Improved Ties for Portfolios

 

Occasionally unbound items come into the Paper Lab that are too thin to warrant a corrugated box, but they usually require a more substantial enclosure than a folder. The middle ground between those two enclosures is a four-flap portfolio made out of 20 pt. stock or, in some instances, corrugated board.

After the portfolio is constructed, the way to secure it closed is by simply tying a length of twill tape around it like a Christmas present. Then the tape is glued in place or threaded through the back of the portfolio. The result is neither very attractive nor very efficient. When setting flat on a table, the portfolio flaps often pull away from the rest of the enclosure, no matter how tight the ties are. When open on a table, the ties easily get lost underneath the rest of the portfolio.

This photo shows just how loose the ties can be even after trying to pull them tight.

Lately I have been making more of these portfolios than usual, and I wanted to come up with a less wasteful, more effective way to secure them. A technique used in the General Conservation Lab for fastening binder’s tape to board looked promising, so I tried it a couple of months ago with a portfolio made out of B-flute corrugated board. The result was very satisfying, and took care of all my complaints about the former method.

And now the ties are nice and tight!

I wanted to be able to use the ties with portfolios made of thinner materials like 20 pt. stock, but I knew they would not hold up for long, if at all. A backing would be required.

Then I remembered Tyvek, which is easy to cut and almost impossible to tear. It also works well with PVA.

I put together some sample ties with and without Tyvek backing. The ties backed with Tyvek wouldn’t tear, no matter how hard I pulled. The ties glued directly to the surface of the board tore after the first big yank. I used the new method on an oversize portfolio that required two sets of ties, and the finished product looked as great as it is secure.

The front of the sample. The ties on the left won’t budge.
The back of the sample. Not much Tyvek is needed for an effective backing.

The advantages to this method are that there is less twill tape used per portfolio and the completed enclosure is stronger, more effective, neater in appearance, and more manageable for patrons and staff.

Left: the previous method with 20 pt. stock. Right: the new ties on E-flute corrugated board. 

 

 

 

Of Baseball, Books, and Book Tape

What could a ticket to a Cincinnati Buckeyes baseball game in 1869 have in common with a book of Sophocles’ works in Latin and Greek?

Ticket for a Cincinnati Buckeyes baseball game, 1869

Sophoclis tragoediae septem / ad optimorum librorum recensuit et brevibus notis instruxit I. [i.e., C.] G.A. Erfurdt.
The ticket was signed by B.O.M. DeBeck, third-baseman for the Cincinnati Buckeyes. Here is the text of the advertisement of this rare bit of early baseball memorabilia:

“1869 pass issued by the first baseball team in American history, the Buckeye Base Ball Club of Cincinnati. Partially printed pass instructs: ”Admit Harry Heys and Lady to all games of the BBC” within a printed oval-shaped line. Verso is labeled ”No. 138” and is signed in black by the team’s former third baseman ”B.O.M. DeBeck” as Treasurer. The Buckeyes were the Cincinnati Red Stockings’ original rival, and were eventually absorbed into the Red Stockings. … A scarce baseball collectible.”

http://natedsanders.com/scarce-1869-pass-to-watch-the-first-baseball-team-in-american-history—–lot7358.aspx

The connection is that B.O. M. DeBeck is the former owner of said book, now in the collection of the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries.

Inside covers with DeBeck’s bookplate. Note the crusty, whitish-gray residue from book cloth tape.

And from the number 2221 on the bookplate, it seems that DeBeck had quite a substantial library. A little more poking around on the old Internets reveals that besides playing baseball, B.O.M. DeBeck was a teacher in the Cincinnati public schools.

And he wrote this arithmetic book —

The sad state of DeBeck’s Sophocles is all too common. In the distant past, book repair in libraries meant the creative and copious application of tape. Now we spend our time removing it.

Here are all the pieces of bookcloth tape I removed from DeBeck’s book:

The long, wide piece in the center was covering the spine leather, the two long narrower pieces on either side were stuck to the first and last pages of text, and the 4 triangular pieces covered the corners of the both covers. That orangey thing at the top is the only remnant of the original spine.

Fortunately, I have an effective method to reduce / remove the dry, crust of adhesive that this type of book cloth tape leaves behind. Klucel G in isopropanol is applied, and then “scrubbed” with a soft brush.

 

The crud softens, and can be wiped away. It usually take a few applications. I have used this technique with success on cloth and paper too, although it does nothing about the dark brown stains that penetrate the paper, as seen on the left edge of the title page below.

Mr. DeBeck’s book, sans tape and once again in useable condition.

Future Book Artists

This week the Preservation Department hosted Bloomington’s Girl Scout Troop 3468. They came to learn about book arts so they could earn their Book Artist Badge.

They got to see some nice old books

and learn about how they were constructed.

Chelsea Hoover demonstrated pamphlet sewing.

Anitta Salkola-White taught them step-by-step how to make their own blank books using both 3- and 5-hole pamphlet sewing patterns.

Doug Sanders, Lara Tokarski, and I helped them make their pamphlets. It was fun for everyone!

Don’t Pull, Just Cut!

While working on this very damaged book, some words of advice from long ago kept ringing in my ears –

“DON’T PULL, JUST CUT!”

 

Come to Cincinnati, published by the Cincinnati Enquirer, [1929]
Brittle, oversewn book being taken apart

Some of our work is repetitive, tedious, perhaps meditative. For the hour I spent taking this book apart, stitch by stitch, I remembered this advice from long ago. That was way before I became a librarian, or even gave a thought to the idea that you could repair books.

I had a job working in the vast, dark, back room of a downtown retail furrier shop. My job was to repair all the coats brought in for cold storage and cleaning in the summer — all the holes in the fur’s skin, loose linings, fallen-off buttons, snaps, and hooks.

I worked with Bogdan, the furrier, who made new coats, and Stephania, who did alterations. The very first thing Stephania taught me was what to do if I saw a loose thread sticking out of the coat.

She warned,

“Don’t pull, just cut. If you pull, you could pull apart whole coat!”

Said in the wonderful Polish accent with which she also told about her childhood experiences in a forced labor camp during WWII, and traditional recipes she liked to make, such as plum tarts and brains. I only tried the plum tarts.

The book, Welcome to Cincinnati, was brittle and oversewn. Many pages were broken off, leaving some text on the stubs still attached to the binding with gobs of thread and stitches, otherwise known as oversewing. The result of oversewing is much the same as when you rip pages out of a spiral-bound notebook.

Oversewing is a method of binding a text block that consists of individual sheets of paper, rather sections of folded pages. It is very strong, but also very difficult to repair. Oversewing has been replaced, for the most part, with double-fan adhesive binding — a durable, yet more easily reversible binding.

Oversewing combined with brittle paper is a recipe for disaster. Pulling on the thread would result in more damage and I didn’t want to make even more jigsaw puzzle pieces that I would have to put back together.

So, with tweezers, fine scissors, and a microspatula, I snipped and snipped and snipped until each each stub was free of the snarl of stitches. Then I rejoined the remnants of each page so they could be scanned. There are only a few copies of this book in libraries across the US, and our copy has circulated sort of a lot, which seems natural since it is about one of the big cities in a neighboring state.

I like to believe that no experience, however humble, is a waste of time. Little do we know how things we learn along the way may turn out to be valuable later on.

IMG_0176

 

 

Teaching

Teaching humidification and pressing of photographs to Archaeology students and staff
Teaching humidification and pressing of photographs to archaeology students and staff

As a Paper Conservator, most of my time at work is spent on performing conservation treatments on the vast and varied collections within Indiana University Libraries. When not actively treating items, I coordinate with collection managers, curators, librarians and archivists to generate incoming work and establish priorities for the future. In the lab we also have responsibilities towards supervision of staff, disaster recovery across campus, establishing access protocols, environmental monitoring, and other minor roles that crop up here and there.

However, one task that brings me a great deal of satisfaction, though not strictly a job responsibility, is teaching. Each academic term I guest-lecture for a number of courses within our Department of Information and Library Science and the Department of Art History. These sessions provide me with a welcome break from the Lab and hopefully give the students a new perspective on topics being covered in classrooms. The greatest pleasure I get from being employed within a university is the exchange of knowledge across disciplines- and the fact that I’m able to add to that is a reward. To be a Conservator often means having knowledge in a number of associated fields beyond our strict job skills; knowledge that can supplement teaching in a way that may be difficult for an instructor to cover by themselves. Some classes are more theoretical: I teach library students preservation theory, the role of the conservator in special collection libraries and treatments conservators perform on library collections. Some provide supplemental knowledge to future catalogers: print and photograph identification, paper and parchment terminology. Others are more hands-on: materials and techniques classes or instruction in minor repair of paper-based collections. On top of this, we conservators get requests for a number of adult-education/public library sorts of lectures on preserving home collections, scrapbooking, etc. to which we’re always happy to consent.

Preaching to the choir is one thing, but I think a greater reward comes from sharing our enthusiasm with others. Establishing a positive image of the conservation profession early in a student’s career training goes a long way towards developing effective preservation efforts into the future.

Lecturing to Art History students about writing supports used historically around the world
Lecturing to art history and studio art students about writing supports used historically around the world
Making red earth pastels
Making red earth pastels
Preparing quill pens
Preparing quill pens

 

Fires and Poetry

Recently, I was repairing this book:

practical-arithmetic-title-page

 

I have a fondness for old textbooks, so it was nice to have a chance to help this one out. It was a pretty straightforward repair. Some hinging of pages and a reback with a Japanese tissue/linen laminate. But here’s the thing that really grabbed me about the book. It smelled of wood smoke. Not that familiar, musty, foxed, sat-in-the-stacks for 100 years smell. Fireplace smell.
I realize that the smell is probably because this little book survived the IU Library fires in 1969. You can read a nice history of those two fires, as well as other significant IU campus fires in a recent blog post from the IU archive. At the lab, we often see books with their top page edges blackened, and we generally assume that they are survivors from the 1969 fires. But this nicely smelling book didn’t make me think of destruction and student unrest. I grew up in a house that was heated with a wood stove. It smelled like home. Or like the house of a friend where sometimes we sit by the fireplace and read poetry. And I imagined young people in the late 1800s sitting at a table by the fireplace working studiously on their arithmetic lessons.
There are so many ways that books connect and transport us. Mostly, we think of being transported by the stories they tell. But with a bit of imagination, books can also bring us into contact with the craftspeople who made them, the people who owned and handled them, and sometimes, the rodents who chewed them up.

 

rodent-chewed-book

Sigh.  I probably still have mouse DNA on my hands from that one….

In the General Collections Conservation unit, we don’t come across many very old books, but every now and then one will stumble into the lab.  In the last months, we’ve had a couple of these that were just hanging out in the stacks waiting for someone to care about them.  One is dated 1592.  The other is from 1638.

virgilii-evangelisantis-christiados

I’m a Bloomington native, so every now and then someone in my family will stop by the lab to drop off homemade bread or pick up a bag of potholders or something.  Elise is always happy to show off the amazing things she is working on and my Mom happened to come by on the day she was working on the book shown above.  My mother was duly and volubly impressed and that evening I got a call from my Dad.  Might he please come in and see the very old book as well?  Of course!  We love to share the coolness.

Dad showed up the next day.  He took a lot of pictures and asked a lot of questions. We even let him hold the book, although like many lab guests, he was a little afraid to do so.    I felt like I could see right through his skull into his brain where all of the tumblers and gears were whirring and clicking along.   We went out to lunch and talked about how old items connect us to the past.  What can we learn about artists and craftspeople by holding their work in our hands?  Someone spent hours upon hours of time setting the elaborate type for the book.  And who was it that stitched it together?  Treated the leather for the cover?  How many young people sat at a table by the fireplace studying it?  How many fires has it survived?

At about the same time that my father and I were thinking about peoples’ relations to very old books, it seems that my favorite web cartoonist, Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd.com had also been thinking about peoples’ relations to more modern inanimate objects:

xkcd 1741: Work
xkcd.com 1741: Work

How often do we really think about the design of our water glass?  How often did the child studying that arithmetic book think about its binding?  Probably, not often at all.  Perhaps never.  Yet, now, we here in the Preservation Lab are fascinated with the old arithmetic book, and of course the older, and therefore more precious books as well.  In 172 years, someone will probably be fascinated with our water glasses.  And our e-readers.

I was pretty certain that my poet father was going to end up writing something about very old books.  And he is far more eloquent than I am, so I waited to see what would come of my dad meeting that book and by extension all of the people who, step by step, brought it to us here.

Old Book

VIRGILII EVANGELISANTIS
CHRISTIADOS
Libri XIII
Londini . 1638

Wood and leather cover
brown and brittle,
the scrolled details
faded and blurred,
burnished by the years.
Stiff, when I opened it.

Though I could not read
the Latin text,
pressed with movable type
nearly 400 years before,
the words
are clear and elegant,
speaking of a god
of another time.
A palpable spirit emanates
from its enduring lines–

thoughts and beliefs
from ambitious minds,
the faith of someone
who reached me
with ethereal touch
from the small book
that rested on my hand.

Remnants of those ancient lives,
saved,
but neglected on a secluded shelf,
travelled slowly, unsteady…
still waiting to be found
by some curious stranger
who can read
the relic words.

Though the bodies of the writers
are gone,
the lives of their thoughts
live on,
in that old book…

Poem copyright Thomas Tokarski,  July 2016

 

Roll Your Own, or, Frugality is the Mother of Invention

img_0070

First, let us define our terms —

Roll Your Own

informal – make one’s own cigarettes from loose tobacco

noun – a cigarette that one has rolled oneself

And the Urban Dictionary provides this usage –

“A situation where someone needs to perform a task but the method to complete the task doesn’t exist so she has to create the solution herself. It derives from “rolling your own” cigarettes versus buying pre-made cigarettes.

Computer programmer #1: Is there a built-in function to filter the database?
Computer programmer #2: Sorry, man, you’re going to have to roll your own.”

How is this relevant to our work in Preservation?

We decided to take a do-it-yourself approach recently when an issue of the luxury art and fashion journal, Visionaire, presented us with something of a challenge.

largerthanlife_00_cover_smallforweb-520x312
This special issue of the journal Visionaire, titled “Larger than Life,” features Lady Gaga on the cover and measures 36 x 50 inches.

This journal issue was too large to be stored flat. And although rolling is not ideal, as it may introduce a permanent curl, an object can be rolled onto the outside of a large-diameter tube to minimize this problem.  This also avoids the damage that can occur when the object is put inside the tube. So we decided we would buy a 10” diameter tube, roll the journal issue (consisting of just a few pages) around the tube, and make a box to put the tube in. Easy. Oh, just one problem – one tube costs $100!

Being thrifty, and not shying away from a challenge, we decided to try to make our own darn tube. We were not sure it would work! But we took a large sheet of 40-point acid-free board, rolled it up so it was about 8 inches in diameter, and held it together with many rubber bands. Then we just let it sit there like that for few months.

Every so often, we do a group project on a Friday. We like to call these “Fun Fridays.” Sometimes we tackle a project that needs many hands; other times we learn and practice a new technique. Previous Fun Fridays have included making pre-coated repair tissues and forming an assembly line to construct a large batch of Kasemake boxes for delaminating lacquer disk recordings.

So, after a few months passed, we decided to set the roll free one Friday. We took off the restraints. It looked good!

We got the ends of the roll aligned and positioned so it was 10 inches in diameter. We debated how best to affix the inner and outer long edges of the board, both to maintain the diameter and keep the outer end of the board from forming a ridge. After considering PVA, packaging tape, sewing, and 3M 415 double-sided tape, we decided on the double-sided tape. Some of us were more confident about the efficacy of this choice than others, which created some suspense! We applied it to both the inner and outer edges of the board. It took three pairs of hands, but it held!

Then we cut a sheet of Volara, an inert foam, to cover the roll, so the two long edges would meet exactly. We stuck that on with double-sided tape too.

Anitta Salkola-White (left) and Lara Tokarski (right) marking a pencil line to guide the positioning of the Volara, after the long edges of the tube were stuck down.

Then we cut a piece of Hollytex the length of the tube, and about 8 inches wider than the object. We laid the object on top of the Hollytex and rolled the two onto the tube together, so that the extra 8-inch tail of Hollytex fully covered the object. We tied it with woven cloth ties.

 

img_0073
The journal issue rolled onto the Volara-padded tube, with a Hollytex liner, and tied with cloth tie.

Finally, we made a box with a lid out of acid-free corrugated board on our Kasemake machine. The 40 x 60-inch board stock was not long enough to make the bottom out of one piece, so we cut separate rectangles with 3 flaps to cover each end and glued them in place.

img_0097img_0120
img_0098So, no, we didn’t have to “roll our own” , we could have just bought the $100 tube. But we learned it was possible to make one using materials already on hand in our lab, and had a great Fun Friday working together to solve a problem.

 

 

The Future of Commercial Binding

Hi all! I am Chelsea Liddell, the new Binding and Preservation Review Coordinator here at the Preservation Lab.

photo-1
Here I am, hard at work!

Erin McAvoy has moved onwards and upwards, and though we miss her dearly here at the Lab, we are so happy for her and excited for all the new opportunities she will have! I worked for Erin as a student employee for two years before taking this position, and you may have seen me around here a few times before. Today I wanted to talk about what exactly those of us working with commercial binderies do these days and how the position is growing and evolving.

As we are no doubt all aware, more and more information is becoming available exclusively in electronic form. This is a positive thing for many reasons, more convenient and accessible for users, less to store and maintain for universities, but it presents a problem for those of us who are in the business of binding. So what’s a girl in charge of a commercial binding unit to do when there are fewer and fewer serials to be bound? Well, that’s the question that we have been endeavoring to answer here at the Preservation Lab and we feel that we’ve come up with some great solutions.

The key to innovation in libraries is to expand our definition of them. They aren’t (and never were) simple book repositories, but rather community centers, technological trendsetters, purveyors of global knowledge, and protectors of history. In the future, we will no doubt find even more hats to wear! To move forward, it is important to understand how all these roles interconnect and what new roles it makes sense for us to take on. This is the key to redefining the role of commercial binding in libraries.

If we expand our definition of binding, then all of a sudden a lot more opportunities open up. The other wonderful staff here at the Lab have been teaching me how to bind items by hand, which helps me understand to a much greater degree exactly what is being done to our books at the commercial bindery. After all, commercial binding is just a mechanized version of many of these hand-binding techniques.

Another area that we have been able to expand my role to encompass is evaluation and boxing of items moving to the ALF (Auxiliary Library Facility). We recently began moving materials out to the ALF at the rate of 10,000 per week in preparation for our Fine Arts Library’s move to the Wells Library. The materials being moved are low use, and there is a high rate of brittle paper and damaged bindings. My role in this project is to evaluate the damaged items and determine what type of enclosure would suit them best, so that they can be placed in the ALF without undergoing further injury. The emphasis is on choosing the most efficient, cost-effective solution that will do the job, including tying with cotton tie, sandwiching items between boards in a Tyvek envelope, and Kasemake boxes. This sort of work is a natural extension of a binder’s job; evaluating what type of enclosure would preserve the item best, while ensuring that no undue damage is caused.

By taking part in the everyday workflow of the Preservation Lab, while also taking on new projects, I am able to help out my colleagues, learn new things, and ensure that I am always busy! Although I have only been in this position for a short time, I have already expanded my skill set so much and learned so many wonderful new things. It is my hope that I can continue to find new arenas to expand into and that the commercial binding unit will continue to become more integrated into the rest of the work done here at the lab.

 

New Employee News

For this month’s Preservation Lab Blog post, as her supervisor, let me introduce our newest full-time employee, Hannah Helton.

-Doug Sanders, Paper Conservator


 

20160801_085717Nearly four months ago I was hired as the Paper Conservation Technician for the paper lab. I was a student employee here before, so I expected to settle quickly into the lab’s daily rhythm, but the transition held a few surprises. On my third day as a full-time employee I set off the security alarm, met an IU police officer, handled a Spencer repeating rifle, read the world’s largest newspaper, and cut the tip off my left thumb.

I’m still learning something every day, whether it’s related to conservation methods or the cogs and gears of the IU libraries. I’m also meeting new people all the time, making acquaintances in departments across campus, and building stronger relationships with the people I met as a student employee.

After coming back to the lab, I was very excited to finally see the inside of the ALF vault. I never got a chance to enter it as a student employee, so it held a certain mystery for me. I’ve been there dozens of times now, but the feeling remains. There are a lot of dark aisles in the vault and little shadowed passageways between them, guarded by hundreds of thousands of books resting on shelving units three stories tall, and my imagination likes to run rampant within it.

I also discovered that my background in metalsmithing is very helpful to me here. I’m no longer fixing a solder joint, I’m mending paper. Instead of making vessels out of copper, I’m using corrugate. Even my jeweler’s saw has a place at work; it’s invaluable for cutting curves out of board and Foamcore. On my desk is a metal sculpture I made as a student at IU. Next to it is a cloth-covered box I made out of mat board to hold templates. Both items required very similar techniques to create very different outcomes.

I think that initial week was a personal record in odd accomplishments. I haven’t approached any coworkers with a bloodied hand since day three, but I have handled even more extraordinary objects and mastered my utility knife, so I’d say things are going pretty well for this IU Library employee.

Writings of Brilliance

We recently had two documents in the lab exhibiting a noteworthy effect. They were contracts for a violinist’s performance in Lyon dating from the time of the French Revolution, from a Lilly Library collection. Interesting enough, but what really caught my eye was how the ink in selected areas sparkled when turned in the light. Low-power microscopy suggests some type of micaceous material. For me, the question is, was this used as a drying pounce with the bonus of adding some ‘bling’ to one’s signature? Or was the effect alone the chief reason for use? In working with manuscripts for many years, the two other times I’ve seen this were also in French Revolution-era documents. Incidentally, this effect should not be confused with the well-documented and studied crystalline growth one can sometimes see on iron gall ink (whitish or yellowish crystals).

I tried to capture the effect as best as I could by taking multiple exposures with the angle of incident light varying, and then stitching them all together in Photoshop for a rough .gif animation. The effect is restricted to the area associated with the word ‘Bowes’ and the passage of text at the bottom of the view ending with the name “Carpentier”.

gif animation of sparkling ink

There’s a date visible too- 14th of Fructidor, year 13. This references the French Republican Calendar which is itself a fascinating topic. I found a calendar converter online and it looks like this is August 31, 1806, for us Gregorian-minded folks.

p.s. if you want to see a higher resolution animation leave a comment with your email and I’ll send you a file.