When I first arrived at the library the repair unit was considered the place where “things went to and never came back.” That, of course, wasn’t true then and it certainly isn’t true now. Here are a few lovely repaired items going back to the general collections thanks to Mary and Tedd.New cases and rebacks on their way back to the shelf thanks to Conservation.
Have you noticed that the most simple-seeming projects always turn out to be more complicated than you think? As part of our preparations to move our collections to our renovated library, we are trying to free up space in the flat files. Our flat files contain broadsides, maps, posters, artwork, etc. Many of these items are large and flat and should be in the flat files. Many are flat but are small enough to fit into standard manuscript boxes or pamphlet binders. Last November we embarked on a project to help the Rubenstein Library move as many of the smaller maps as possible into enclosures to free up space in the flat files. Sounds easy, right?First Challenge: To Keep the Old Encapsulation or Not
I am an advocate of NOT encapsulating materials unless it is necessary to facilitate handling. Polyester is expensive, and it can add a lot of weight to the stacks. It can also make handling difficult for patrons as they sift through a stack of slippery encapsulated documents.
Many of these maps didn’t need to be encapsulated. They are in good condition and a folder inside a box would suffice. However, in order to finish the project by the move date, we would need to utilize our student assistants and our volunteer. If we decided to de-encapsulate materials, it would mean a conservator would have to evaluate the condition of each item to determine its disposition. There simply wasn’t time to do this.
In consultation with Rubenstein staff, we decided the maps would stay encapsulated in their old polyester if possible. We would replace the polyester only if an item didn’t fit its current encapsulation, or if the old polyester was too damaged to keep.Second Challenge: All That Tape!
Almost all of the maps have been previously encapsulated using double stick tape to adhere the two pieces of polyester together. While this is a common method of encapsulation, it poses one big problem. A document can shift to the edge and become stuck. This poses a particular hazard for brittle materials. Lucky for us, most of our maps were encapsulated with a generous amount of space between the object and the tape.
We decided that we could ultrasonically weld between the object and the tape, trim the tape off, and voila! A retrofitted encapsulation.Brittle map edge is stuck to the taped polyester sheets. Third Challenge: Size Matters
As we looked through the thirty drawers of materials it became clear that some of the old encapsulations just weren’t working. There were several items that had encapsulations that were too small. Some large folded items were put still folded into an L-sleeve encapsulation. Handling is awkward, and unfolded these items became too large for either the manuscript boxes or the flat files.
Rubenstein staff decided on two standard manuscript box sizes and two standard pamplet-binder sizes. Anything that could go into one of these would do so. Any folded item would be unfolded. If an item was too big for a box, it would remain in a folder in a flat file. If it was too big to lay flat in the current flat files, we would wait to encapsulate it until we were in our new space with our new, bigger flat files. There are a few items that are in too bad of a condition to safely re-encapsulate. These will come to conservation for treatment first.Maps in new manuscript boxes. Fourth Challenge: The Weird Stuff
There is a lot of weird stuff in libraries and not everything in the map drawers are maps. As we work our way through the map collection we are setting these oddities aside for curatorial review. Some will end up back in the flat files, some will be the responsibility of Collection Development to deal with.The Project So Far
To date we have encapsulated 1,865 items. By our estimates we are about 90% finished, but what is left is some of the oddball items that need special attention by conservation, curators and by technical services. Technical services will also have to update the new locations, which they will do during the reclass project. Did I mention Rubenstein is also doing a huge reclass project during the move? We don’t believe in doing only one huge project at a time, that would be too easy.
As many readers know, we lost our photo documentation room in November 2013 to a renovation-related flood. We got it back for a on December 15, 2014 only to lose it again to another renovation issue on January on January 29, 2015. Today we got it back, and this time for good (everyone knock on wood). It is such a gift to not have our dirty room doubling as a photo doc room as well. Here’s the before:The dirty room doubling as photo doc room.
Here is the dirty room today.The dirty room all cleaned up.
And here is the photo doc room.The photo doc room, semi-cleaned up.
We still have to put the photo doc set-up back in place, but what a great present to get this room back today!
Recently we contracted with object conservator Susanne Grieve Rawson to work on some objects from the History of Medicine Collection. These are being prepared for exhibit in the renovated Rubenstein Library.
Rather than sending her the objects as you normally do when you contract conservation services, Susanne came to the Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab to do the work.
Susanne started the first day evaluating the condition of the objects with Rachel Ingold, History of Medicine Collection curator, and Meg Brown, Exhibits Coordinator. Her examination included looking at a few of the objects under UV light.
She also met with Rachel and Andrew Armacost, Head of Collection Development in the Rubenstein Library, to discuss the condition of the items and potential treatment options.
Susanne brought an amazing kit of tools with her. We geeked out a little, asking her questions about the special tools and supplies she had. It was a fun and educational to have an outside contractor working in the lab. We learned a lot from each other. I hope we have this opportunity again.
We got an amazing History of Medicine Collection artifact in the lab today for boxing . It is an anatomical birthing model dated to the 1890’s. The body and placenta are made of a soft suede material with red and blue yarn for the umbilical cord. The stitching that attaches each section to the main body is very finely done.
I don’t know the complete history of this item. But judging by the attention to detail on the hands, feet, and ears, along with the elegant stitching, you can tell this was a lovingly-crafted model.
Every now and then something really, really great comes to the lab for a custom enclosure. We have been working on high priority items in anticipation of the Rubenstein Library move to its renovated space this fall.
On Rachel’s bench is one of the ivory manikins from the History of Medicine Collection. This one is lounging on a beautifully carved-out wooden bed. I love that the manikin is wearing shoes. Very modest indeed.