Friday, October 13, 2017

Today in the Lab

For this post, I wanted to share some images of a particularly memorable item I had recently on my bench.  As a conservator, I get to see a lot of very interesting items in Dartmouth's collections in addition to the mundane (though they are never really that mundane).  There are always items that are historically relevant, have expensive materials, or belonged to someone very important-and sometimes there are things that are inexplicably sweet and funny, or just seem to have a personality all their own without significant provenance.

This particular object in Rauner's collection needed to be rehoused: which is library speak for needing a more appropriate box.  The item itself is a little wooden box with a screw-top that contains discs with an image on one side and words on the other.  The box top is appropriately labeled "Pretty Pictures with Easy Reading."  The detail of the painted box and each of the little images is really lovely, and we admittedly got a good laugh out of the purported "easy reading."


Written by Lizzie Curran

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Food Shortages in Occupied Japan

(As described in the Dartmouth Japanese Press Translations

Following World War II, Japan was occupied by Allied forces.  The administrative body that presided over this occupation was known as The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or SCAP.  This organization, headed by American General Douglas MacArthur with the support of the British Commonwealth, is described by the U.S. state department as acting with three primary purposes.  These purposes are described as, "Reform and war crimes trials, revival of economy, and conclusion of formal peace treaty and alliance" (

SCAPs responsibilities were many.  Among them were censorship and general management of public opinion.  As a result, SCAP produced the Japanese press translations that we possess within our digital collections.  Though our collection is incomplete, it is extensive, and gives great insight into economic, social, and political conditions in Japan during 1945 and 1946.

The Japanese press translations cover several issues in depth, although one that appears consistently is the struggle with food shortages.  War is often costly to a population, and even in the United States, which saw little fighting within its borders, rationing was an important part of the war effort.  In Japan, where the devastation of war was particularly severe, food shortages were of great concern.  Infrastructure for transport of goods had been destroyed by American air raids and millions of Japanese citizens were displaced and reliant on aid for survival.  As such, combating general starvation was a major undertaking for both the growing Japanese government and the Allied powers which presided over it.  Southeast Asia saw a poor rice crop in 1945 and, faced with very limited stores of food, the government attempted to stave off general starvation through strict rationing and imports.

In Social Series 001 (, reporting from a cabinet meeting indicates that the Japanese government intended to provide rations of rice as a primary staple, with wheat for balance and potatoes as supplement.  However, in 1945 rations consisted of only sweet potatoes and beans.  Professor Kakinuma of Tokyo University discusses the dangers of malnutrition that would result from this limited diet.  He describes the recorded effects on soldiers from the front as "atrophy of organs, swelling of the limbs, general fatigue and eventually...death."  Additionally, he describes the effects of reliance on government rations on his own health.  During his time subsisting on these rations he lost approximately 30 pounds and suffered from regular dizzy spells.  He claims that while the rations may have been enough to prevent outright starvation, they did not provide sufficient nutrition and would result in general sickness.  He goes on to suggest that grasshoppers and other insects be pulverized and rationed as food to provide much needed protein to the Japanese diet.

Indeed, Social Series 001 ( indicates that 12 men had starved to death between August and November of 1945 on the roads of Japan, and that the number of deaths due to starvation and malnutrition were gradually increasing.  In February of 1946, communities in Hokkaido went 20 days without rations (Economic Series 271, demonstrating how serious the food shortage had become and how potentially dangerous it could be.

Written by Kevin Warstadt

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Spine Re-Engineering Summer Camp

As the Dartmouth Summer Conservation and Preservation intern I have spent my time at Baker-Berry learning new techniques and building on the foundation of book repair knowledge with helpful tips and tricks gained through practical application.  Deborah and Lizzie have generously shared their insights on how they balance the demands of such an active collection which splits their time between the circulating collection, special collections, and special digitization projects.  In turn Deborah has encouraged me to share my own knowledge culled from my experiences as a student and intern.  In particular we have discussed my time spent at MIT working with Jana Dambrogio and Ayako Letizia, where I learned a technique known as "Spine Re-Engineering."

Spine re-engineering is a book conservation treatment style developed at MIT by Jana Dambrogio using thin, tengucho Japanese tissues and methylcellulose almost exclusively.  This technique builds upon a rich tradition of thin tissue repair in conservation by using the strength of Japanese tissues and
employing the flexibility of methyl-cellulose.  The tissue and methyl-cellulose are patiently layered creating a matrix which supports the original materials.

Working with Deborah, I selected a volume of Audubon prints to work some spine re-engineering magic on.  The volume's spine tube had failed leaving the front board and spine detached from the text with the leather covering holding the binding together.  I began by consolidating the spine linings with methyl-cellulose.  I then selected a piece of 10 gram tengucho long enough to extend above the head and tail, and wide enough to cover the spine area a couple of times.

 Painting the methyl-cellulose through the tissue, I began by adhering the tissue to the spine area and shoulders, folding the excess tissue at the head and tail back onto itself.  The main goal of this whole process is the add strength to the most vulnerable parts of the book structure.  Folding the long fibers of the tengucho back on itself helps to avoid tearing.
The initial layer is left to dry completely and the layering process is then repeated.  Special care is taken to concentrate on the weaker areas of the binding such as shoulders and filling cracks in linings by adhering smaller strips of tissue to these potential problem areas.  After every layer of tissue and adhesive are applied they are left to dry completely.  While this slows the process to a seeming crawl it is crucial to creating a strong attachment.

For this volume I began layering with the piece of tissue extending past the textbook shoulder and reserved the tissue extending past the board to form the hollow.  A flange of the tissue was left long at the textblock shoulder as well.

Once the spine area has been sufficiently consolidated and dried I cut a piece of silicon coated mylar to the width of the spine and taller than the textblock height by an inch or so at the head and tail.  I then continued the layering process and captured the mylar between my textblock spine and the new tissue layers.  Extra layers of tissue were added at the shoulders to ensure the strength where the action of the book takes place.  After I was satisfied with the built up layers I allowed the volume to dry completely.

More methyl-cellulose was applied to the spine and the case was lined up and closed.  Using a bone folder and the palm of my hand to avoid undue stress on the leather.  I worked the spine area to be sure the layers of tengucho underneath were able to adhere to each other completely.  Again, the volume was left to dry completely.  Once the main repair was dry, the silicone release mylar was removed and the inner hinges touched up with another layer of Japanese tissue to disguise the repair.

The final result is a book with a repair that is both strong and completely reversible.  I believe that spine re-engineering reflects the larger mission of the library and its collection by allowing access, in this case it is not merely the text but also to the physical materials of the book left intact which may provide valuable information to future conservators and book historians looking to understand more about the materials used to create these objects.

Written by Linnea Vegh

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Xmas in July; How Material Comes to the Lab for Treatment

Special collection items needing treatment are entered into a File Maker Pro database by my conservation liaison who works in Special Collections.  She is the filter for taking requests from the rest of the Special Collections staff and is my direct link to the collections.  This facilitates workflow and communication which makes all of our lives easier.  I am able to go into the database and select items by priority needs and by treatment needs.  So if there are items being used for a class coming up I can see that and will put that on my request list or if there are a batch of items all needing paper repair I can have those pulled all at once in order to expedites that type of repair.  I try to work on a group of about 10-15 items at a time and when we are done with that group I select the next group.  Of course if there are rush requests we always fit those in.  When I go to select the material I never know what exactly it will look like so when we review the items for treatment it's always a bit like Xmas.  Many items have been put into temporary boxes for safe keeping until the conservation has been done, so opening boxes can be quite fun.  Below are a few examples of the variety of items that came up for treatment recently.

A marriage certificate with wax seals.

A collection of cigarette cards needing housing.

A travel scrapbook with mounted postcards.

A jigsaw puzzle needing housing and the box repaired.

Addressing an old mend.

Old paper book jacket on journal.

Journal using every part of the paper.

Common Place book with inserted writing pages.

Miniature book travel set.

Written by Deborah Howe

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Imaging of the Dartmouth College Photographic Files Collection Completed

Dartmouth College Photographic Files We are very pleased to announce that the Digital Production Unit has completed imaging all of the photographs in the Dartmouth College Photographic Files Collection.  Work began scanning and shooting these photographs in 2012 and was completed in June of 2017.  There are 60,300 images available in the Dartmouth Digital Collections, CONTENTdm interface.  This collection of photographs, housed in file cabinets in Rauner Special Collections Library, continues to grow and Digital Production will add photos to the collection as they become available.  In addition, we will soon be adding a small collection of oversized images.  Work continues in Cataloging and Metadata Services to enhance the photo metadata in CONTENTdm.  This work should be completed later this year.  Other subsequent work includes exporting CONTENTdm metadata and converting it to MODS in preparation for moving the collection to another user interface.

View the collection here

First photograph in the collection:
Academic Gala, 1997, file: icon1647-0001-0000001A

Last photograph in the collection:
Zoology Department, file: icon1647-2068-0000005A

The Dartmouth College Photo Files are a diverse collection of approximately 60,000 photographs related to Dartmouth College, Hanover and the surrounding area.  Images date from the early years of photography (ca. 1850s) to the present and include images of nearly all aspects of Dartmouth College life including:
  • Major events (Winter Carnival, Dartmouth Night and Green Key)
  • Minor events (symposia and conference)
  • Dartmouth organizations from the Aires to Zeta Psi
  • Academic departments, foundations and centers
  • Sports from baseball to water polo
  • Dartmouth and Hanover buildings
  • Local businesses
  • Surrounding towns
  • Individuals associated with Dartmouth (students, alumni, presidents, coaches, professors and administrators).

Written by Bill Ghezzi

Thursday, July 6, 2017

What a Thrill!

During the early summer months hiking in New Hampshire can be a sight to behold, even during the dreaded mosquito/black fly season.  The trail I've taken this time is the Blueberry Mountain trail, located in Glenncliff, NH (on Rt. 25, 10 miles east of the Rt.10 jct. in Haverhill).  It is a smaller mountain west of Mt. Moosilauke on the North-South Rd., the trailhead located a half mile from the winter gate prohibiting traffic.  (This trail can also be reached on the western end via Lime Kiln Rd.)  The Appalachian trail crosses N-S Rd. at the very beginning heading east towards Mt. Moosilauke, which is how I came across the trail.

Blueberry Mt. Trail (1.7 miles to the summit) begins at a parking area on a recently abandoned logging road, gently wandering through hardwood forests until veering up into the woods after an easy quarter mile walk.  The trail is moderate and steady, but never too hard.

Logging road

Into the woods.
On this summer hike I saw nature at its best, many bright pink visions of Mountain Azalea bushes and something I hadn't seen in many years, multiple patches of Lady Slippers all along the trail side.

Mountain Azaleas
Lady Slippers

Halfway to the summit there is a clear cut area with a beautiful view of both of Moosilaukes' peaks North and South.  On this humid and very hot day however, the clouds hid them.
Nearing the summit, the trees become more sparse allowing limited views to the south and east, with the trail becoming a bit more difficult and rocky.

Cloudy summit

The most impressive unobstructed view is of Mt. Moosilauke from just below the actual summit.  A wonderful natural sitting area is where I usually stop for a snack and water.  I know, wishful thinking on a hot day.

Returning down the same trail, I found another natural wonder directly across the road from the trailhead.  A large mountain stream that snakes its way alongside North-South Rd. makes a spectacular turn that can be viewed by descending a steep ravine to the base of a gorgeous waterfall.

Nothing like life in the cheap seats...Enjoy!

Written by Brian Markee

Thursday, June 1, 2017

New Hampshire Cities & Town Map Project

In my position as the Assistant Conservator, one of my primary roles is to serve as the liaison between the Preservation and Digital departments.  This means that I assess all items before they are digitized to see if they are in need of conservation treatment.  Our digital projects at Dartmouth are varied, so the conservation evaluation can vary a lot as well.
             A long-term project that I have been working on since I arrived last year is the New Hampshire Cities & Towns map mending project.  The maps are stored in the Evans Map Room, and once I check a group of items, they are digitized and will be available online when the project is completed.  Some of the maps require conservation treatment and it has proven to be great practice and experience for me.  Normally I work with books, which are a little more robust in terms of how they are used and how they are repaired.  Flat paper items take more time and have more nuance in the repair, so they can be fussy.  Despite the fuss, the end result is always very satisfying.

Some of the tools used for mending flat paper items: Scissors, tweezers, a spatula, a glass block, blotter and hollytex (spun polyester) and thin Japanese tissue paper.

The items in this collection range from hand-drawn maps from the early 19th century to blueprints from the 1950s, with everything in between-including some that were used in classrooms that are backed with linen and sustained damage due to being rolled up and down for years.  Most of the time, the items are paper which have been torn where they were once folded and then mended with tape.  I am glad that there is not always tape to remove!
             To mend torn paper, a small strip of Japanese tissue paper is cut out and pasted with wheat starch paste.  Wheat starch paste is an interesting adhesive that, as its name implies, is made from white flour and is cooked until sticky.  It is reversible with water, so if the mends I make need to be removed in the future they can be easily taken off-unlike tape(!).  The pasted tissue paper is gently tapped onto the back of the tear and left to dry under hollytex and blotter-a nonstick spun polyester sheet and a soft cottony paper to absorb moisture.  A small glass block or otherwise smooth flat thing is placed on top to keep the paper flat as the mend dries.

Mending a tear after tape removal.

The drying process after the tears have been mended.

A front view of a mended map of Exeter, NH.
For items that are folded or have crumpled corners, I apply some moisture by gently humidifying with deionized water and flatten the corner out.  Often this needs to be reinforced with more Japanese tissue because the paper is fragile and corners are the most damaged part of a heavily used flat item like a map.

Corner before flattening and mending.

Corner after flattening and mending.

Once I complete conservation treatments on the maps, I return them to Evans to be digitized and pick up a new batch.  The variety of materials has given me a wide array of problem solving; paper differs from decade to decade it seemed, and each kind behaves differently when exposed to moisture.  As an added benefit, this project has allowed me to familiarize myself with the many towns and geography of New Hampshire.

Written by Lizzie Curran