Thursday, December 22, 2011

broken lantern slides

While our library collection is primarily books and manuscripts, we do get other sorts of artifacts.  I had an earlier guest post about a collection of glass plate negatives that presented significant storage challenges.  With a big collection you can set aside staff time for a re-housing project that addresses all the issues of access, handling, supplies and so on.  When you have just a few items that come in as part of a larger collection sometimes you have to create solutions on the fly.

This lantern slide is cracked but still intact.  Given the shards of glass, it is not really safe to use, nor is it a good idea to put it into storage without stabilizing it in some way.  Most of the slides that came in this collection were just fine, but what to do with the few that weren't?  It is better not to separate the slides and
make different workflows, so the stabilization needs to be done promptly, ideally making the slide safe to
store and to use. 

Backing and wrapping is a technique I use to exhibit small or thin items and when I saw these slides come through our processing unit I thought it would work well for broken lantern slides.  The basic technique involves cutting a piece of white mat board just a few millimeters larger than the slide, wrapping a piece of clear 3ml. polyester around the slide and board and then securing the polyester with double stick tape.  The white board allows for viewing of the image and the polyester holds all the shards in place, protecting anyone viewing or handling the broken slide.  This back and wrap can be done quickly, and with offcuts we have on hand from other projects.

wrapped slide, front

wrapped slide, back
Neat and effective!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Forever Amber

Last Friday I was at the Dibner Library looking at amazing 16th and 17th century books by the likes of Andrea Palladio and Robert Hooke (see previous post).  This Friday I am at my home library reviewing books for an upcoming exhibit on "bestselling fiction in America".  Quite the contrast!  Where the Palladio book was a fascinating mix of the original text plus a re-purposed 15th century vellum music manuscript, some of the books in this exhibit are, well, plain old "racy".

Forever Amber, (which was banned in Boston!) is the story of Amber St. Clare, who (according to the front flap on the dust jacket) "uses her striking power over men to gain her own ambitious and worldly ends".  Wow!  Apparently it was the bestselling book of the 1940's, and was made into a movie.

              I love this author photo!  When I write my bestseller, I want to look just as glamorous. 

Most of the time 20th century books don't really interest me.  The bindings are all pretty much the same: case binding; machine sewn signatures or adhesive bound; glued-on endbands; plain cloth.  The dust jackets can be fun, but there is nothing structurally distinctive to catch my "binder's eye".  But I have noticed one thing about books printed during WWII, the paper they're printed on is different, usually thinner, duller and a little more flimsy feeling as you flip through the book.  I know that paper production changed during the war; so many resources went toward the war effort, that it is no surprise, really.  But still, it's kind of neat to have a subtle, tangible hint of how all aspects of American life were affected at that time.
 I doubt this picture can convey the details I'm describing, but if you ever have a chance to compare a 1940's era book for yourself, you'll see what I mean.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Another Palladio

While I was very pleased with the results of my treatment of our Library's copy of Andrea Palladio's I quattro libri dell'architettura that doesn't mean that I'm done with Palladio.  I may never treat another copy of this work or another Palladio book, but I can certainly keep learning about 16th century printing and bindings and the best way to do that is to look at other copies.

This is the Dibner Library's copy of I "quattro". Like the UVa copy the original binding has been lost to time and while the "re-binder" did do another vellum binding, they chose to use a 20th century case binding instead of something more contemporary with the text.

See the note from the Burndy Library, confirming my first impression.

I love this colophon and the marginalia on the facing page.

And what do I mean by case binding?  See in the  picture below how the spine of the book pops away from the spine of the cover.  Back in "the good old days" books were sewn on leather thongs or heavy cords which were laced into wooden boards or a piece of vellum. In the late 19th century book production became more of an industrial process and the process of sewing and making the cover became two separate steps.  The parts were joined by gluing the first and last pages (and maybe some linings) to the insides of the covers, much less sturdy, but much faster.  I'm not sure why the binder chose a case binding for this book, but the work is neatly done and since book has been in a rare book library since the early 20th century, careful handling has kept the binding intact.

I'll post some pictures of my Palladio when it comes back from exhibit.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Making Headlines

My lab, and that of my colleague Steven Villereal, the Library's Audio-Visual Conservator, were featured on the University's "UVa Today" website.  We're delighted with the opportunity to share what we do behind the scenes with the broader University community.  I was particularly pleased with the way the writer drew a parallel between what Steven and I do despite the differences in the materials we work with.  Conservation is just as much about research, decision making and ethics as it is about torn paper or warped film. 

The media department also did a separate video of me talking about my research into the Library's copy of Micrographia, although I  wish there was more footage of the book instead of my "talking head".


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Reluctant Dragon

double checking the page sequence
In addition to working on rare books I also spend time working in the book repair unit for the Library's circulating collections.  I work alongside the book repair technicians although I tend to work on the more complex repairs, in addition to offering training in advanced skills. 

The book I am working on now is Kenneth Grahame's "The Reluctant Dragon" which is an adorable story about a little boy who is the son of a shepherd but also a great reader, who "spent much of his time buried in big volumes", a dragon who loves to write poetry and the knight St. George.

Working on circulating collections can be fun, especially when the book is such a charming read, but it also reinforces skills I use in working on more rare and delicate books.  The page mending techniques and materials are the same, and in the case of this book, the need to collate the book so that I can be sure I put the pages back in the right order.  This book is only three signatures, or sewing sections, but it doesn't have page numbers which means that I have to double check to make sure that I am putting the detached pages back in the right order. In the good old days of  manuscripts, printing and hand binding "catch words" were used to make sure the pages were in the correct sequence, but they haven't been in common use since the late 18th century. 

Good thing that the story is such a fun read, because I have to re-read the last few lines of one page and the first few lines of the other to make sure I've got it right.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Re-housing the Holsinger Studio Collection of Glass Plate Negatives

Guest posting by Kara M. McClurken, Head, Preservation Services

The Holsinger Studio Collection is a collection of glass plate negatives held by the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. This collection reflects a unique photographic record of life in Charlottesville and Albermarle County, Virginia, from before the turn of the century through World War I.  The collection consists of approximately 9,000 dry-plate glass negatives and 500 celluloid negatives from the commercial studio of Rufus W. Holsinger.  These images are quite popular and have been digitized and made available through our online catalog, Virgo.
Digitizing the collection presented the perfect time to re-house the originals since the digital images could be the primary means of access and the fragile originals could be placed in high density storage.  Glass plate negatives present several storage challenges since glass is fragile but heavy.  The Holsinger collection also has five sizes of glass plates: 5” x 7”, 5” x 8”, 8” x 10”, 11” x 14” and 14” x 17" which is an unusual range of sizes and there were no commercial vendors who stock housings in those sizes. We ended up working with two vendors—one to create customized boxes and spacers for the negatives, and another to create special four-flap enclosures for the largest size plate since they needed additional support.  It took a year of experimentation before we were able to finalize all the housing components that would safely store these incredibly valuable plates.
As a general rule, glass plate negatives should be stored long-side down and care should be paid as to how many negatives are in a box so that the weight of the box does not become too great. Also, care must be taken when handling the negatives, due to their fragility and weight.

four-flap for the largest sized glass-plate negative

Step one: Place negative in center of enclosure.
Step two: Fold shorter, inner flaps.
Step three: Fold longer, outer flaps.  They stay together using Velcro. 
 Make sure that any identifying information on the original housing is transferred to new housing