Digital Brown Bag talk

I’ll be speaking next week in the IU Libraries Scholar’s Commons about the 3-D enclosure developed last summer. There will be a simulcast on Adobe Connect as well as a feed on Twitter if you can’t attend in person.

A Collaboration of 3-D Modeling and Automated Box Manufacture for Library Special Collections Enclosures

March 9th 2016 @ 12:00pm
Hazelbaker Lecture Hall (E159)

Doug Sanders, Paper Conservator
E. Lingle Craig Preservation Laboratory

The manufacture of protective enclosures is part of routine work in many libraries and museums. This presentation summarizes a novel collaboration of 3-D scanning and modeling technology provided by digital technology available on campus with automated box making services internal to Library Preservation. A custom-fitted enclosure for a painting on wood panel within the Lilly Library collections was the net result. This developmental method holds promise for specialized storage and shipping protection of library, scientific research and museum collections.
Spring 2016 Digital Library Brown Bag Series
The Digital Library Brown Bag Series presentations are held in the Herman B Wells Library from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm EST. The complete schedule is available at:

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Raman Spectroscopy in the Lab

This past November I had the pleasure of working with a newly acquired piece of   equipment- an Agility™ Transportable Dual-band Benchtop Raman Spectrometer to be specific.

Vendor photo of Agility with a bottle of Cab' Sauv'
Vendor photo of Agility with a bottle of Cab Sauv

By way of background, a small team of various campus departments and research centers* was assembled over the past couple of years- all of whom are interested in exploring research interests related to analysis of cultural heritage materials. We applied for some internal funding this past year through the Office of the Vice Provost for Reaearch and were awarded a “Collaborative Research and Creative Funding” grant over the summer for the purpose of purchasing said piece of equipment.

What is Raman Spectroscopy?  In a nutshell, it is an analytical tool by which laser light interacts with molecular vibrations resulting in the energy of the laser photons being shifted up or down. The shift in energy gives information about the vibrational modes in the system. Basically, a machine shines a monochromatic laser at a substance and after some filtering, measures the shift in the radiation (in this case, light) coming off of it to give us an indication of its molecular nature. This is the sort of output one gets which then needs to be interpreted- the spectrum for red lead pigment:

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

IU Bloomington already has a very sophisticated Raman spectrometer within the Department of Chemistry, but this new acquisition lets us to take the process to the object- important when examining rare items of cultural significance. This form of spectroscopy allows conservators to analyze materials in-situ in a non-destructive manner ie. other forms of analysis can require a sample to be taken from the item in question which will be destroyed in the process. Increasingly, analytical methods are being adopted which leave the item unharmed.

In practice, there is still quite a lot of skill needed to operate the machine and interpret the results. I was able to devote a day or two to learning the operating system, begin to understand the variables involved with adjusting the actual laser excitation (very important as misapplication can lead to irreversible changes in the material analyzed), and understand the difficulties of interpreting a series of peaks on a graph. There are spectral libraries available which automate the process, but the pharmaceutical library that came with purchase won’t help us out much when analyzing 17th century maps or archaeological daub from Paleo-Indian settlements, unless of course we’re looking for acetaminophen! Still, it will be a very valuable and collaborative tool to have on hand.


* Departments include: Department of Chemistry, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Chymistry of Isaac Newton Project, Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology, Lilly Library and us, here in Library Preservation.

Midwest Regional Conservation Guild 2015 Annual Symposium

I found myself travelling to the beautiful University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor the weekend of October 2-4 for the annual symposium of the Midwest Regional Conservation Guild. Our own preservation lab and other conservation professionals on the IU Bloomington campus hosted this group in 2012; it was now Michigan’s turn. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, also known as Newberry Hall was to be our base for the weekend.


The event got off to an excellent start Friday afternoon with tours of the various conservation labs: both Papyrology and Special collections on the Michigan campus, and the Detroit Institute of Arts and The Henry Ford Museum within the region. I toured the campus labs, and was impressed by the Special Collections lab within the Buhr Building.  Though this building was originally a ball-bearing factory, now repurposed as an off-site library facility, I found parallels between it and our own ALF building here on campus.  The Buhr facility holds 2.5 million volumes and houses a very well-equipped, pleasantly lit conservation lab much like our own. After a special curator-led tour of the current exhibit at the Kelsey, the evening ended with a pleasant opening reception giving all participants a chance to catch up with colleagues old and new.

Saturday presented itself with a full day of session talks. From the perspective of a paper conservator at a university library, I found several to be of interest though many more were given than I can cover in this post:

Christopher Foster, Conservator of Art on Paper and Photographs at the Detroit Institute of the Arts gave a very informative talk about the analytical work that went into studying eight of Diego Rivera’s cartoons for the Detroit Industry frescoes at the museum. These preparatory drawings which at first glance seemed simple renderings in black and red media on paper revealed themselves to be complexly constructed. The skill of Rivera’s hand and eye became more apparent to conservators and curators alike after studying the composite materials by traditional microscopy as well as Raman and FTIR spectroscopy.

Though not concerning a work on paper, Cybele Tom (Assistant Conservator of Objects and the Art Institute, Chicago) gave an insightful talk about the thought process which went into the conservation of a soon-to-be-exhibited early 16th century polychrome wood sculpture. A thorough technical study brought to light several previous restoration campaigns which left an ‘aesthetically disparate surface’  for the conservator to contend with. Her task was to ‘arrive at a coherent form that still honors its 500 year history’. Concepts that we as conservators ruminate over daily, such as old vs. new, varying theory of originality, preservation of evidence, and culturally-biased interpretation were discussed.

Janelle Batkin-Hall, Conservation Intern, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, gave an informative, if sometimes skin-crawling, talk about Victorian-era hairwork. From time to time, examples of this craft reveal themselves within collections here at IU so I was thankful for her background study, analysis and treatment examples.

Tom Edmondson, Heugh-Edmondson Conservation Services LLC, Kansas City, gave an excellent case study of the treatment of a convex crayon enlargement portrait. We have a number of these early photographic processes within our collections- I enjoy working on them for the challenges they often present the conservator. Tom relayed some approaches and techniques to working with them that I hadn’t considered, but will experiment with in the future.

Jodie Utter, a paper conservator at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, gave an excellent presentation showing how the skills and work of a conservator can shed light on curatorial questions and aid art historical research. She studied several examples of Charles Russell’s iconic Bronc Twister, aiding in the understanding of this image’s development by the artist as well as its commercial use by a pharmaceutical company as its logo for a laxative awkwardly named Heptol Splits!

After an ambitious schedule of talks, the day ended with a very generous reception at a local restaurant and cocktail bar- the warmth of the professional company overcame the blustery weather outside.

Sunday morning brought us another three presentations, including one that I delivered concerning the recent collaboration of 3-D scanning and modeling technology with automated enclosure manufacture. I hope that our experiment will be of some use to other institutions who may have the necessary technology on hand.

Finally Heather Galloway, a private conservator from Oberlin Ohio, presented a talk about her work bringing conservation into the undergraduate and graduate classroom. This topic, and her approach to creating a curriculum, resonated with me and the teaching I do within IU. Even though the conservator in an academic setting generally does not educate students in remedial conservation practice, our profession has much to share beyond the typical lab tour. Heather works with both art history and physical science students, presenting university art collections in a new light to supplement their core educational instruction.

I left the symposium mid-day on Sunday to return to Bloomington with a renewed enthusiasm about the work we do as conservators. Over the span of my career I’ve seen a number of changes to the profession- both good and bad. One of the more positive changes illustrated this weekend was that conservators are increasingly working in concert with other museum and academic professionals. Our skills and insight provide valuable information which can supplement other fields of enquiry. In turn, we’re reminded that our work has an effect outside of our traditional environment of the lab and storage area.

A Collaboration of 3-D Modelling and Automated Box Manufacture for Library Special Collections Enclosures

The E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab routinely produces a large number of enclosures for both bound and unbound materials within our campus research collections. Enclosures range from simple pamphlet binders and folders to more complex phase boxes, tuxedo wrappers and special collection clamshell or drop-spine boxes. Construction can occur manually, semi-automatedly, or a combination of the two.

Generally, manually-made enclosures are constructed for special collections books and manuscripts as well as personal effects that often accompany our paper-based collections (medals, watches, tobacco pipes, trophies for example). Build-ups, wells and sink mats are relied upon to hold such materials.

The Kasemake is a semi-automated system developed by Conservation By Design, relying on an operator inputting length, width and height measurements into a CAD-based system with output to a machine that can cut, score and label form-fitting boxes; the designs for which come from a wide catalog of template options. Kasemake machines are being utilized in many libraries and archives throughout the world. Our Kasemake KM503A purchased in 2001 was the first in North America; fiscal year 2013/2014 saw 5000 enclosures constructed with this piece of equipment. It is worth noting that other box-making systems are also in place within many large libraries.

There are several limitations to the current approach which from time to time call on more innovative solutions. Enclosures made by both systems generally rely on wrapping simple shapes with right angles and slab-like forms. These methods cannot always follow three dimensional contours accurately and rely on stabilizing the irregular object at a limited number of contact points through collars, struts, slots and posts. Form-fitting wells of foam are the preferred choice, but very difficult to make accurately by hand.

verdi 3


In Spring 2015, the Preservation Lab received a painting on wooden panel from the Lilly Library. The panel is a single piece of wood measuring 35.5cm x 25.0cm x .5 cm thick. 1.0 cm battens run the full width along the top and bottom of the verso. Warping of the panel has occurred, resulting in a subtle saddle shape. Internal stresses also produced several longitudinal splits through the board. The painted surface suffers from active cleavage and loss.

The curator overseeing the project wished for the panel to receive an enclosure that would protect the item from handling, offer support in storage and be straightforward enough that staff could remove the item for access and return it without much manipulation of the panel, or its enclosure.

Typically, we would pad out a box with rolls or blocks of archival-quality foam to support selected areas.  In this particular case, conservation staff felt that localized support would not be enough, as the panel rested level on only two points of contact. There was vibration concern for the paint layer as well as a restriction that nothing could be placed directly on top. We also wanted to come up with a solution that would allow for subtle changes to the panel dimensions through environmental fluctuation.

After some discussion, it was envisioned that a form-fitting cradle, following the complete contour of the verso surface would meet our needs. 3D scanning and computer modeling was thought to be the best route to the construction of the form. A literature search revealed little published work applying 3D scanning technology to museum and library storage. Our scanning and fabrication options were initially thought to be either a rapid prototyping machine (ie. 3D printer) or a router-based CNC (Computer Numerical Control) system that would carve the void out of a block of foam. Neither was a good solution from a conservation perspective nor necessarily available to us. We realized that our Kasemake box fabrication machine could potentially be used to create a form, in an additive manner based on the build-up of layers of foam.

Conservation staff sought scanning and modeling expertise across campus departments at Indiana University, Bloomington. It was found that the Center for Biological Research Collections had recently purchased a scanner to begin a project of digitizing its vast consortial collection of biological and paleontological reference materials. Gary Motz, CBRC Project Coordinator generously offered to use his equipment for our purposes. Further help came from Jeff Rogers, Principal Project Analyst at the IU Advanced Visualization Lab who would digitally model the enclosure volume. With luck, we hoped that the team could generate files that could be exported to our Kasemake machine for fabrication.


The initial scan was generated with a FARO Edge ScanArm ES. This is a hand-held laser scanner and non-contact measurement system. The panel was gently inverted on the work surface of the scanner, to reveal the contour of the underside.



Several passes of the scan arm were needed due to the laser-absorptive capacity of the wooden panel. Once finished, the scanning process created a geometric mesh of 214,000 individual points, and polygons connecting those points to describe the surface of the panel: termed a ‘point cloud’


The scan data was then manipulated with Geomagic Design X to create a mathematically described surface which was exported to Rhino 3D for modelling. Surfaces were trimmed to create a volume which was scaled up roughly 2mm in order to create a marginally loose-fitting enclosure around it.



After a virtual enclosure was created that entailed a contour-fitting cushion as well as a 2.5cm margin around all sides with finger holes, the rendered volume was ‘sliced’ horizontally into 3.175mm thick layers to simulate the thickness of Volara foam. Volara Type A foam is a closed cell polyethylene foam used widely within the conservation community. Its smooth surface, 1/8” thickness, white color and relative ease of cutting made it the preferred choice, over archival sheet foams such as Ethafoam and Plastazote. The files describing the shape of each of these slices were exported in CAD .dxf format to our Kasemake machine, for the final cut-out supervised by our in-house enclosure specialist.

kasemake cutting


There was a minor complication with cutting in the form of a static charge that built up within the foam itself. Typically, the material to be cut is held to the cutting bed by air pressure generated from a vacuum pump underneath. In our case, a Teflon fitting on the cutting head and the Volara polyethylene foam built up sufficient static attraction to dislodge from the bed at times. This resulted in a slightly crooked cut in places, although the error was never greater than 2 mm in scale.

Once each layer was cut out, the stack was hand assembled with archival 3M #415 double-sided tape to create the final form as PVA glues and hot melt adhesives both present bonding difficulties. It should be noted that Volara Type A foam comes with an optional adhesive backing, reported by the manufacturer to be a non-yellowing acrylic base. We were unable to find any testing of this material within the conservation literature so decided to use our own bonding method. A fitted box, with separate tray and lid was also cut out on the Kasemake utilizing archival-quality E-flute corrugated board.

fabrication 2



Though there was a considerable time investment for this initial investigation, the project is considered a success. The fragile wooden panel is now held and protected by a cushion of foam. For those labs and institutions without an automated cutting machine, the files of each individual layer could be exported to a large plotter printer and cut out of paper, to serve as templates for manually cutting foam.

Other areas of development lie in determining alternate methods of bonding the foam layers together. Some experimentation has shown that passing a hot needle through the layers can bond them together. The foam layers could also be modelled and oriented vertically, in effect wedging them into place in the box, perhaps alleviating the need for adhesion.

As more 3D scanning and fabrication products enter the market, we foresee greater development in customized storage solutions for collecting institutions. The Center for Biological Research Collections has expressed an interest in pursuing this collaboration further for the storage of some very fragile human remains in their paleontological collection. At the time of this posting, the Advanced Visualization Lab has purchased two new hand-held scanners; promising greater ease of use and portability.

panel in box 2



The author would like to extend thanks to those staff members of Indiana University who made this project possible:

Cherry Williams, Curator of Manuscripts, Lilly Library

Arini Esarey, Paper Conservation Technician, E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab

Herb McBride, Enclosure Specialist, E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab

Gary Motz, Project Coordinator, Center for Biological Research Collections

Jeff Rogers, Principal Project Analyst, Advanced Visualization Lab

Preservation Week 2015

custom made enclosure
custom made enclosure

Next week marks the fifth occurrence of annual ALA-ALCTS Preservation Week events.  To borrow from their website :

Preservation Week was created in 2010 because some 630 million items in collecting institutions require immediate attention and care. Eighty percent of these institutions have no paid staff assigned responsibility for collections care; 22 percent have no collections care personnel at all. Some 2.6 billion items are not protected by an emergency plan. As natural disasters of recent years have taught us, these resources are in jeopardy should a disaster strike. Personal, family, and community collections are equally at risk.

Recognizing this need, ALA and its Association for Library Collections and Technical Services inaugurated national collections Preservation Week, May 9-15, 2010, along with national partners that include the Library of Congress, Institute of Library and Museum Services, American Institute for Conservation, Society of American Archivists, and Heritage Preservation

ALA and its partners urge libraries, museums, and archives to take this week to remind others of the importance preservation efforts play in maintaining our collective national heritage and accumulated knowledge in the form of the written and printed word.

We don’t have any special events planned this year as last, but that doesn’t mean  preservation efforts have stopped in the lab. In fact, we’re working harder than ever to identify, prioritize and care for those very types of items mentioned above, within IU Bloomington Libraries and other Bloomington Campus collections.

Fiscal year 2013-2014 saw 6,736 enclosures made for items as varied as wooden puzzles, microfiche rolls, artist books, manuscripts, scrapbooks, photographs, pamphlets and just about any other category of item in our Special and General collections. 3,056 individual items were given remedial care. 6,603 volumes were prepared and sent for commercial binding.

Beyond this, Preservation staff are on call to respond to water emergencies affecting collections across campus. We provide insect and mold remediation services to many research centers and departments. Tours of our facility are conducted on a regular basis educating students, staff, faculty, donors, peers and university presidents about the work we do; spreading the importance of our mission.  Seven temporary/student workers are currently employed and provided with valuable on-the-job experience in the Library field as well as income to aid in continuing their studies.

All told, much of the work we do has a visible effect on collections- items are repaired and made available to circulate safely and enclosures are created to aid in best storage practice. Beyond that, Preservation plays an integral part in library operations as a partner in the overall mission of providing the University community with information resources for years to come.


The Preservation Lab at IU Bloomington shares the same address as our Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF)- a compact storage facility on the edge of campus designed to hold 6 million book volume equivalents. Most of the time, we enjoy being away from the parking hassles and student congestion of the main campus libraries, but increasingly we’re finding issues are cropping up with transportation of collection materials. ALF currently stores 3.2 million books, manuscripts, maps, architectural plans, film reels: you name it! Combine this with transport needs for the items we’re working on in the Paper Lab and General Collections Lab and quite a lot goes back and forth each day.

Much of the work the Paper Lab handles is transported using personal vehicles, for a number of reasons:

  • It’s often easier and quicker to just do it yourself.
  • I can be available to consult with subject librarians and archivists if they deliver items in person.
  • Flat paper items often do not fit into the totes utilized for book delivery.
  • I get a chance to visit satellite libraries and reinforce professional relationships.
  • I can rule-out mishandling of items during transit.

However, recent developments are causing us to reassess some of these habits. Our Geosciences Library closed, with much of the collection coming out to ALF. I’ve also implemented a rolled-storage method of housing campus architectural plans out here (representing a significant portion of the University Archives holdings). Additional pressures have arisen to store items from other campus entities that don’t always fit the mold of tote-able goods. There are also liability issues with the transport of university property in personal vehicles. All of this means that more and more requests are coming in for items whose transport needs haven’t been formally considered.

ALF employees currently make a five mile round trip once a day to deliver requested items to patrons at campus library locations. A second trip to the main library (Wells Library) occurs too. Books are packed onto shelved A-frame style carts and strapped to the walls of a box truck. There is also a separate Library-wide mail service originating at Wells; rigid plastic totes are used by this unit. In order for oversized materials (either on a rigid tube, or foldered/flat boxed) to be transported by either service, they must be packed securely and robustly, strapped down when appropriate, be weatherproof and capable of delivery by one person. Packing must also be straightforward on both the shipping and receiving end for conservator and general library employee alike.

So, after some searching for products to meet these specifications, we’re going to pilot two types of cases: a rigid tube and a reinforced case.




The interiors of both cases can be filled out with Plastazote and/or Volara foam for clean, discrete and archival padding. Existing delivery routes and workflows should not need to be changed. I forsee some training needed by those who manage collections and staff reading rooms, but nothing that an instructional session and some printed guidelines can’t solve.

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, October 27th


World Audiovisual Heritage Day was designated in 2005 as a way to draw attention to the loss of audiovisual records of the 20th and 21st centuries. This year’s theme is Archives at Risk.  To this end, various IU Bloomington campus entities are recognizing the need for greater preservation efforts by having an open house of sorts, with presentations and displays. I’ll be giving a quick talk about a set of late 19th century cyanotype prints of Harmonographs we recently uncovered in a collection of papers from Theophilus Wylie, an important figure in the University’s history. These harmonographs represent an interesting link between audio/visual heritage and the daily work we do in the lab preserving our paper and print-based heritage.

Our colleagues over at the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive will be the masters of ceremony during this entertaining and informative event.


Common School Wall Chart

In the Paper Lab, we recently treated a large set of educational wall charts dating from the 1890’s, printed by W.L.Bell & Co. of Kansas City, Missouri.IMG_2972

The set was purchased by a Bloomington resident in 1995 for $25 from a local antique shop. It was donated to our county historical society who in turn recently passed it along to a unit within the university library system. There are 25 intact charts, printed both recto and verso with all manner of subject- literacy, penmanship, geography, physiology, mathematics, and governance. At first the work- though complex- was fairly routine: disassembly, washing, alkalization, mending, pressing. The longer we had it in the lab, the more it revealed aspects of itself in terms of its immense value in documenting American life and education in the late 19th century. The poster reflects the Common School Movement- a development in American education that sought to develop a common curriculum. It began in the 1830’s but went through ferment and change in the 1890’s when this was printed. A parallel movement had risen in Germany in the mid 1800’s as well- the training of teachers could not keep pace with rapidly increasing numbers of students in schools. Wall charts allowed for clearer instruction for greater numbers. Coupled with german expertise in chromolithographic printing, the glory days of the educational wall chart reached a zenith in Europe in the mid 19th century. Our set of charts highlights both technical printing skill and contemporary educational thought in one.

before treatment
before treatment
after treatment
after treatment
before treatment
before treatment
after treatment
after treatment


One plate, with a particularly gruesome physiological theme, displays the effects of prolonged alcohol and tobacco consumption:


All of the physiological plates, this one included, had an interesting printing technique we do not see too often.  In areas that depict blood, viscera, and sometimes hair, it appears that an additional layer of glaze, perhaps just linseed oil, was added on top of the ink to create greater saturation of color.  During aqueous treatment (washing) this particular effect can often blanch- much like the ring left from a wet glass placed on top of a varnished table- in order to rectify it, we were able to swab the foggy areas with isopropyl alcohol to drive the water away that had become bonded within the ink’s oil.

These detail shots show before and after the treatment:

chart pic detail_DTchart pic detail_AT

After each sheet was treated, a cloth-covered drop front box was made to hold unbound charts, with the original roller in its own compartment. It will now reside in our Auxiliary Storage Facility (ALF).

Apparently, the Common School Movement was criticized as promoting Protestant values during the period when the US saw an influx of Roman Catholic immigrants.  Such strife eventually led to the Parochial School Movement.

Today’s debates over home-schooling versus public education and evolutionary theory versus creationism are just a continuance of how we, as Americans, are constantly struggling to decide how to educate our children. Different interest groups compete for dominance over curriculum depending on the social conditions of the time.

For more about changes in the American curriculum, read Kliebard, Herbert M. The Struggle for the American Curriculum 1893-1958. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Water water everywhere

Well, the water was not literally “everywhere” but it was in the Kinsey Library.  The Lab received a call for assistance Monday (July 7) afternoon informing us that there had been a water problem over the long holiday weekend and asking for our assistance.  Doug and Elise gathered some supplies and went to do an initial survey of the problem.  There were 300 +/- books that were involved.  Some (those in the photo) were just damp and can be air dried using one of the large fans we own for that purpose but most have been placed in one of our walk-in freezers and will be transitioned into the Wei T’o freeze-dryer over the coming days and weeks.  Thankfully, we do not experience this type of problem often but the staff here have again shown their willingness to pitch in to address an unplanned event and deal with it in a timely fashion.

Kinsey - edge wet

posted by Lynn Hufford

Paper Conservation and Blooming Where You Are Planted

Today’s guest blog post is by Madeline Zook, who has been completing a 90 hour practicum in the Paper lab this summer.

Hi, my name is Madeline Zook and I have spent the past six weeks interning at the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab at the ALF, with Doug Sanders, Paper Conservator.  I sought out this internship because it is my hope to someday go on to a graduate program in conservation. As an undergraduate pursuing a future career in conservation most of my time out side of my school work is spent in internships, searching for internships, applying for internships, or writing about my internships. Thus, I have worked now at three of the Indiana University labs, under Margaret Contompasis at the IUAM, with Judith Sylvester for the Mathers Museum and now am completing my time with Doug Sanders and Arini Esarey at the E. Lingle Craig Lab at the ALF. I am so lucky to have all the resources open to me at IU, and can now say that I have experience working in conservation labs with paintings, objects, textiles, and paper.

This summer working with Doug I have aided with two ongoing projects. The first was the cleaning and mending of a collection of letters from the Wylie House collection. In total the collection had over 5,000 letters, correspondences to the President and his family dating from the mid-1800s to the 1930s. Once that project was complete I helped finish the cleaning and mending of a schoolroom chart dating from the mid 1890s. During both projects Doug and Arini were gracious enough to teach me techniques for surface cleaning, and then mending with wheat paste and Japanese paper.

Working in these very different labs though has also provided a lesson outside of proper handling techniques and managing acidic paper. Each semester I get to see a little flavor of the lab I am working in. Here at the ALF, Doug runs a methodically detail-oriented ship, he thoroughly thinks through his choices and much research is done before any steps are made. He is if nothing else meticulous, fitting for a paper conservator.

Time in Judith’s lab is the polar opposite of this environment. My time with her was spent more focused on the collections management side of conservation, as I housed and rehoused, documented, and photographed textiles during my time there. Even though it was not the most glamourous work I look back at time in her lab very fondly. The Mathers collections storage area is like a giant curio cabinet, Inuit pipes are two rows over from African masks, which are just across the way from Native American canoes, only a few steps from a beautiful collection of Wanamaker photographs, all surrounded by guns ranging from the 1700s to 1950s, with textiles hanging from floor to ceiling. Perfectly fitting for an objects conservator.

The road to conservation is stressful, but maybe that is because I am at the beginning. I see the countless hours that must be put into finishing degrees in both Chemistry and Studio Art, studying abroad, finding internships, applying for graduate schools, studying for the GRE, along with balancing all the changes that come with being a 20 something. But slowly I am realizing that maybe there is a reason that so many working lab hours are required to become a conservator. I have learned much about techniques of cleaning, storage, handling, climate control and preservation; but I also see that conservation is special in that every day and every year is different, you will never be totally prepared for any project, but learning to ask questions, put in the time and enjoy the surroundings will take you far, and make the hours seem short.

I am truly thankful to all of the conservators who have made space for me and my questions in their lab. I have been given so many opportunities and hours of training, not to mention the wells of advice and mentorship that each has offered me, without hesitation.