Professional Development

Caring for Rare Books

Monday, December 7, 2015 12:39 pm

On Wednesday, December 2, I traveled to the High Point Museum for a webinar given by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC). The webinar, Caring for Rare Books, was given by Todd Pattison, a book conservator at NEDCC, and covered the general care of rare books.

Todd began by defining a rare book. A book is rare because of a number of factors, including age, importance, scarcity or subject matter. Todd covered briefly the primary materials encountered with rare books: paper, leather, parchment and cloth. The internal factors of these materials are sometimes difficult to correct, as some of these may have an inherent vice, such as acidic paper. He further mentioned that preservation is an essential function of every library or archive and should be part of it’s strategic plan. Todd discussed each of these materials and their inherent vices. Paper is made of cellulose and over time acids break down the cellulose chains resulting in a loss of strength. Leather, which is tanned animal skin, is naturally acidic and becomes less strong over time. The conditions each of these materials is stored in can also cause deterioration (such as high temperatures). Parchment, a general term also including vellum, is limed and scraped animal skin which is dried under tension. Parchment is very sensitive to humidity. Parchment is not as flexible as paper, but is more durable. Cloth is susceptible to light, dust, pests and mold.

Todd discussed the environment and said that maintaining a stable temperature (60-70 degrees) and humidity level (30-50%) is critical. He also discussed light, air pollutants, pests and mold. Todd advised handling rare books with clean hands (without gloves). One should remove any sharp objects such as jewelry, name badges or watches so as not to damage the materials. When turning pages, one hand should support each page from behind. Todd also discussed the superiority of powder-coated steel shelves over wood shelves and the general use of archival materials for enclosures and liners.

Following the webinar, we heard a presentation from Isabella Balthar who is a member of Preservation Services at UNCG. Isabella discussed a project in which she received a grant to develop posters and videos on basic preservation principles and best practices from UNCG. The project, called No Boundaries in Preservation, attempts to convey best preservation practices in English, Spanish and Portuguese through posters and videos.

The final portion of the day was a wet books salvage demonstration by Marianne Kelsey who is a conservator at Etherington Conservation Services. Marianne discussed three options for salvaging wet books: air-drying, interleaving and freezing.

It was a good day to learn some new things and see colleagues from other institutions. Some of us are also members of Triad-ACREN – the Triad Area Disaster Response Team. Several Triad-ACREN team members were present at this workshop.

Stephanie at NEDCC Digital Directions

Thursday, August 6, 2015 5:05 pm

Along with Chelcie, I just spent three days in Raleigh at the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s Digital Directions workshop, learning about “best practices and practical strategies for the creation, curation, and use of digital collections” – the quote is from the conference write-up and is spot on.

The conference was a good mix of high-level thinking and nitty-gritty details. I was especially happy to have the opportunity to talk with experts; a challenge with special collections is that our holdings encompass a variety of formats, including artifacts, books, papers, and various forms of audiovisual cassette, reel, and disk. I attended three sessions that discussed various aspects of audiovisual materials handling and vendor management, since these materials types are fragile and the bulk of ours are not yet digitized. As anyone who has used cassette tapes knows, AV materials have unique quirks; since digitization is the only way to preserve that content, vendors are often used to ensure quality products. In another practice-based session, the former Library Fellow for digital Special Collections at NC State University, Jason Evans Groth, described NCSU’s workflow for processing digital materials, which covers files on physical media as well as network file transfers. Archivists are responsible for preserving original records, and digital files are more difficult to keep in original condition than folders from a desk drawer.

The 30,000-foot view sessions covered a variety of topics, including copyright issues for (digital) collections, given by archivist and Berkman Center fellow Peter Hirtle, who has been a leading voice in copyright; selecting collections for digitization; and conducting risk management assessment for digital collections. Greg Colati, who leads UConn’s University Archives, Special Collections and Digital Curation unit, gave a pair of thought-provoking talks about managing digital collections for preservation and access. Those concepts are central to archives work, so I think about them a lot, but digital access and use can be very different from analog counterparts. Chelcie and I were able to have a quick probing discussion with Greg about the LSTA-funded digitization that will be taking off here soon, too, which was useful. On Wednesday afternoon, we wrapped up our Digital Directions experience with a quick visit to see NC State’s digital processing workstation, get a demo of their workflow in action, and meet the library developer who worked with Jason.

All in all, this conference provided a well-timed opportunity for me to think more deeply about how my role as Collections Archivist intersects with digital collections and digital preservation efforts. It would have been valuable had I attended solo, but being able to compare notes with Chelcie and share expertise across the days was an added bonus!

Stephanie to attend Image Permanence Institute workshop

Friday, June 26, 2015 10:57 am

Special Collections and Archives would like to announce that Collections Archivist Stephanie Bennett has been selected to attend an Image Permanence Institute (IPI) workshop, Preservation of Digitally Printed Materials in Libraries, Archives and Museums. Bennett was one of 15 participants selected from a pool of more than 50 applicants. The workshop, for which tuition of waived due to generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will be held October 20-22, 20115, at IPI’s facilities at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. IPI is a nonprofit, university-based laboratory and recognized world leader in the development and deployment of sustainable practices for the preservation of images and cultural property.

Intro to Digital Preservation #1 — Steps to Identify and Select Content

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 2:10 pm

Today, Vicki, Patty, Mary Beth, Steve, Susan, Rebecca, and Molly sat in on the ASERL webinar Intro to Digital Preservation #1–Steps to Identify and Select Content, facilitated by Jody DeRidder, Head of Digital Services, University of Alabama Libraries. John Burger of ASERL said that more than 150 people were registered to listen in on this session. This is the first of three sessions on digital preservation.

The content of this webinar comes from the Library of Congress Digital Preservation Outreach and Education Modules. This consist of 6 modules covering: identify, select, store, protect, manage and provide. The goal is to provide a collaborative network to enable us to work together and face the challenges ahead.

This Intro #1 covered the “Identify” and “Select” aspects of the 6 parts. In order to identify materials for digital preservation, DeRidder suggests identifying the scope of materials eligible by creating an inventory. She suggested that “good preservation decisions are based on an understanding of content to be preserved.” Content categories include institutional records, special collections, scholarly content, research data, web content, and digitized collections. She stressed that the content of these materials is more important than format, but the format may make preservation more of a challenge. An inventory should be simple in format that is general with reiterations that become more focused on details.Inventory results should be: documented, usable, available, scalable, current (incorporated into current workflows). Sorting by content and file type will help prioritize equipment, planning, and future priorities. The process of selecting involves these steps:review the potential digital content, define and apply selection criteria, document and preserve, implement. Thinking about the mission of the institution, the collection development policy, the priorities, the uniqueness will allow the selection process to conform with the rest of the institutional standards. DeRidder stressed that this process is facilitated by open communication and knowledge withe incoming collections and donors. Starting the dialog early with potential digital contributors will allow you to block any incoming materials that do not warrant digital preservation. In the case of materials that are already in one’s holdings, selection for digital preservation begs the questions:does it have value? fit your scope? can you do it?

This webinar focused on the importance of putting a structure in place with the right people, clear policies and procedures, and organization. Open communication with the digital curator will answer the questions :does the content have value? Does it fit your scope? Whereas a conversation with an IT person will allow you to know ifit is feasible for you to preserve the content? Or is it possible to make content available?

DeRidder made a clear outline of how to go about identifying and selecting materials for digital preservation, but the prospect of actually implementing these steps is daunting. I am looking forward to the next to two webinars.


Advocating for Collection Preservation – NCPC Annual Conference

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 12:19 pm

NCPC Panel Discussion

Craig: On Friday, November 18, Vicki and I traveled to the Friday Center in Chapel Hill for the North Carolina Preservation Consortium (NCPC) Annual Conference. The theme this year was “Advocating for Collection Preservation”.

Vicki: We’ll share our thoughts and impressions to give you an idea of what we learned!

V: The first speaker was Ember Farber from the American Association of Museums. She spoke eloquently about ways to advocate for our work. As the Grassroots and Advocacy Manager of AAM, she often works with elected officials and shares her concerns and needs with them directly, hoping that they will use their influence to pass a bill or make legislation to benefit museums. Her department also issues alerts on legislation that impacts museums, either via email or social media.

While we in private academic libraries may not often get to lobby with elected officials, Ember did have strategies and tips to help anyone advocate for their collections:

*Activity begets activity- work on at least one project or contact at least one person who can help influence the powers that be to help preserve your collections

*Be ready with your list of “asks” at all times; you never know when you’ll cross paths with someone who can help advocate for you and your collections.

*Pick one advocacy activity or way to share the value of our work with the public. Get the word out about what you’re doing and how important it is.

We all then participated in a group activity. We had to come up with an “elevator speech” that would help “sell” our work and collections to an elected official or person of influence. We practiced on each other and will remember the point for future real life situations.

C: Julie Mosbo, Preservation Librarian at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale spoke on Preservation Week. Julie is the chair of the ALA Working Group for Preservation Week, which is a nascent program to focus attention of preservation issues and needs. Julie announced the birth of Preservation Week came from the Heritage Health Index, which identified a large number of library materials that needed preservation and very few staff to perform this needed work. Preservation Week is largely focused on individuals with personal collections who need help. The PW group uses all sorts of social media to get the word out (Facebook, Twitter) but also directs their outreach to ALA Sections and has an active blog. This year, the PW schedule has a theme for each day of the week, which focuses on audiovisual, textile or photographic preservation.

V: I was amazed to find that the Heritage Health Index report identified approximately 630 MILLION institutional items that need attention! It definitely helped me know that we aren’t alone as far as having many more items that the number of staff can address. It also made a lot of sense to me that if the Preservation Week effort can help to start conserving materials while they are still in peoples’ homes, the materials will be in better shape once they come to the archives, museums, etc. It was also encouraging to learn that participating in PW has increased. There have only been two PW’s so far, but in 2010 there were 63 known participating institutions, and in 2011 there were 100. Hopefully the numbers will continue to grow.

C: After a great lunch, there was a lightning round of speakers on several topics:
-David Goist, a painting conservator in private practice, spoke about the Collections Assessment Program (CAP). This program provides technical assistance for small to medium sized museums. The NEH Preservation Assistance Grants for Libraries mirrors the CAP program for the library world. These two programs can help assess collections and usually involves an on-site visit.
-Deborah Jakubs, Duke University Librarian, spoke about preservation advocacy. Deborah spoke about how much donors love their Preservation Lab and that is one of the first places she takes them. This gives donors the idea that we are both protecting the past and reaching for the future in our efforts, in a tangible way.
-Hal Keiner, the first head of the Traveling Archivist Program, spoke about his efforts as he travels North Carolina helping small institutions. Hal provides professional guidance to repositories holding special collections. This includes everything from and assessment to teaching metadata to providing materials housing. This impressive program is meeting these small programs where the rubber meets the road. Hal provides help with: storage, lighting, humidly/environment, finding aid creation and supplies.
-LeRae Umfleet, from the NC Department of Cultural Resources provides support for programs in the 950 cultural institutions across our state. The two programs she focused on was Connecting to Collections and NCEcho. These two programs provide training and advocacy.

V: The lightning rounds were very informative, and a bit longer than typical ones (15 minutes each)! So the speakers weren’t too rushed and shared good details. Of particular interest were:

*David Goist’s slides showing the Tobacco Farm Center and their facilities as well as the ways he helped them to better care for their materials

*Deborah Jakubs’ (director of Duke University libraries) talk about how committed she is to supporting special collections and preservation of materials. As Craig mentioned, she make the conservation lab a main stop on her tours for trustees, possible donors and any tour she gives. Donors then see how traditional functions and still important. She said that she advocates for preservation because it “enables access, enables scholarship, preserves cultural heritage and fulfills our mission of protecting information and collections”. She also stated that it is important to be aware of the limitations of technology and how they can affect access. She summed up her support of collections preservation saying, “We can’t lose sight of the basic function of preservation by focusing on the glitzy new trends… We have to convey the fragility of digital anything… Let’s not lose sight of the print world as we zoom into the digital future.”

*Hal Keiner’s (The Travelling Archivist) descriptions of “teachable moments” that he had when working with an historical site. He shared information with them about changing the UV filters on fluorescent tubes every 5 years, what kinds of proper storage enclosures to use, how to use drapes to cut down on the amount of light reaching a display, and how to use “fabulous fakes” (i.e. copies from a color copier) in the displays instead of originals.

*LeRae Umfleet’s enthusiastic presentation on suggestions from the NC Department of Cultural Resources on how to find support for collections. Some ideas include helping with exhibits on conservation, hosting presentations for family heirloom care, asking people to “adopt an artifact” so they will have a direct connection to helping preserve it, and having different “elevator pitches” ready to give to different people, depending on their interests and how they can help you.

C: Eryl Wentworth, the Executive Director of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) spoke about their advocacy and outreach efforts. Eryl said we are ‘at war with a mouse’ (Disney); at war with a disposable society (why save?) and at war with our economy (no funding). Wentworth said we are strongest when we collaborate. Eryl spoke about some of AIC’s efforts at outreach : CooL (Conservation online) and Her recommendations were to be mission driven; promote your strengths; always send a positive message; engage others by talking and listening; continually enlarge your circle of supporters and seek collaborations.

V: I appreciated Eryl’s recommendations, and was pleased to note that we are trying to follow several of those ideas in special collections currently. Her comments reinforced that we are on the right track as we move into the future.

It seems that when budgets are tight, libraries, museums, archives and historic sites become viewed as nice “extras”, but not as necessities. While I’m sure none of us at ZSR would agree with that, that sentiment is why we must continually advocate for what we do to preserve what we have; so that we can assure the long term survival of historic information and resources. We were glad to be part of this conference and hear from our colleagues that we are not alone in many of our struggles, and that there are resources to help us continue to do the best we can to preserve the materials entrusted to our care.

The Preservation Institute at the Library of Congress

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 2:44 pm


To borrow and slightly change a line from Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents, I’d say this workshop was “strong… to very strong.” The Preservation Institute is taught by top specialists from the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress brought out some of their big guns for this week-long workshop. The sessions were held in the James Madison Building, with tours to the Jefferson and Adams Buildings as well.
The institute is geared towards federal institutions, but there were non-federal libraries there as well (University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Public). The first day was great. Diane van der Reyden, Director of Preservation of the Library of Congress discussed preservation management. Some of her more interesting points were that the Library of Congress is still working on digitization solutions and have no definitive method. What!? That makes me feel a lot better as we at ZSR still try to improve digitization and incorporate best practices as we do this activity. Diane said the LOC doesn’t particularly like “machine dependent” formats-because without a specific machine, access in the future might be difficult. They have, however come up with some ingenious ways around this problem. IRENE is a machine which reads broken or damaged vinyl, acetate discs or wax cylinders and coverts this into an image which can then be converted into sound.
We also had presentations on pest controls, the environment, and disaster recovery from Nancy Lev-Alexander and Ben Bahlmann from the Preventive Conservation section and along the way, we got a tour of the LOC stacks (crowded with book trucks and books on the floor) and a balcony view of the circular LOC Reading Room. The Library of Congress has the same problems ZSR has: leaky pipes and a faulty HVAC system. Day one finished with a hands on disaster recovery exercise with Alan Haley, Senior Rare Books Conservator and Andrew Robb, coordinator of the LOC’s Emergency Response Team.

Day two featured a group of presentations on collections care, library binding, fundraising and exhibits.
IMG_1048We got a behind the scenes look at the Collections Care lab and various enclosures-such as one for a piggy bank from Lexington NC. A new Civil War exhibit called The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs ( features hundreds of ambrotypes and tintypes of soldiers. The exhibit is very poignant and has the feel of a shrine. An exhibit specialist described mounting The Last Full Measure and showed us samples of book cradles and document mounts we could make ourselves.

Day three saw us tackling digitization. We began with a presentation from the managers of the LOC remote storage facility at Fort Meade, Maryland. They have about six high bay facilities-each larger than ZSR’s one. We followed with a visit to the LOC Internet Archive project where they have 10 Scribe book scanners churning out digital copies of pre-1922 titles from their general collections.
IMG_1134 So far, they’ve scanned over 93,000 titles. It was an amazing operation to see. They confirmed that standards for resolution are in flux, something we’ve begun to realize at ZSR. They’ve abandoned using uncompressed TIFF files ( a heresy they admitted, but they insist it is a good heresy) in favor of RAW files which they convert to the jpg2000 format. In the afternoon, we had presentations about Rare Book Conservation and had a visit to their lab where we saw samples of supported (case bound) and unsupported (Ethiopian) binding styles, leaf casting and numerous other unique treatments.

Day four was focused on paper and photographic conservation. We heard a presentation from Susan Peckham, Paper Conservator in the Conservation Division. Susan discussed paper history, paper composition, sizing, inks and printing methods. Susan also described problems with paper based collections such as foxing, light damage, ink burn-through, and the “inherent vice” of the wood pulp papers manufactured from 1850-1900. We also heard Dana Hemmenway, Senior Photographic Conservator. Dana described the structure of photographs, a history of photo types( daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes and paper photographic prints). She had examples of paper photo prints as well: salted paper prints, albumen prints, collodian, and silver gelatin prints. We also discussed their hazards and inherent problems over time. In the afternoon, both Susan and Dana held problem-solving sesions in the paper lab.
During the paper session, I was at a station with a 1780 letter written to George Washington. I was amazed at it’s great condition (which had been prolonged by a Library of Congress repair a hundred years ago called “silking”).

The final day I heard a talk on Digital Preservation from Leslie Johnston, Chief of Repository Development at LOC. Leslie defined digital preservation as “the broad range of activities meant to extend the usable life of machine-readable computer files.” Leslie was quick to point out the different between digitization-an activity primarily focused on access-and digital preservation. She made the pitch to replicate files in geographically dispersed locations, and on different storage media and systems in order to have the best chance for these files to survive. Leslie was all business. They use Jhove in the scanning and preservation of files by using format validation. Leslie also outlined how the University of Maryland is spearheading an area called “digital forensics” at their center which insures the security of digital materials that are transmitted. Matthew Barton from the Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpepper, Va spoke on audio and sound preservation. Matthew’s presentation was delightful in describing their attempts to conserve audio recordings on was cylinders, lacquer discs, wire recordings, tape recordings and digital audio tape.
Amy Gailick, also from the Packard Campus, presented on moving image preservation and care. She described the film types and the very advanced cold storage area at the Packard Campus in Culpepper, VA. The have storage areas for some film materials at are held at 25 degrees.

In the afternoon, I met the closest thing to a Preservation Rock Star there is: Dr. Frenella France. Dr. France uses hyper-spectral imaging to examine documents and highlight early versions or corrections.
IMG_1267She has isolated a change Thomas Jefferson made to the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and many other discoveries, such as Abraham Lincoln’s thumbprint on the Gettysburg Address. We also got a tour of the mass deacidification unit. IMG_1254 This unit takes acidic books and ‘washes’ them in an alkaline solution which neutralizes the acidic materials in the paper. They were washing comic books the day we were there! As we were leaving the lab, we paused in the hallway by a bunch of old card catalog units. I glanced down and recognized a familiar last name…WOW!

One thing I was in awe of was the beauty of the Jefferson Building. Every inch is covered with hand-painted niches, tiled vaults, coffers with gold leaf, stained glass, sculpture and even WPA paintings.
What were the take-aways? I was able to have some of the staff read the ZSR Disaster Plan and COOP Plan and get constructive feedback. A discussion with the Internet Archive manager told me that the standards for digitization are in flux (something we suspected). Digital preservation will be more important as time goes on for all institutions as born digital material accumulates. I learned some easy-to-do techniques for preserving photographs and paper materials and got some great ideas for exhibits. And…..I’m glad I don’t live in Washington!

All in all, it was a very fruitful week.

CERT Training

Monday, May 23, 2011 10:19 pm

Wanda and our tower of paper

Wanda and Craig ready to go

Wanda and Craig put out a fire

From Monday through Thursday of this week, several ZSR Staff (Wanda, Mary Beth, Travis, and Craig) are participating in CERT Training. CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. The concept for this group was conceived after 9/11. The idea is to have a cadre of trained individuals prepared to respond in times of need. The CERT group is part of an outreach program from FEMA called the Citizen Corps. CERT groups are trained to increase community involvement and to assist first responders. Community groups are trained in basic fire safety, disaster preparedness, search and rescue, etc. in order to be available to a community in need. Wake Forest has, for some time, wanted such a team-and after this week, this team will exist.
On our first day, we received an overview from Darrell Jeter (Forsyth County Emergency Management) and Fire Safety from Jim Young, a Forsyth County Fire Educator. We touched on subjects such as tornado and flood safety, disaster preparedness and basic fire safety, In the afternoon, we all had the chance to extinguish a fire under the supervision of the WFU Police and our local WFU Firemen. It was fun to watch each group of two “buddies” approach a fire together and put it out using a fire extinguisher (watch Travis and Cindy).

The rest of the week, we’ll continue to learn and practice basic safety and disaster response techniques followed by a concluding ‘disaster exercise’ on Thursday. I’m sure others will post about this educationally active week.

Audra and Craig at the United Way

Thursday, March 10, 2011 1:22 pm

On Thursday, March 10, Audra and Craig presented to the Forsyth County United Way Executive Council at the Red Cross on Colosseum Road. The United Way Executive Council is composed of over 20 local organizations and they are interested in both preservation and digitization. Our presentation was an abbreviated version of the talks we gave at Preserving Forsyth’s Past last year at various Forsyth County Public Libraries. We divided up the content and spoke on different aspects of digitization and preservation.

United Way Executive Board

Craig covered the basic storage environment (Temperature and Relative Humidity, Light, and Air Quality), storage options, suppliers and basic file formats and storage options of digital files. Audra discussed organizing a basic digitization project, digitization equipment and organizations that can help with the process, such as NC Echo and the new NC Digital Heritage Center. The crowd was very receptive and asked us a few questions at the end of the presentation.

Both of our presentations are on Slideshare:
Audra’s Presentation
Craig’s Presentation.

This was a great opportunity to reach out to local organizations who need help with preservation and digitization. Most of these groups, who serve humanitarian needs in our community, have little funding and no trained personnel. It is also a great continuation of the groundwork laid during Preserving Forsyth’s Past – where we trained the community to preserve and digitize their treasures.

Preserving Objects and Artifacts: Conservation Science, Collection Care and Outreach

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 4:47 pm

On Friday, November 5, the North Carolina Preservation Consortium held it’s annual conference at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill. The theme was centered around the preservation care of objects and outreach efforts to enlighten viewers about these efforts.

The first speaker was Chris Petersen, a volunteer at Winterthur Museum’s Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory. What kind of person volunteers at a lab? In this case, a PhD in Organic Chemistry retired from Dupont. Chris showed analysis of various objects which helps with dating and dating these objects. Most of these objects, had a big question associated with them like the composition of the Liberty Bell or the date of manufacture of a Meissen (Germany) soup tureen. His explanations using organic chemistry diagrams were convincing, although puzzling to a non-chemist. He also had the comical duty of verifying a “Vampire Killing Kit” sent to him. All the Twilight and True Blood people’s ears perked up and a chill went through the crowd as he discussed this convincing fraud.

Jane Klinger, Chief Conservator at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC followed. As Chief Conservator, Jane is responsible of the conservation and preservation management of the museum, archives and library collections. Interestingly, Jane started by saying the materials in their collection have little real value-but these materials are invaluable for Holocaust denial and evidence for verifying historic events. Jane used a series of objects from the Holocaust to tell her story of the multiple issues involved in preserving these materials. She began with Selma Scharzwald and her teddy bear. Selma, who went by the name “Sophie” named her teddy bear “Refugee” and kept it with her throughout the war as she and her mother took an assumed identity to escape persecution. This teddy bear became so popular that efforts were made to protect it from being ‘loved’ to death. Now, reproductions can be purchased in the museum shop. Other unique items, like “Schindler’s Violin” and the Lodz Ghetto model were removed from exhibition to protect them from the elements such as humidity and dust. Klinger described lots of give and take as they tried to balance their patrons desires to see artifacts with conservation needs.

Emily Williams, Conservator of Archeological Materials at Colonial Williamsburg described her project: Conservation : Where Art and Science Meet. This exhibit at Colonial Williamsburg describes the process conservators use to preserve objects and attempts to explain the how’s and why’s of their process. The video and podcast backup the ideas in this exhibit of identifying the issues in conservation, treating conservators as heroes and using case studies of objects.

The final presentation was by Christina Cole, the Andrew W. Mellon Conservation Fellow at the University of Delaware Art Conservation Program. Cristina explained the “three-legged stool” concept of art conservation: 1. Art History, 2. Studio Art and 3. Chemistry to educate their students. Graduates from their program are working in the best museums around the world.

This was a great conference-as usual-and well worth the trip to experience, learn and network.

GBW Standards of Excellence- Presentations

Monday, October 18, 2010 12:05 pm

I attended three sessions this year and was delighted that these focused on binding and books.


Martha Little spoke on “Evidence of Structure and Procedure in Books.” Martha has been the Head Conservator at the University of Michigan Libraries and Book Conservator at Yale. Her presentation was a kind of deconstruction of the historical book. It was partly taking books apart to understand them and partly examining stains, sewing and even pest damage. She literally took historic structures apart to understand them. This included a two-volume set of Homer which had been sewn together and a new leather cover applied to hide the fact. She told how two book scholars (Roger Powell and Berthe van Regemorter) examined an identical Ethiopian binding and came to very different conclusions about how it was made. Little made models of both these books to show us who was likely more correct in their theory (Powell). Martha tested adhesives using the reagent potassium iodide to show the presence of starch adhesives. She also made cord using linen thread which she plied together using a hand drill to make a heavy cord that could be used to sew signatures onto. Martha also examined how books were put together and successively re-sewn over time. She did this using a guide developed in England at Trinity College, by mapping sewing holes, saw kerfs, and tackets on the text block and book boards. Martha made a diagram from the sewing holes which showed the binding and re-sewing over time. A real lesson in book construction history!

Martha Little’s models of Ethiopian binding



Jeff Peachey gave a great presentation on Late 18th century French binding structures. Peachey is a book conservator in NYC and the inventor of several machines for binding and also makes a variety of well-respected leather paring knives. Jeff is also a book conservator of the first order-hence, his project was bolstered by historical research and hands-on knowledge of binding. Peachey conducted research of the Diderot Encyclopedie (we have a complete set in our collection) to determine how bindings were constructed in 18th century France. The Diderot is not a traditional encyclopedia, but a how-to manual complete with diagrams and illustrations of various processes. During his session, Jeff demonstrated how to construct one of these bindings taken from the pages of Diderot. He used demonstrations and pre-made models to do this, along with illutrations from the pages of Diderot. It was fascinating to see Jeff, demonstrate binding, tool sharpening, ploughing (plowing) and leather paring, as well as his model of 18th century binding.


Michael Burke presented the third session on Byzantine Binding. Michael currently teaches binding in England, but has also been involved in the San Francisco Center for the Book. His presentation used historic books from the Byzantine period (circa 300-1200 AD) to construct a model of this style of binding. The book has wooden boards, quarter-sawn and drilled. The text block is sewn up in halves and then joined together. This style of binding is beautiful, but and Michael was unsure why it was sewn in halves-no doubt a question lost to history.


I had several meals with Tony Gardner, President of the GBW California Chapter and former Head of Special Collections at Cal State, Northridge. Tony has experience working with his library development officer and shared how his institution conducted outreach using their collection.

I also had the opportunity to meet several suppliers:
Marge Salik and her daughter from Talas.

Nancy Morains from Colophon Book Arts Supply.

All in all, I attended a great series of sessions on book structure and history, made a number of good contacts and had some invaluable discussions with other professionals interested in binding.

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