Mold in the Herbarium

Garry Harrison, Anitta Salkola-White and Miriam Nelson were tasked with treating a number of items located in the Herbarium Library for mold.  The project took several days but as can be seen from these examples it is obvious that their care and attention was needed. We did not get any post-treatment photos (sorry about that), but all of these were treated successfully and put back into circulation.

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Craig Lab Quarterly Report (July – September 2011)

In spite of having nearly no student employees in any of the Preservation units during this period, our output for the quarter increased for both the General Collections Conservation and Kasemake units while both the Paper Lab and Bindery Prep saw slight decreases that are typical of the summer.

In the General Collections Conservation unit total treatments increased from 2,407 during the previous reporting period to 2,615 for this one. Of these, the higher level treatments declined while enclosures nearly doubled as staff spent considerable amount of time working on projects for the Fine Arts Library.

Continue reading “Craig Lab Quarterly Report (July – September 2011)”

Tale of Two Books

The General Collections Conservation unit of Indiana University Library’s E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab treats an average of 13,000 items per year. Treatment may be as simple as reinserting single pages that have come loose to completely rebuilding and repairing a 300-year-old monograph. However, several times each year the Lab is sent items in a red biohazard bag; these require special handling or disposal. Often the contents of these bags are books thought to be hosting active mold growth, and the Craig Lab staff is asked to assess the item and decide whether it can be saved or needs to be withdrawn. This, Tale of Two Books, is an overview of the steps we follow when a monograph shows up that has mold and will give you an idea of the process we use to remediate this problem when the item is important enough to warrant the time and effort.

Usually the circulation desk staff will notify the Lab when a book that they suspect has mold is being sent to the Lab so we know to be looking for it. However, sometimes we do not know what the problem might be until we open the bag. Fortunately, red biohazard bags are hard to miss, so when one shows up we know to take special care in handling its contents. While we are not overly concerned with the supposed toxicity of mold, neither are we careless with it. Mold can trigger unpleasant allergy-like reactions and/or contaminate workspaces if its presence is extensive. Also, some books may have other, potentially more hazardous issues. Therefore, the contents of these bags are dealt with either in a controlled environment such as an exhaust hood or outdoors where there is unlimited air exchange.

About 25% of the time, the problem that was sent to us as mold turns out to be either just dirt or ink that has run, or a combination of the two. We appreciate this as erring on the side of caution. A more casual attitude on the sender’s part could result in our dealing with a major mold infestation in a collection space, so we do not mind receiving an occasional “false alarm” book.

Continue reading “Tale of Two Books”

Fourth Quarter (April – June) 2011 Activity Report

Staff from the Preservation Lab responded to a water emergency at the IU Art Museum.  Most of the items were clerical files which were brought to the Lab where a combination of both air drying and freeze drying was used on the affected materials.

Approximately 20 monographs were received and treated from the Herman B Wells Library that had suffered water damage.

Seven tours were provided by the Lab staff.  Some of the groups/individuals for whom these tours were conducted included: INDIGO (Indiana Government Documents Librarians), staff from the IU Music Library, Liz Dube – the conservator from Notre Dame, members of an IU Committee who are working on the design of a film preservation facility, and SLIS (IU School of Library & Information Science) alumni.

Continue reading “Fourth Quarter (April – June) 2011 Activity Report”

Preserving your family Photos

Preserving your Family Photographs – a (very) basic guide

The Good News

You have discovered, or remembered, that you have a box of family photos.  Maybe one of your cousins heard that you were working on the family tree and sent you their family photos.  Whatever the source you are now the one entrusted with preserving these images from your family’s past.  This article will provide you with some basic steps you can take to help ensure that these photographs will last at least a little longer than they might if they were just left in a box in your attic.

The Bad News:  Almost all film deteriorates

When you look through your collection of family photographs, some of which may date back several decades, you will notice that there is a wide variation in their condition.  Some of the oldest may be in better shape than those taken more recently.   When the film was manufactured, who the manufacturer was, whether it was color or black and white, and how it was processed all factor into how well the photos have survived.  However, even “good” film if it has been stored improperly will show signs of deterioration.

For example, Kodachrome color film, dating from about 1938, will retain its colors for about 40 – 50 years if it has been stored in dark conditions.  Kodacolor film, which was introduced in 1942, will show noticeable signs of color loss within five to seven years.[1] By the 1960s color prints were showing some improvement but will still show 30% loss in their dye within ten to fifteen years for prints stored in average room conditions (75 degrees/40% relative humidity).[2] By the 1980s film had improved even more and consumers could expect that prints would last up to fifty years in normal room conditions.  Working as a preservation librarian and as a genealogist I personally do not think fifty years is all that long – it is better than the ten years that had been the norm, but not by much.

Causes of film fading

Controlling temperature is the first line of defense in film preservation.  One way to think about the chemicals in your photographs and how heat impacts them is to compare the photo to a pot of water you have put on the stove.  As long as it is cool the water is calm and the cooler the calmer.  As the water heats up it begins to move and change.  The same happens with the chemicals in your photos but at a lower temperature and over a longer period of time.   Normal room temperature is enough for the chemicals in your photos to start “bubbling” and within a few decades some of the colors will have “evaporated” much like the water in the boiling pot.  For storing film cooler is better.

The second guideline is to avoid excessive dampness, i.e., avoid storage conditions that exceed 50% relative humidity.  Excessive dampness is the most damaging condition for all color photographs as it can cause dye fading, mold growth and softening of the gelatin used on the photographs.[3] Mold growth and gelatin softening can happen within a period as short as a few hours if the conditions are right.

So, how important is controlling the temperature and humidity?  Studies by the Image Permanence Institute on color photographic materials have shown that film stored in an environment that averages 90 degrees and 50% relative humidity (for example your attic) will show noticeable deterioration within ten years.  The same photo stored at 70 degrees and 40% RH will take 60 years to exhibit the same loss.  If you can reduce the RH to an average of 30% it will last for 100 years.[4]

Things you can do

Decide what is important and how long you want to keep those important items.  You may have 50 photos of your father dating from World War II but are all of them important enough to spend the time and money on to preserve in their print form?  Pixels are cheap.  Perhaps the preservation strategy for the less important photos is to scan the photos.

After you have narrowed down your collection to those you want to preserve, evaluate the images and decide if the copy you have is “good enough” or if it needs to be worked on.  How faded is it?  Is it cracked?  Is it brittle or flaking?  Is it stained or showing signs of mold?  You might have a photo in which all of the above are true, but it is the only photo of the individual so it is important regardless of its condition.

If you have a scanner, some basic photo editing software and the only thing wrong with the photo is it has started to fade or the colors are off then you can make significant improvements in the overall image with only a minimum of effort.  I use Photoshop but most of the photo editing software share several basic features.  The original photo on the left was scanned.  Next to it is the image after a basic curves and levels adjustment has been applied.

I usually scan my photos in TIFF format and save the original file while working on a duplicate.  However if the photo is in good shape and needs little or no editing I may scan it as a high level JPEG.   Since both TIFF and JPEG are open formats I am relatively confident that the files will be able to be read by future generations of the software.

Once I have done whatever editing and cleaning-up of the photo I need to do the image is saved as a JPEG.  Both the TIFF original and the edited JPEG are assigned keywords.  I use Adobe’s Lightroom for this but other programs will work as well.  The images are then put into electronic folders.  My filing system is organized as follows:

My Photographs

Genealogy Photos

FAMILY

Individual

So, for example, if I am looking for a photograph of my maternal grandmother (Elfelda Marrett) I would open My Photographs, look in my Genealogy Photos folder, find the Marrett Family, then find Elfelda Marrett.

Next, you need to decide what to do with the original photograph.  One of the questions to ask is whether the photograph is important as an artifact.   The following example may help.

This photograph, taken in about 1900, shows my wife’s great grandfather and other members of the coast guard life saving station where he was working inside the station and surrounded by the tools of their trade.  The original photograph is very faded and the housing is showing signs of brittleness and is also probably somewhat acidic.  However this has high value to the family as an artifact.  I was able to scan the original and bring out more details as shown on the copy on the right.  The scanned image is one that will be shared with family while original will be stored for safe keeping.

I have other family photographs, many of which are half a century newer than the above, that are in much worse shape physically.  They may have sections of the image missing, have been folded, stuffed in envelopes, or generally mishandled.  The content of the photos can often be saved through digital restoration but the original photograph cannot be repaired so it could be discarded after scanning.

Those original images that pass your “preserve for posterity” test should be put into protective enclosures.  There are several companies that make preservation quality materials for photo storage.  Two that have long been used by libraries, and which also have good web sites and that sell to individuals are: Hollinger Metal Edge [ http://www.hollingermetaledge.com ] and Gaylord Brothers [ http://www.gaylord.com ].     Once the photos are safely enclosed, the enclosure itself needs to be stored.  Two good options for this are either an archival quality album or archival dropfront box.  If a dropfront box is a better choice for you given the size and number of prints you are saving then rather than using plastic sleeves you could place the photographs in the box and separate each layer of photographs with acid/lignin free paper or with sheets of Tyvek.  Both types of material are available at most framing stores or from many online sources.

The albums should be stored in as good an environment as you can find.  For me, this is a rarely used walk-in closet.  There are no windows and no HVAC ducts so the temperature is fairly constant and is as good as I can get for what I can afford.  If I find that the humidity levels are more than I would like I can add some sort of absorbent such as activated silica gel to the enclosure.  However, I know that if I had a cooler place to store the photographs that would be better.  For example, assuming that the closet averages 70 degrees and 40% RH the photos will last about 60 years before showing signs of color loss.  In the archival vault used by the Indiana University Libraries, materials are kept at 50 degrees and 30% RH.  Photographs stored in that type of environment would take 300 years before they exhibited the same level of loss.

In the short term I am more concerned with loss due to fire or water damage.  To address this I follow a trend used in academic libraries called LOCKSS which is short for Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe.  For my photos, this means that once the digital copies are the best I can make them then they are shared with other family members.  I also have a portable hard drive that has my important digital files that is kept away from my home.  While neither of these are ways to keep the original image safe, they do help to insure that copies of the images are likely to be around for the foreseeable future.

Finally, as a librarian as well as a photographer I am a proponent of print.  I just happen to like the idea that owning a copy that takes no more effort to view than having a light source is not a bad option.  Printing a family album using a service like Shutterfly, MPIX or Blurb is a reasonable approach.  Each of these printers offers printing on acid-free stock using archival quality ink.  These family books could be given as gifts and handed out at family reunions.

Reilly, James M.  Storage guide for color photographic materials [Rochester, N.Y.]: Image Permanence Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, [1999];

https://www.imagepermanenceinstitute.org/resources/publications

— Lynn Hufford —


[1] Reilly, James M.  Storage guide for color photographic materials: 3.

[2] Reilly: 3-4

[3] Reilly: 12

[4] Reilly: 20

Craig Lab Statistical Report – 1st Quarter 2011

Craig Lab – 1st 2001 Quarter Statistical Summary

January – March 2011

The General Collections Conservation section treated 2,853 items.  Of these, 1,042 were Level I treatments, 88 were Level II, and 119 were Level III.  Another 1,604 were items that were put into an enclosure.  An additional 99 items were stabilized so that they could be sent to Heckman for rebinding.

The Paper Lab performed treatments on sixty-nine items.  Of these 35 were Level I of which 33 of these were from GIMSS, one for University Archives and one for Lilly.  Twenty-one items received Level II treatment.  Geosciences had two of these, GIMSS had sixteen, Lilly two, and Music one.  There were 13 Level III treatments performed by the Paper Lab.  Four were for GIMSS and nine were for Lilly.

The Kasemake operator constructed 1,804 boxes in total.  Of these 491 were puzzle boxes for the Lilly Library’s Slocum collection and 367 were for general Lilly Library materials.  The general collections conservation unit added 87 requests; there were 119 from the other general collections and 40 from the paper lab.  In addition there were 700 boxes constructed for the film collections that are being moved to the ALF2.

The Lilly Library conservation technician oversaw the construction of 85 phase boxes, 44 corrugated boxes and four clamshell enclosures.  She also made 40 corrugated boxes for the puzzle collection.  For exhibition she made 137 labels.  In general treatments, the Lilly technician worked on 21 additional items

Bindery Prep processed 2,896 items.  Of these, 1,766 were serials, 226 were monographs and 357 were paperback sent to Heckman.  The remainders were miscellaneous items.

Other projects:

The General Collections Conservation unit hosted a tour for the College Books Arts group; gave a tutorial on the assembly of box-with-lid to the ALF staff, gave advice to a staff member at the University of Missouri and updated the text to the online preservation manual.  Harrison experimented with a way to deodorize paper.

Hufford, Harrison, Nelson, Salkola-White completed LYRASIS training in three online workshops:  Caring for Originals during scanning; Preservation and Salvage of Audio-visual Materials; and, Caring for Scrapbooks.

The staff in the Paper Lab gave a half-day workshop to participants from the Society of American Archivists student conference and another half day workshop to participants from the College Book Arts Association conference.  Sanders spoke to a SLIS class on cataloging terms associated with describing paper-based materials.

Sanders and Hufford viewed the Library of Congress web presentation “Assessing Options for Large Collections.”

McBride worked with Sanders to design one-off enclosures using the Kasemake design software, designed a new layout for film storage enclosures, and worked with the Lilly Puzzle Curator to design storage trays for the housing of the puzzle collection.

Steiner was involved or led the following projects at the Lilly Library:

EXHIBITS

Main Gallery

Lincoln Room

Slocum Room

Ball Room

Foyer

Indiana Memorial Union

School of Fine Arts Gallery

IU Cinema

Music Arts Center (MAC)

Installed:         Offset Artist Books (91 items)

12 students for Manuscripts Class (141 items)

Artist Books Jim (≈90 items)

John Ford (64 items)

Assorted supports (Jillian’s)

One Book One Bloomington (26 items)

Chapbooks (44 items)

Politics and Propaganda Puzzle (64 items)

CBAA Juried Artist Books (25 items)

Cinema John Ford (14 items)

Faust at MAC (9 items)

Deinstalled:    10 students (Cherry’s Class)

Artist Books (Jim)

John Ford

Chapbooks

Politics and Propaganda Puzzle

CBAA Juried Artist Books

Faust at MAC

SPECIAL PROJECTS

  • Check in items at ALF (162)
  • Check out items at ALF (121)
  • Restretch & Rehang wall panels in Main Gallery Wall cases
  • Wrap and label “Gilding” books for President’s office and IU Foundation (348ct)
  • Scheduled and Unscheduled meetings for Manuscripts Class (33ct)
  • 2/11/11 extreme RH cleanup and maintenance (Broken Fan)
  • 3 of 4 parts for Legal Compliancy
  • STEPS Access Class
  • Approximately 10hrs on layout for Preservation Week Exhibit
  • 4  assorted meetings regarding Preservation Week Exhibit
  • Lyrasis – Caring for orginals during the scanning process
  • 3 assorted meeting regarding puzzle tray orders

Hufford attended the midwinter meeting of ALA including meetings of the CIC Preservation Officers and the Preservation Administration Discussion Group.  He continued to serve on and attend meetings of the IUL Budgetary Advisory Committee, ALF Internal Processing Committee, Senior Managers Group.  He attended the Handheld Librarian web conference.  He worked with McBride and Harrison on a proposal for IU to perform enclosure construction for Brown University and meet with McBride and Lilly Library staff to discuss the construction of special boxes for the puzzle collection.  He met with the vice president of Bridgeport Binding to discuss the possibility of IU changing vendors for its binding operation.

Celebrating ALA Preservation Week

ALA Preservation Week is officially at the end of April, but here at the lab we’ve decided to celebrate all month. This slideshow highlights what we’ve been up to lately, some of which can be seen in greater detail in earlier blog posts. We have also set up an exhibit in the West display case of the Wells Library. We encourage you to stop by if you get a chance.

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In preparing for preservation week, we’ve taken the time to look back on our recent work, and it’s really gratifying to see not just the breadth of material that the library collects but also the variety of conservation treatments that we are able to perform, thanks to our fantastic facility and the support of our administration. With these tools at our disposal, we make decisions that take into account nearly every facet of the library’s needs. Of course the condition of the item speaks most directly to the required conservation treatment , but we also use that professional judgment to take into account the context of the collection to which the material belongs. Every new treatment we add to our repertoire enables us to more completely and consistently treat the collection as a whole, while maintaining the care that individual condition assessment entails.

As the library continues to fill the growing demand for digital access, the Preservation Lab works to stabilize materials for digitization and to restore the paper copy to a usable condition when the digitizing efforts have caused damage. We work to preserve those items that have already been recognized as unique, rare or special to the research needs of the University and stand poised to do the same for the material whose significance will be recognized by our scholarly community in years to come. Join us in celebrating the excellence of IU by recognizing the role of preservation plays in achieving the University’s mission and that of libraries across the nation.

Don Etherington visit to IUL Preservation Lab

The highlight of the fall 2010 semester at the IUL Craig Preservation Lab was a workshop on leather and tissue rebacking which was taught by Don Etherington.  Three members of the Preservation Lab staff (Miriam Nelson, Annita Salkola-White and Nicole Wolfersberger) applied for, and received, the Herbert and Virginia White award which furthers staff development within IUL.  They used those funds to bring Mr. Etherington to Bloomington to conduct the three day workshop and to give a talk on binding at the Lilly Library.