything after you’ve moved your head from side to side, up and down, and read a statement, then you have a good fit. I’m happy to report that I past my test.
We also a reviewed several brands and styles of disposable N95 particulate respirators that can be purchased at a local drugstore or online. The important thing is to make sure that the disposable respirator is rated N95 or higher. The N95 mask will provide you protection during limited exposure to molds, dust and other airborne particulates (not oil). As always you should consult with your doctor before using any type of respirator and follow whatever protocol has been established for your work area.
This, my very first AIC annual meeting, was a wonderful learning experience. I was able to attend thanks to a partial scholarship from the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
One particular map from the “History of the Expedition under the Command of Captain Lewis and Clark, 1814” was a particular challenge. It presented a great opportunity to treat a very important map that was in much need of repair. The map, depicting Lewis and Clark’s route and the first map of the journey to be published, was in poor condition, with past mends of heavy paper, which caused stretching and stress to the paper. The map had also been backed, or adhered to linen in order to give the heavily used map more support, but it had been glued with an adhesive that was thick and degrading, causing yellowing and staining of the paper. The proposal was to remove the map from the book, remove the old lining and adhesive by aqueous means, wash, and then reline the map
onto a Korean hanji paper. The washing treatment would hopefully brighten the map overall, but also prolong the life of the paper by removing the old adhesive. The new lining would provide a stable, flexible support.
The old linen came away easily, but Giselle and Bill were in for much more work when it came to removing the adhesive. In many cases this simply floats away in the bath, but this adhesive was thick and viscous. It required a very gentle scrapping to even move it off the surface, done with soft bamboo spatulas, designed by NY area binder and conservator Jeff Peachy. Once the map is wet, it’s best to finish this process all in one day. Thankfully we started first thing in the morning!
After the adhesive removal was complete, the map was washed and relined onto hanji paper. This is a Korean paper, made in a similar way to Japanese washi, and made to meet conservation standards. The team enjoyed utilizing the sparkling new, oversize table, specifically designed for large flat work.