Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Smith & Wolff at the New Hampshire Institute of Art exhibit

Sarah Smith, Book Arts Special Instructor, and Stephanie Wolff, Assistant Conservator, both have work on display at the New Hampshire Institute of Art exhibit: Artists' Books: From A to Zine.

The exhibit runs until April 29, 2015 and is located in the Amherst Street Gallery of the Institute in Manchester, NH.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

File Validation Woes

Over the last few months I have been preparing and ingesting the master TIFF files for the Photo Files collection into our local repository system for safe keeping. The first step is to package the files using the BagIt specification. BagIt was developed by the Library of Congress and the California Digital Library as a way to package files along with some basic metadata that can be used to validate the bags contents. It's the digital equivalent of putting a bunch of things in a box, along with a list of the box’s contents and a unique identifier that can be used to identify each item. Since our Photo Files collection is enormous (so far I’ve deposited over 45,000 images, and we’re not even half way through the collection), I break the bags into manageable chunks for uploading and processing in our repository.

Once a bag is uploaded onto the server, it is validated using the BagIt tool. This is a programmatic way of checking that all the files are still exactly as they should be, and no file has been altered or gone missing or snuck in on the sly. Finally, the contents of the bags are run through the File Information Tool Set, or FITS. FITS brings together a bunch of open-source tools that identify file types, check to see if those files are valid, and extract technical metadata. So, for instance, when I deposit a bag from the Photo Files collection, FITS produces a report that says “These files are TIFFs! These TIFFs are well formed and valid! Here’s some technical info you might want to have around!”, only with less exclamation marks:

Sample FITS report

So, this process has been going along just swimmingly until a few weeks ago. Like I said, I’d made it through about 45,000 images, and then suddenly, BAM! an error report for every single image:

page-masters/Icon1647-0875-0000010A.tif is not valid: "Type mismatch for tag 700; expecting 1, saw 7"

All about the Tagged Information File Format (TIFF):

The first thing I discovered was that this error message had something to do with the T part of the TIFF. The TIFF file format has what’s called a header that uses tags to describe the content of the file. These tags, and the information in them, can be manipulated using various types of tools. The capture software we use to create our master images automatically inserts certain tags. As part of our process, we add additional information into the headers of our TIFFs. This is called embedded metadata, or information about the file that is part of the file itself.

The problem with these images was the 700 tag. From the Library of Congress’ super useful guide to TIFF tags I learned that this tag has something to do the XMP metadata within the file. XMP is a data model for structuring embedded metadata. Data models for metadata help standardize how metadata is stored. For instance, I could edit an image to say “Author: Jane Doe”, while someone else might edit it to say “Photographer: Jane Doe” and we could both mean the same thing. A data model would say, “Ok, everyone, we’re going to use the term Creator.” This makes it easier for both humans and computers to make use of embedded metadata, making digital objects more discoverable and easier to maintain.

So, now I knew that there was a problem with the metadata we were embedding in the files. Something about a 1 and a 7? Deep inside the Photoshop user forums, I found that I was not the first one to run across this problem. These numbers refer to the type field in the XMP, with 1 meaning “byte” and 7 meaning “unknown”. So these files said "unknown" when they should have said “byte”, right? Well, not really. According to David Franzen (Employee)’s response in the user forum, both the 1 and the 7 were valid values. So why was I getting this error message?


As mentioned above, FITS packages together a number of tools. The tool that was giving this error message was Jhove, or JSTOR/Harvard Object Validation Environment. According to wikipedia, Jhove tells us whether or not objects are “well-formed (consistent with the basic requirements of the format) and valid (generally signifying internal consistency).” The version of Jhove that is packaged in FITS says that in order for a TIFF to be well formed, tag 700 needs to have a “1”, and anything else is invalid. But it also seems that the "7" is also a valid value for this tag. So, why is there this discrepancy in what makes a valid TIFF? Well, it turns out that when Jhove was first developed, the TIFF format specifications weren’t exactly easy to decipher. The TIFF specifications encoded in the tool were based on confusing, incomplete and scattered documentation. When others started getting the same error message as I got, they turned to Adobe for clarification. As a result, Jhove’s code was updated in version 1.8 to accept both “byte” and “unknown” as valid values in the 700 tag.

However, the updated version of Jhove didn’t make its way into FITS. Apparently, there were some other changes to Jhove 1.8 that would make integrating the newer version into FITS a rather large job. Making the necessary changes to FITS to accept newer versions of Jhove currently isn’t a priority for the FITS developers.

The Real Culprit:

Now that I knew what was causing the error message, I circled back to the big question- why now? The first 45,000 files had been just fine. What changed? In discussion with our digital production team, I learned that there had been a significant change to the production workflow, specifically in how they were adding embedded metadata. What before had been a time consuming process was greatly simplified by using Adobe Bridge to quality check images and add metadata. In researching this error message, I had seen people mention Bridge as the culprit in changing the 700 tag.


Testing embedded metadata settings:

To be sure, I decided to play around with the settings in both our capture software and Bridge to see if I could get a different result. I created a number of test images with different metadata settings using our capture software, then ran these through FITS. All checked out okay. Next, I played around with the metadata setting in Bridge, and made changes to the embedded metadata in my test files. I ran the files through FITS again, and all failed to validate. No matter what settings I used in Bridge, the 700 tag was changed.

So Now What?

Now that we knew what was causing the error, there were a number of different approaches we could take. To find out what we did, stay tuned for my next blog post...

Written by Jenny Mullins

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Good Deeds from Conservation

Summer can be a good time to reach out and do those special projects that have been on the back burner. One of those projects for us was the Art Oversized collection housed in a small room that struggles with environmental conditions. When there I would upload temperature and humidity information from the data logger and I noticed how the books were shelved.  During these summer terms we often have students working every day with longer shifts. Last summer we were fortunate to have a student working with us who was interested in conservation and wants to have a career in the field. So I thought this would be good practical experience in basic conservation outreach, getting a lot of bang out of a little muscle and sweat.

Oversized material poses a challenge when it comes to shelving. We are fortunate to have shelves that are designed for these types of large items. But how should they be organized and kept safe?

Large heavy books were located on top shelves which made them difficult and potentially dangerous to retrieve, and large thin portfolios were unable to lie flat.

Over time disfiguration can occur when a book is slouched or forced into an awkward position.

So to begin the process I approached the curator and proposed that over a course of a few days the student and I could come in and clean and tidy up in order to return the books to a more fitting posture and refresh the very small space.  The offer was well received as the staff there has no time to address such a project.

We brought in a small vacuum, a book truck, face masks, gloves, ear plugs, lab coats, a spray bottle and lots of paper towels. The books and shelves were quite dusty so we needed to do a good amount of cleaning. Working as a team was the best way to go. I had done this type of project when I was a student, along with a co-worker, and we ended up making a lot progress and having quite a good time. 

We started at the top of one end of the shelving and worked our way down and over. One person would do an initial vacuum over the books and shelf and then would hand the books to the other person who would put them on the book truck. The books would then be vacuumed more thoroughly moving the nozzle across the surface and around the edges in a forward motion. Our colleagues at the University of Washington created this nice video on cleaning if you are interested in more details on cleaning books: http://www.lib.washington.edu/preservation/preservation_services/clean

The other person would mist a bit of water over the bare shelf to minimize the dust from spreading, and wipe it dry removing the dirt and dust. Books were then returned to the shelf. We did have flexibility to slightly alter the location of the books, so when very large heavy books were on a top shelf we could relocate them to a lower shelf. We were also able to reunite sets of books that had gotten separated.

We were careful to take breaks and not spend too many hours in a single visit.

So over a course of a few days, working for just a few hours a day, we were able to transform the space into a more functional and pleasant area. The books are easier to find and danger from heavy books falling from a top shelf was removed. Our efforts were appreciated by both the staff and the books! Summer is slowly approaching so it’s not too early to start thinking about your good deed project! Maybe one for “Preservation Week”. http://www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/preswk   

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Custom Fitting A Box To House An Object

Our library collections hold books, but also other three-dimensional objects. These items (and even the books) are not always regular shapes that fit into commercially made housing. Sometimes we need to either build a box from scratch or adapt a purchased box to house these items. For example in 2012, we created housing for a collection of canes that required some adaptation to their rectangular boxes. There are many ways to adapt a box to hold objects, and a variety of materials can be used: Ethafoam, Volara, archival corrugated board, Tyvek, archival tissue paper, among others.

Recently a wooden cross from World War One needed special attention to house it safely. I documented the steps I took to adapt a commercially made box and have included a diagram to illustrate the mathematics of the interior boxes.

I started with a commercially purchased box that was slightly larger in all dimensions than the item.

My goal was to create a recess for the cross within the box by making interior boxes of archival corrugated board.

These interior corrugated boxes are designed to fill empty space to create the recess. They are glued shut and maintain stability by including a top (as well as a bottom), though the top isn’t strictly necessary. I calculated and constructed them based on the methods used in Andrea Krupp’s great instructions for the corrugated clamshell box, which I learned from Hedi Kyle.

When designing these interiors keep in mind where and how the item is stored (horizontally or vertically), how frequently it is handled, and how it can be removed from the box.

To create the interior corrugated boxes here are the steps I took.

1) With the cross in place, I measured the four quadrants of empty space on the box bottom. I subtracted ¼ inch from the length and ¼ inch from the width of each of those rectangles (this gives some breathing room to the cross for removal). Using the dimensions of the box bottom I adjusted my calculations so the two boxes on the left side were equivalent to the boxes on the right side boxes (as mirrored pairs). This simplified things by requiring only two sizes of boxes. I now had the length (L) and width (W) measurements. I then measured the large outer box depth for the thickness (TH) measurement. This should be very slightly lower than the box side, but keep in mind any additional layers of material (Volara, paperwork, etc.) that need to go over the top before the lid goes on and account for that in your thickness measurement.

Consulting the diagram I have drawn out while reading further might be useful.

Definitions used on the diagram:

L = length
W = width
TH = thickness
BT = board thickness
Solid lines = cut
Dotted lines = score/fold
Grey areas = cut away/remove
Tab = 1 inch

I chose to create a 1-inch tab for gluing my box together. Smaller boxes could certainly be made with thinner tabs.

Using my measurements (L,W,TH) and 1/8 inch archival corrugated board, I cut a rectangular board based on these formulas:

Height of board = 2TH + 2L + 1Tab + [4BT or 1”]

Width of board = 2TH + 1W + 2Tab + [3BT or 1”]

2) Then using the cutting and folding diagram I measured and drew out my box onto the board and cut.

A few tips:

Start measuring and marking lines from the same square corner (both horizontally and vertically).

It is easier to bend with the corrugations so keep that in mind when choosing which way to orient the board, though either way does work.

I used a scrap of board as a jig to mark my BT (board thickness) as I drew these lines out. You could laminate multiple pieces of board together to create a jig for easier measuring.

As you see on the diagram I have added a board thickness to each dimension (W, L, TH) to account for the walls and folds. I didn't add the board thickness to the three most exterior tabs since those tabs needn't be a precise size.

3) Once the box is cut out gently score the lines with a bone folder, and fold them up. Then the tabs need to be delaminated before gluing them down.

This board is made of three layers: flat paper, corrugated paper, and then another layer of flat paper. The corrugated paper in the middle of the tabs will be cut away and the two flat layers will be glued to the adjacent side, one on the interior and one on the exterior making for a strong and square attachment. You will be separating seven tabs: the four to create the box bottom and the three to attach the top to the sides.

4) Gently using a microspatula and/or an awl separate the layers.

You can also gently use your hands to pull these layers apart once you get them started.

5) When they are separated carefully bend the flat layers aside and cut the corrugated piece away.

6) Lay waste paper under the two tabs and apply glue, then fold up the side to create the 3D box and press into place. Do this to all sides of the box creating the box bottom.

7) Now prior to gluing down the top cut away two small areas in the interior tab coming off the top.

This will allow the tab to set inside the box without hitting the interior side tabs. Glue up all interior tabs (even though they may not adhere) and the exterior tab coming off the box top. Close box and press. Then glue up the remaining exterior tabs on the two sides and press.

Here are the first two boxes in place to check the fit.

After the four corrugated boxes were made, I set them within the big box. I checked the fit of the cross within the space to make sure all was as it should be. Then I cut Volara to fit into the recess so the cross was laying on something softer than the board. The friction between the Volara and the cross helps hold the object in place.

8) Once the parts were cut, assembled, and the fit tested, I first glued the corrugated boxes, then the Volara, into the box bottom with PVA.

I weighed down the corrugated boxes to ensure good adhesion.

After everything was dry the cross went into its new housing ready for the shelf.

Interior compartments can be constructed in all sorts of ways and materials. They can be adapted for use in basic or deluxe boxes. This is one method, and if you have another you would like to share, we’d love to hear it!

Written by Stephanie Wolff

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sarah Smith to be University of Otago 2016 Printer in Residence

It is my pleasure to announce that Sarah Smith has been selected to be the 2016 Printer in Residence at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.  Sarah is the Book Arts Special Instructor in our Book Arts Workshop, and during Spring Term 2015 is teaching a class in Dartmouth’s Studio Arts department.

Sarah will begin her 6-week residency in Dunedin in August 2016, and will be located in the Otakou Press Room in the University of Otago Library. This prestigious residency has run since 2003, and includes the production of a limited edition book. For more information see:

You can see examples of Sarah’s work here: http://olfactorypress.com/home.html

We look forward to this residency strengthening a growing partnership between the Otago Book Arts program and ours. Please join me in congratulating Sarah on this honor.

David Seaman
Associate Librarian for Information Management

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Hiking Beaver Brook Trail in the Winter

On the north side of Mt. Moosilauke along the Appalachian Trail there is a ¾ mile long cascading waterfall I very much enjoy hiking alongside, especially in the winter months.

The Beaver Brook Trail begins in Kinsman Notch off Rt. 112 (Kancamagus Highway) at a large parking area a half mile west of the Lost River tourist attraction. (A $3 fee can be paid via envelopes available at the trail head). As you head out along the easy grade part of the trail it begins by crossing small feeder streams at 3-4 spots prior to the warning sign at the base of the soon to be much steeper trail (the second 2 streams are crossed on bridges where a beaver pond near the lot can be viewed to the right).

The Warning Sign on Beaver Brook Trail.

The final 3 tenths hike from the sign to the base of the falls rises and hovers over the lower stream bed while clinging to the side of the steep side hill.

Steep trail above the lower stream bed.

Once at the base of the falls you begin a very difficult and, in the winter, very slick climb alongside the falls.

The author takes a rest at the falls.

I have climbed this area without ice spikes, but find it far easier and more enjoyable with them, especially near the top of the falls where there are man made stairs that can get a tad iced over.

Amazing iced stairs at the top of the falls.

At the highest point of the falls is a sitting spot with a wonderful view to the north along the top of the Kinsman Ridge of Mt. LaFayette.

A view to the north along the top of the Kinsman Ridge of Mt. Lafayette.
All along the trail you never stray more than 30 yards from the stream, and there are dozens of great spots for pictures, resting and just plain site seeing. For me, the winter brings out a naturally formed beauty with the frozen falls, the hidden water beneath them gurgling and shaping the ice from below. 

**Caution is always a must as the thickness of any ice over water can’t be judged from above. 


Written by Brian Markee

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"The Dartmouth Brut: Conservation, Authenticity, Dissemination"

The Dartmouth Brut (Rauner Codex MS 003183) is the focal point for the latest issue of Digital Philology:  A Journal of Medieval Cultures, edited by Professor Michelle R. Warren, Professor of Comparative Literature.  A conference on the Brut was held in 2011 at Dartmouth College and the presentations are reprinted in the journal, including the photo essay, "The Dartmouth Brut: Conservation, Authenticity, Dissemination" co-authored by Deborah Howe, Collections Conservator, with Professor Warren. If you have ever wondered about the considerations that go into conservation treatments this essay highlights the types of problems to be solved and the collaborative decision making that guides the conservator's treatment solution.

The article in the Fall 2014 issue may be found at: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/digital_philology/toc/dph.3.2.html

Congratulations Deborah!

Barb Sagraves

Head, Preservation Services