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Duke University Libraries Preservation
Updated: 50 min 54 sec ago

Evidence of Ownership

Thu, 2019-07-11 18:35

Some of the more intriguing objects in the collection have characteristics that show evidence of a previous owner’s interaction with them. A good example of this recently came through the lab for an enclosure.

This copy of Walter Crane’s The Bases of Design (1898) is wrapped in a protective cloth cover, likely handmade by a previous owner. The cover is signed Naomi S. Gray at the tail of the spine, so we can only assume that she was the person who made it. These kinds of home-made book jackets are not all that uncommon, but the amount of detail in it’s design and construction is pretty extraordinary.  The actual design of the publisher’s binding looks like this:

The design of the titling on the spine of the case is copied faithfully onto the jacket – but rather than continue with the floral motif of the publisher’s design, a small drawing of a crane is included to represent the author. A hem and single line of stitching at the head and tail of the jacket spine was added to prevent the cloth from unraveling where it is cut. The turn-ins on the interior of the boards show an equal level of care.

Lacing with ribbon or cord in this fashion is often seen in home-made book jackets of this style. In most cases, the materials used appear to be cheap scrap. Rarely do we see hemmed turn-ins and individual stitching around the lacing holes.

The attention to detail in so many aspects of the design and construction of this book jacket tells not only a great deal about the appreciation that Naomi had for this book, but showcases her excellent hand skills. In many ways, the evidence of ownership can stir a greater connection to the object than the text itself.

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Quick Pic: It’s July 4th Eve and Everyone is Boxing!

Wed, 2019-07-03 19:32
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Apparently the afternoon before a holiday is a good day for an impromptu Boxing Day We all decided independently that making boxes was a good thing to do today. There are so many boxes being made all at once it is epic.

Boxing Day: July 4th Edition

Somehow we are all working around each other at the board shear in a (mostly) seamless dance. All these stats are a great way to start the new fiscal year.

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Intern Update: Doing All The Things

Fri, 2019-06-21 13:00

As you recall, our intern’s first few days were a little hectic. Since our last post Garrette has learned how to repair manuscript materials for digitization, learned how to humidify and flatten architectural drawings, and continues to refine her boxing skills.

This week Garrette helped re-install the two Audubon double elephant folios in the exhibits suite. These were removed earlier in the year to make way for the “500 Hundred Years of Women’s Work” exhibit. It took four of us about an hour to reinstall these two volumes. The birds were greatly missed but they are back on display with new page openings.

Strapping a double elephant folio Audubon.

We toured the Library Service Center this week with colleagues from the University Archives and the Rubenstein Library. Earl Alston, LSC Access and Delivery Coordinator, gave us a behind the scenes tour of the stacks. Every time we visit LSC we are impressed with the amount of work the LSC staff do every day. It’s hard, physical labor that is mostly invisible to patrons.

Really big stacks at the LSC.

In the lab today we hosted a tour for our colleagues in the Digital Collections and Curation Services department. Garrette gave a terrific presentation on the humidification and flattening work that she is doing for the Duke Gardens collection. These are rolled drawings depicting the Garden’s hardscapes and greenscapes that show the evolution of Duke Gardens.

Garrette (R) showing colleague how to humidify and flatten architectural drawings.

Later this week we will tour the UNC-Chapel Hill conservation labs. We also have Garrette working on some disaster recovery projects for the Triangle Research Library Network as well. She is getting a good picture of what collections conservators do on a daily basis from treatment to disaster preparation to  meetings to surveys.

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Revamping Our Loan Documentation

Fri, 2019-06-14 20:24

The library loans a large number of items from various collections to other libraries and museums each year for exhibitions. The typical loan agreement is for a small number of items (usually less than 10), but occasionally we get a loan request that is much larger. It is important to document the condition of each object that is borrowed, and we do this by creating a condition report. Condition reports document any pre-existing conditions of a collection item (or lack thereof) and help to establish the responsible party for any future damage. A good report allows anyone handling the object to check and compare the condition of the item as it is packed and moved between destinations.

There are no standards for the length or format of a condition report. For many years, our reports have taken the form of a simple text document that includes an object’s identifying information, a brief description, and notes about any condition issues. In addition to the report, we take photographs of the object and save them to a networked drive.

This form has served us well until now, but in the next year we are facing some much larger loans. We began to wonder if there was a way to more quickly and accurately document the condition of an item, while still maintaining good record keeping practices. In recent years, a number of conservators have developed methods for adding photographs and digital annotations to their condition reports. With the increased functionality and reduced cost of portable touch-screen devices, the time seemed right to experiment with new documentation methods.

[Click to Enlarge]At the most recent AIC Annual Meeting, I attended a talk by Katrina Rush, Associate Paintings Conservator at the The Menil Collection, on digital condition reporting using Apple devices. While the method she presented appeared viable for our needs, we needed to use hardware and software that could be fully supported by our IT department. We recently acquired a Surface Book 2, which combines the versatility of a laptop and a tablet in one Windows device. The accompanying stylus allows the user to precisely annotate images and the portability means that we can bring it along with the items as they travel. The attached camera could be useful for documenting the item outside the lab.

I began designing a new condition report template in Microsoft OneNote. This program allows us to include all the same information from the old form, as well as insert and annotate images. There are also some handy time-saving features like working checkboxes and timestamps. I have included an example of an item documented with the new form here.

At this stage in development, I am conducting “trial runs” with the new form and device. So far I have not been timing myself, but completing the report seems to go very quickly. For much larger loans, I have successfully tested workarounds using “mail merge” to generate the tables of bibliographic data for many items at once. I’ve found it very easy to fill out the fields and to drag and drop images into the form. While the drawing tools are extensive, it would probably be helpful to develop a standard legend of specific colors to describe common condition issues. Exporting the report to a more preservation-friendly file format (like PDF) is easy enough, but can require some adjustments to keep page breaks from splitting an image.

As this new documentation method gets more use, we will likely continue to adapt it. In the coming months I hope to share some of the lessons we learn and the resulting workflows on this blog.

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Welcome to Our New Intern: Garrette Lewis-Thomas

Wed, 2019-06-05 19:55
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Our new intern, Garrette Lewis-Thomas, has arrived and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Garrette is our second HBCU Library Alliance conservation intern. Like last year, she will spend eight weeks with us learning everything from minor repairs to making heat set tissue to preparing materials for digitization.

Garrette is a student at Fisk University where she is studying psychology and sociology.  She works at the John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library assisting the Access Services Desk. Her interest in John Hope Franklin fits in well with our collecting areas and we are excited to work with the Rubenstein John Hope Franklin Center to find some projects for her to work on.

Garrette folding boxes. Day 1

The very first thing we did is take Garrette to a job talk by a candidate who applied for a library position. She got to see first hand what a job interview looks like in an academic library. The interview was at another location on campus, so she also got to learn how to get across campus during the summer on the bus. Day 1 was a little chaotic but it all worked out. She got a tour of a part of campus that we didn’t expect would happen on Day 1. It is a good reminder that not everything goes as planned.

Day 2

Day 2 brought another problem…something smelled terrible in the lab. It’s still unclear what the problem is or where it is coming from. Because we couldn’t be in the lab for any length of time we decamped to the Disaster Supply Room next door. We took the CoLibri machine in along with the newly-arrived shipment of vendor-supplied corrugated boxes. Garrette spent the day covering New & Noteworthy books and folding boxes. In the afternoon we hopped the bus to East Campus and toured through the Music Library and the Lilly Library. Lesson learned: there is always something to do to be productive even when you can’t get to your bench.

Day 3

It still smells in the lab, but it is getting better. Current theory: something dead is in the tunnels below the building and there isn’t anything we can do about it. We are airing out the lab and doing our best to ride this out. Garrette is  working on minor repairs and enclosures. We started the day in the Disaster Supply Room, but have moved back into the lab with all the fans running and doors open. Garrette has already proven to be very flexible, adaptable to change, and eager to learn. We can’t wait to see what the summer holds for her and for us.

Thanks to our supporters

These HBCU Library Alliance internships would not be possible without the help of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the University of Delaware College of Arts and Science, the Department of Art Conservation at the University of Delaware, and the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library (DE). Thanks also to Debbie Hess Norris and Melissa Tedone at the University of Delaware. A big thanks to We also wish to thank the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation for supporting this internship.

We will continue sharing more about this internship as it progresses, but for now: Welcome to Duke, Phebe!

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Turn It Up To Get It Flat

Fri, 2019-05-24 15:34
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You remember we recently purchased a new suction table. Today we have the great honor of having Soyeon Choi, Head Conservator, Works of Art on Paper at the Yale Center for British Art here teaching us the tips and tricks to get the most from our new equipment.

Our colleagues Jan Paris and Rebecca Smyrl from UNC-Chapel Hill are here, as is Kesha Talbert form Etherington Conservation Center. We are all having fun and learning a lot from each other.

(L to R) Erin, Soyeon, Rachel, working out the kinks in vellum. (L to R) Soyeon, Mary, and Jan flattening architectural drawings. (L to R) Erin, Soyeon, Rachel, Mary, and Rebecca getting that paper flattened.

We have a bunch of discarded and found materials to work on. No actual collections are being tested today. This morning we are learning how to humidify and flatten vellum and paper. This afternoon we are talking about washing and stain reduction. It’s fun to have a day to learn new techniques and to share with our colleagues.

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New England Field Trip

Fri, 2019-05-17 12:53

A few of us travelled to Connecticut this week to attend the Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). It has been a very busy couple of days, listening to talks, reading research posters, and looking at the latest in conservation equipment and materials. As always, there is so much quality programming and not enough time to see it all. I’m feeling a bit if FOMO (fear of missing out)  and, by the end of the week, my brain is pretty full. I’m looking forward to our department’s recap of the conference to review my notes and further digest everything I’ve learned.

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The Iceman Floweth

Fri, 2019-05-10 11:30
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Last April we got our new freezer delivered. The first thing we did with it was to set up a table-top disaster situation* so our intern and new staff member could gain experience working with damp and wet books.

Sara (L) and Phebe (R) prepare items for the freezer.

 

Phebe (L) and Sara (R) recovering wet books.

That was back in July 2018. The books have been in the freezer since. This week I remembered them as I was working on this year’s internship schedule, so I went to get them out of the freezer. When I opened the door I saw this:

That is an official stalactite.

At some point a part broke, allowing the water drain to malfunction and create this frozen waterfall inside the freezer. The freezer was two weeks out of warranty (of course) but the awesome people at Fisher Scientific waived the repair fee, sent a repair person, and it is now fixed.

Lesson learned

If you don’t have a clear-glass door on your freezer, put a reminder on your calendar to look inside once in a while. We will now check inside the freezer once a month as part of our monthly staff meeting agenda.

 

*No actual library books were harmed during this experiment. 

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May Day: Workers Unite to Update Your Disaster Plan

Wed, 2019-05-01 08:48

May Day 2019Happy May Day! Today is not just for dancing around the maypole and celebrating International Workers Day. May Day is also the traditional day to prepare for an emergency in your cultural institution. Are you ready?

Today we invite you to do one thing to prepare for an emergency. If you don’t know where to start, we have some ideas for you below and in previous posts. Put 15 minutes on your calendar and pick one thing to do today.

Do One Thing
  • Download the Heritage Preservation Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel iPhone app on your iPhone. It’s free!
  • If you don’t have a smart phone, buy a copy of the Field Guide to Emergency Response (Supplements here) and the Salvage Wheel (English) (Salvage Wheel in Spanish). Both the book and wheel are on sale. $25 buys you both.  These are excellent resources to help you get your disaster plan together and to respond to any emergency in your collections.
  • Check your disaster kit. Do you need to restock or replace anything? Do you have a pair of warm socks in there? Do your emergency clothes still fit? [trust me…you want to know this ahead of time]
  • Review your emergency phone tree. Are the correct people listed and the phone numbers still correct? If you don’t have a phone tree, make one today. List those critical people who need to be contacted first to get a recovery going. That might include the director, the communications director, the person who has the power to buy supplies on the spot, and a few people who can start the recovery process. It can be as simple as that. The Pocket Response Plan from the Council of State Archivists is a great customizable template and it fits in your pocket.
  • Review your disaster plan. What’s missing or needs updating? Are there people listed that don’t work there anymore? Have the phone numbers changed? You don’t have to make all of those changes today, but make an appointment on your calendar to do it…then DO it!
  • If you are not the one responsible for disaster planning or recovery in your institution, find out who is and ask for a copy of the disaster plan. And remember, if it is in electronic form, be sure to print out a copy and take it home. The internet doesn’t work when the power is out and cell phone towers are down.
  • Find local and state disaster resources. The Alliance for Response is a coordinated effort to provide training and information at the state level. Current networks include North Carolina. The American Institute for Conservation has several emergency planning guides and templates. 
  • And don’t forget you need a plan at home, too. The Red Cross has some good information on how to put a disaster kit together for your home and family and templates in English and Spanish to  help you create a family disaster plan.

It feels good to get that done, doesn’t it? Now, off to the maypole.

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Quick Pic: Choose Your Sumo Hairstyle

Fri, 2019-04-26 15:09
Japanese woodblock print of sumo wrestler and hairstyles.“Elegant Sumo Hairstyles” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Edo Period

When I see a very large book covered in silver metallic paper sitting on our shelves, of course I have to pull it down and take a look. This recently acquired catalog of prints from the Sumo Museum collection has some really wonderful prints, but this one is definitely my favorite (more about the artist).

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Sharing Our Work With Alumni

Mon, 2019-04-15 17:13

Last Friday was the start of a full weekend of activities for alumni as part of Duke Reunions and the library was a popular destination for those visiting campus. A few of us in Conservation Services were able to participate in some of the events and share our work.

Naomi Nelson, Director of Duke's David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, speaks about the Lisa Unger Baskin Exhibit.In the morning, Rachel Penniman and I partnered with some of our colleagues in Research Services, Technical Services, the Digital Production Center, and Exhibitions to talk about all the behind-the-scenes work that went into preparing the items currently on display from the Lisa Unger Baskin collection.

Henry Hebert, Conservator for Special Collections, speaks about the Lisa Unger Baskin Exhibit.Each speaker took a few minutes to describe their role in bringing the exhibition to life. Rachel and I discussed how we assessed and treated all of the items selected for imaging and exhibition, giving an overview of general principles of conservation treatment and some of our workflows.

Rachel Penniman, Conservation Specialist, speaks about the Lisa Unger Baskin Exhibit.Over the course of an hour,  the audience was able to learn more about the complex work that goes into cataloging, preserving, and documenting the items that the library makes available for scholarship.  The event was very well attended and we even had time at the end to speak with some of the alumni and answer questions.

In the afternoon, Beth Doyle and I brought some of the new items for adoption up to the Biddle exhibition suite to share with visitors of the exhibition.

Beth Doyle, Leona B. Carpenter Senior Conservator and Head, Conservation Services Department, speaks to alumni about the Adopt-A-Book program.Many of the people who stopped by to talk with us had very personal connections with the items we had on the table.  Several alumni commented that, even as students, they had regularly come to the library to see the “double elephant folio” copies of The Birds of America. The first editions of Tolkien were also a huge hit. We even had some items adopted on the spot!

Henry Hebert, Conservator for Special Collections, speaks with alumni about the Adopt-A-Book program.

It’s easy to get absorbed in the day-to-day challenges of supporting library projects and collections, but it is very rewarding to climb out of the basement once in a while to talk about our work with members of the campus community. I am reminded of how engaged both current and former students are with this university and their fondness for the library.

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Big Birds, Dragons, and Gardens…Oh My!

Fri, 2019-04-05 13:58
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Just in time for graduation and Mother’s Day we have new items available for “adoption” through the Duke University Libraries Adopt-a-Book program.

Just added are titles such as Game of Thrones…

The Lord of the Rings trilogy…

A group of wonderful titles centering on women and children…

An awesome grouping of Octavia Butler first editions…

And if you are in the mood for some really big birds, three of the Audubon elephant folios are still available for adoption. Who doesn’t fall in love with these books when you see them?

To adopt the conservation of any of these, go to our Adopt-a-Book page and simply click on the big blue button of your choice.

Why adopt?

You help Duke Libraries preserve their collections so that these titles are available to researchers and patrons for a long time. Best of all, because you receive an electronic bookplate acknowledging your gift, you don’t have to find space for a three foot book on your book shelf. Marie Kondo would approve.

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A Tool That Sucks On Purpose

Fri, 2019-03-22 16:18

We love getting new equipment. In fact, we celebrate Equipment Day on April 9th each year. This is the day that the book presses and board shear arrived from Germany in 2003, almost a year after Conservation became a unit.

Fast forward 16 years and we are still giddy about getting new equipment. A couple weeks ago we received our brand new suction table from Museum Services. It was the best of all the gift-receiving-holidays rolled into one. Big boxes, some assembly required, and a button to push to make it move. Awesomeness in three crates.

The crates arrive!

Included inside were the base, table, dome lid, vacuum unit, humidifier, and an airbrush. It also included really great assembly instructions.

One crate unpacked, two to go.

The table has a removable lid and an electric tilt function. These will come in handy if we have to move it inside the dirty room to do major solvent treatments. It also adjusts from a very low to a very high height, which means anyone can use it safely and comfortably.

Plug it in and take it for a tilt.

The table is assembled and ready for its first project. We plan on doing some refresher training later in the year. Until then we are resisting using the arm holes in the dome as an arena for epic thumb fights.

Ready to go.

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Duke’s Collections Inspire Book Art

Fri, 2019-03-15 19:18

We have written here a few times about teaching bookbinding skills to local Girl Scouts so that they can get their Book Arts Badge (Post 1 and Post 2) . In addition to learning about preservation activities of cultural institutions, the workshop participants learn about the different components of a book, and make three different book structures. Having done this workshop a couple of times, we thought it would be nice to change up some of the types of books that we make. Luckily, the recently acquired Lisa Unger Baskin Collection provided an object of inspiration: this movable book.

See full item description in the online exhibit.

Also known as a metamorphosis or harlequinade, this item was made by Elizabeth Winspear, possibly a young woman of New England, in 1799. The book is composed of a single sheet, folded in an accordion style to form 4 panels. Each panel has a flap at top and bottom. The manuscript text and drawings tell a story using biblical figures and mythical beasts, ending with a kind of memento mori. The reader is instructed by the text to turn leaves up or down to see the transformation.

Although this item was made entirely by hand, the text and imagery are a very faithful representation of the genre. Examples of these movable books can be found from both Europe and North America, dating from the 17th to 19th centuries – and the story is remarkably consistent. See for example, this version printed in England in 1650.

The beginning, progress and end of man. (outside) (inside) London, Alsop for T. Dunster, 1650. The British Library

I’ve said before that the most popular part of our Book Arts Badge workshop is the last hour or so, in which the scouts have time to decorate their books.  This type of movable book seemed like the perfect format to let the scouts unleash their creativity. After talking about Elizabeth Winspear’s book and showing them how to make the folds, we let them design their own metamorphoses. Here are some examples:

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(Click each image to enlarge)

The scouts had a lot of fun with this structure and we really enjoyed seeing what they could do with it. It is amazing how an item produced by a young woman hundreds of years ago can inspire young women today to create book art of their own. Watching students interact with and respond to items from the library’s collection really brings the importance of preservation of cultural heritage into focus. We will definitely make more books like this in our future workshops.

If historical movable books are a topic of interest, you can see more examples of metamorphoses like this one at Learning as Play, hosted by Penn State University. Jacquiline Reid-Walsh has also written a book on the subject, titled Interactive Books: Playful Media Before Pop-Ups (2018). You may be interested in another genre of movable books, anatomical flap books, with many examples from Duke’s collection featured in this online exhibit. Highlights from the Baskin Collection are currently on display until June of this year in the Biddle exhibit suite,  located just inside the main entrance of Perkins Library.

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A Fleet of Futons–Yours for the Making

Fri, 2019-03-08 14:08
descriptive imageBook futon in use.Book futon in use.

I first heard about book futons in graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. It may be that the futon originated there. I am unsure of their provenance but I am fairly certain the conservators at the Harry Ransom Center made book supports of various kinds and likely futons were in the mix.

Making Futons

My first memory of finding instructions for making futons was in Book Displays: A Library Exhibits Handbook by Anne C. Tedeschi (Highsmith Press, 1997). Her depiction of how to make a futon was pretty good, but there were things about her futons that I wanted to change. So I embarked on a mission to make my own version. I even recruited my mother, an expert seamstress, to help. We have made a lot of futons over the years.

A fleet of futons ready for use in the Rubenstein Library.

Together we perfected our methods and ultimately wrote our own instructions for constructing three sizes of futons.  You can access a PDF of our futon instructions here. This PDF includes sewing instructions, laundering information, and an illustrated guide on how to use them. The instructions should be easy to follow if you have a basic understanding of sewing or quilting. Feel free to email me if you have questions.

What’s So Great About A Futon?

What I like about the book futon is they are:

  • Fairly easy to construct, especially for those that have quilting or sewing experience
  • Inexpensive to make. Craft stores often have sales or issue coupons for 40-50% off fabric and batting.
  • Easy to use, and easy to teach patrons to use
  • Highly customizable
  • Machine washable

We use futons in the reading room, the conservation lab, the classroom, and even for temporary exhibits and show-and-tells. Do you know the history of the book futon? Have you made your own futons? Share your futon story in the comment section.

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Working on Women’s Work

Wed, 2019-02-27 19:58

The folks in the Rubenstein Exhibits department are currently hard at work, putting the finishing touches on the exhibition “Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work: The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection“. This exhibition provides a glimpse of the diversity and depth of the Baskin collection, revealing the lives of women both famous and forgotten and recognizing their accomplishments. Items from the collection will be on display in the Biddle exhibit suite until June 15, 2019.

The Conservation Services Department has contributed hundreds of hours of work in support of both this exhibit and the wider Baskin collection for the last few years. To highlight some of the behind-the-scenes efforts undertaken by our staff, we have put on our own small exhibit featuring conservation treatments and custom enclosures for the items on display upstairs.
Treatment documentation on display in exhibition case
If you happen to be in the library, possibly attending one of the many public events surrounding the Baskin exhibition, we invite you to stop by this exhibit case as well.  The case is located on Lower Level 1 of Perkins Library, across from the Conservation Lab entrance (Room 023).

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It Came From The Bowels

Mon, 2019-02-18 18:20
I work where?

I wish I had a dollar for every time a writer used the word “bowels” to describe a library or archive. At best it conjures an image out of The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Boxes haphazardly put down anywhere on the floor just waiting for some researcher to miraculously stumble upon the one box they need to complete their research. At worst, well, I won’t finish that thought.

Yeah, it’s exactly (not) like this. How did we get here?

Margaret Sartor and Alex Harris recently published “Where We Find Ourselves–the Photographs of Hugh Mangum 1897-1922.” They are also the curators of an exhibit of Hugh Mangum’s photographs on display now at the Duke University Nasher Museum of Art (through May 19, 2019).

The New Yorker recently published a review by Sarah Blackwood (February 14, 2019) that once again trots out the familiar trope of materials disgorged from the “bowels” of the library, saved from certain obscurity or worse. The kerfuffle started with this description of the provenance of the collection:

They were rescued once, in the nineteen-seventies, only to be relegated to the back-yard greenhouse of Mangum’s nephew; they were rescued again, in the nineteen-eighties, when they were donated to Duke University. As recently as 2013, more boxes of negatives turned up, this time from the bowels of special collections and marked “discard.” The negatives have passed through the hands of family members, neighborhood activists, local photographers, librarians, archivists, and scholars.

Where to even begin unpacking this quote? Deteriorated glass plates with dirt and paper stuck to them.

First, while we do not recommend storing family records in a chicken coop one could argue that “benign neglect” kept these important documents and images from the landfill. My guess is these plates were handed down through the family, perhaps put aside and forgotten. But for whatever reason the family did not throw them in the trash bin. As vaguely alluded to in the article eventually other people realized the importance of these plates and actively decided to find a permanent repository for them.

The original Hugh Mangum Collection came to Rubenstein Library in 1986 (now part of the Archive for Documentary Arts). Additional materials were discovered and added to the Mangum collection in two rounds. The latest came around 2013. I believe these were the ones found in the chicken coop/barn mentioned in the New Yorker article.

Paper stuck to glass plates.

These “chicken [expletive]” plates as Blackwood describes them came to Conservation sometime around 2016. The plates were very dirty, gritty, and many had paper stuck to them. We cleaned about 250 of these glass plates in house and sent several to the Northeast Document Conservation Center for more in-depth treatment. Henry Hebert, Special Collections Conservator, even consulted with and helped install a few of the Mangum plates at the Nasher. The Digital Production Center digitized this collection a few years ago including the 2013 addition. The collection is available online and is worth looking at. The images are amazing.

People from collection development, technical services, research services, conservation, and the digital production center all played their part in making sure this collection was described, housed, and preserved so that Sartor and Harris could write about them and curate their exhibit. I won’t even start on how many Nasher staff worked on the exhibit.

Why words matter

Look, I get it. Authors need to write compelling narratives and simply finding materials already described and housed in a library isn’t very interesting to most people. Story trumps details, which can get lost or worse willfully ignored. But herein lies the problem with using “from the bowels of special collections.” There is a lot of hidden labor in libraries and archives. People more eloquent than I have written about this issue. We talk a lot in Technical Services about how we can best tell our stories because what we do is often invisible to the public. Our day-to-day work isn’t sexy or glamorous. Most days are made up of very routine and frankly boring work (hello mold removal!). The work also takes its toll physically and often emotionally. Don’t even get me started on salaries in a female-dominated education-related profession. That is why it is hurtful when our work is ignored to make the story sound more miraculous than it is.

At least Sartor acknowledges (pp 157-158) many of the people that had a hand in making this collection, book, and exhibit a reality. She appropriately thanks Erin Hammeke, Senior Conservator, who spearheaded the conservation project. Except Sartor uses another sad trope, “magic,” to describe the conservation of these materials. As if the conservation of these plates weren’t done by a collective of highly skilled people but rather by the wave of a magic wand. Poof! Conservation Managed! Erin, Henry, Rachel Penniman, and Emma Kimmel, then our intern, spent many hours painstakingly cleaning and housing all those plates.

Mangum housed in the (not bowel-like) stacks.

The hero of this story is not the creators of this book and exhibit (although these are wonderful). The heroes should  be the people behind the scenes working really hard every day to collect, describe, house, digitize, preserve, shelve, and retrieve collections so that when their user appears these collections can be pulled from the shelf and handed to them (hello Ranganathan!). The fact that you can walk into a library or archive, request something, and a few minutes later it shows up on your table feels like magic. I assure you it is not.

As I write these thoughts we are preparing for the grand opening of “Women’s Work,” our first exhibit of materials from the newly acquired Lisa Unger Baskin Collection. This collection focuses on women in publishing, art, medicine, literature, society, and so much more. It helps uncover work that is often unseen, unacknowledged, or simply ignored. I wish Blackwood would have taken some time to acknowledge the hard work so many have done to make sure that the Mangum collection didn’t fade into obscurity. At least Blackwood seems to be listening to the archivists on Twitter. Maybe she realizes now that repeating the phrase “it came from the bowels” is demoralizing to those of us who work behind the scenes to make our amazing collections usable now and in the future.

Interesting & useful pushback/further nuance about how I framed the genealogy of the Hugh Mangum negatives (also with link to the digitized archives of the images, which are well worth anyone's time to explore): https://t.co/md6jJ6qCXZ

— Sarah Blackwood (@drunkenbee) February 14, 2019

Thanks to Kate Collins, Rubenstein Library Research Services Librarian, for speaking up about the Mangum Collection in response to Blackwood’s review, and for sending me a link to Blackwood’s response on Twitter.

Beth Doyle is the head of the Conservation Services Department and the Leona B. Carpenter Senior Conservator at Duke University Libraries. She can be reached via email at <b.doyle@duke.edu>.

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Extreme Enclosures, pt. 3: Boxing “The North American Indian” Folios

Thu, 2019-02-07 19:16

Edward S. Curtis’ The North American Indian (1907-1930) was an ambitious project. Curtis set out to document North American indigenous peoples, capturing their lives through both photographs and narratives. This work is not without its critics in the modern era and Curtis himself is a complicated historic figure. That said, the plate volumes are filled with stunning images and are beautifully printed.

Our edition has 20 volumes of folio plates, each with an average of 36 individual plates. These are housed in portfolio-folders that are tied at the foredge. A very thin piece of tissue is in between each plate. These portfolios do not provide adequate protection from abrasion, dust, light, and heavy use. It is also very difficult to find an image within the stack of plates when a patron requests one.

Tedd is back and building boxes!

After discussion with the curators we decided we to build custom enclosures for the plate volumes . Each plate will be housed in a paper folder, and each volume would receive a custom cloth drop-spine box with a label clearly indicating the contents. This solution will provide the most protection for the plates, and will make finding a plate easy when it is needed for a class or for a patron.

The custom enclosures for “The North American Indian” plate volumes was generously supported by Jan Tore Hall (T’73)  through the DUL Adopt-a-Book program. His donation was made in memory of Inger Tavernise, with thanks for the shared times in service to the University through its Library.

Mr. Tore’s donation allowed us to purchase custom folders for the prints, and bookcloth and binders board for the boxes. Rachel re-foldered and labeled each print to prepare them for boxing. We brought back Tedd Anderson to make the 20 oversized custom boxes. As readers may remember, Tedd worked in the lab for many years creating extreme enclosures for all kinds of books. We knew he could make these large boxes efficiently and beautifully. The first set is finished and labeled and ready for the shelf.

Here are some action shots of the boxes in production.

We call it “Brick Henge.”

Pressing edges using the “Duke Stool Support System (TM)” (aka the stool no one likes to sit on but is a great extension for the floor press).

That stool has found its true calling.

The new labels tell you what is in the box, a huge improvement over the old enclosures.

And here is the before and after reveal.

 

Original portfolios.

(top) Original portfolio and (bottom) new custom box.

New custom boxes.

Individual folders for plates inside custom box.

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Quck Pic: Casual Friday

Fri, 2019-02-01 20:06

The Rubenstein Library’s History of Medicine Collection always seems to provide the most unusual examples of illustration. This text (catalog record here) by English physician Robert Fludd, published by Johann Theodor de Bry in 1623, is no exception. The anatomical specimen is both comical and gruesome…but also strangely familiar.

Johann Theodor’s father, Theodor de Bry, was also prominent publisher and engraver, and many of his works on exploration of the New World can be found in Duke’s collection. Theordor’s 1590 engraving, The Trvve Picture of One Picte from the second edition of Thomas Hariot’s book A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, appears in the same pose.

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10 year Challenge: The Lab Edition

Thu, 2019-01-24 16:07
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“The 10 Year Challenge” is a current meme making its way across the interwebs. Whether it is a harmless bit of fun or some brilliantly concocted bit of AI facial recognition training is hard to say. But what the heck, we will play along with The Lab Edition.

About ten years ago we were nearing the end of the Perkins Project. We moved out of Perkins in January 2007 to Trent Hall, the former nurses dorm on the medical campus. Preservation occupied one hallway of the dorm. We shared the hallway with the Preservation Officer, the Bindery Unit, and the Digital Production Center. Conservation had two rooms for the lab, and one dorm room for the Collections Conservator’s office.

Trent Hall was an adventure. It allowed us to learn another side of campus and we logged a lot of steps in going back and forth to meetings in Perkins. We evicted one bird (just like in our old space), had a Chinese restaurant one floor down, and the lab had beautiful windows. The space was cramped, but we made it work.

Trent Hall lab (L) and the Verne and the renovated Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab (R).

In August 2008 we moved back to the renovated Perkins Library and into the Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab. The newly renovated space was large, bright, and chock full of ergonomic furniture and specialized conservation equipment. What a difference it was from Trent and our old original lab space. Ten years later it feels like we have been here forever, yet some days if feels like we just got here. We are so thankful for the Roberts family and their support of our lab. That support has enabled our program to grow in incredible ways. We look forward to what the next ten years will bring.

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