Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Preservation Week Webinars: April 26-May 2, 2015

Preservation Week is an annual celebration to highlight what organizations and individuals can do to preserve collections.  These webinars are available free of charge:

April 28th - Moving Image Preservation 101Sponsored by HF Group & George Blood, LP
This presentation covers the basic composition and history of film and video technology, particularly as it relates to formats found within personal and family collections. Tips and tricks for preserving your personal moving image materials will be addressed so that future generations can continue to enjoy your family movies and videos.
More information: http://www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/upcoming/webinar/042815

April 30th - Digital Preservation for Individuals and Small GroupsSponsored by Gaylord.
As technology changes, the greatest threat to preserving digital files is obsolescence. Files may get stuck on obsolete media or in some form that may become unusable in time. This webinar can help increase your understanding of what it takes to preserve commonly used digital files such photos, recordings, videos and documents. Learn about the nature of the digital-preservation challenge and hear about some simple, practical tips and tools to help you preserve your digital stuff.
More information: http://www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/upcoming/webinar/043015

May 1st - Disaster Response Q&A
Once a disaster strikes, the knee-jerk reaction is to rush in and save everything, but racing in without advance planning puts collections at risk of more damage and staff at risk of injury. This session will feature a live question-and-answer session. Participants will have an opportunity to comment on the recording of the 2010 webinar, "Disaster Response" and to ask questions of Nancy Kraft.
More information: http://www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/upcoming/webinar/050115

How to Register
There are no fees for these webinars, but you must register online.
For additional information and access to registration links, please go to the following website:

ContactFor questions or comments related to registration or the webinars, contact Julie Reese, ALCTS Events Manager at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5034 or jreese@ala.org.

Thanks to the American Library Association, Association for Library Collections & Technical Services, Continuing Education Committee for this information.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Merging Images in Photoshop, Part Two

While my first post in this series covered some basics of non-destructive image merging in Adobe Photoshop, this post aims to give you some tools to work with less ideal images.

A typical problem faced by many when attempting to merge images is how to deal with slight variations in your materials. These variations can be a result of the hardware you use (scanner or camera), lighting conditions, software, or a myriad other factors.

In this scenario I'll use an image from a scanned book that has a lighting problem. This is a very common difficulty when scanning books on a flatbed; the book's gutter will raise up from the scanner's surface, giving it a darker tone and distorting the content. Applying pressure to the book may work sometimes, but often we do not want to risk damaging our books (or, worst-case-scenario, our equipment) that way. Much safer to work digitally.

The first step is identifying the cutoff point where the gutter begins to negatively affect image quality. As you can see from this image. As always, make sure you've saved a master version before making any edits. 

Use the Rectangle Marquee tool to isolate the "safe zone" of the page, where the page's content is mostly unaffected by the gutter. Copy this selection and paste it into a new document with approximately the same dimensions as the original document. This is our new "base" document. I will usually put the word "EDIT" in its title somewhere so it won't be mistaken for the master.

In situations like this when we are dealing with an off-white paper, we'll want to make sure our background matches the paper's tone. Use the Eyedropper tool to select the page tone, and use the paint bucket to fill it in the background of the new base document.

What we are going to do next is create an amalgam of the image's two elements (page and background) to create a new version with improved legibility. To accomplish this we are going to use Photoshop's Layer Mask tool. Layer Mask is incredibly useful for photo editing, and best of all it is a non-destructive solution, meaning whatever you do with it can always be easily undone. The Layer Mask is very much what it sounds like: a layer placed on top of each image that can be "masked" or "unmasked," concealing or revealing the image's contents. Select the right side layer and click "Add Layer Mask" at the bottom of the Layer menu. You will now see a small white rectangle linked to that layer; that's your layer mask. The color white means "unmasked," so right now it's simply sitting on top of your original layer waiting for you to give it instructions.

Next, be sure you have the correct layer, AND your layer mask selected, or else you will alter the image itself. The Layer Mask functions in grayscale. Black is "masked," white is "unmasked," and grays are everything in between. Set your foreground color to black. Select the brush tool, and reduce the hardness to 0 (use whatever diameter you feel comfortable with). Check again to make sure you're still on your layer mask, and simply begin lightly touching up the problem spots along the gutter with your brush. Use single clicks rather than click-and-drag, that way you will make very minor adjustments while you get a feel for the technique.

As you can see, we've fixed the page to appear legible and flat. But be warned, this exact method won't work for every situation. If you have content that is deep in the book's gutters, you will likely have to accept a less-than-perfect image. However these techniques can still be used to improve the image quality in those situations, it is simply more difficult to get a "perfect" image. Vary your brush settings and color in the Layer Mask (experiment using a 50% grayscale) to find solutions that best suit your situation.

Written by Ryland Ianelli

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Secret Revealed: 25 Years of the Book Arts Workshop

The 25th anniversary of the Book Arts Workshop is being celebrated with a number of activities open to the public.

EXHIBIT: Baker-Berry Library / Baker Main Hall: March 20 - June 5, 2015
Often called Dartmouth’s best-kept secret the Book Arts Workshop in Baker Library is celebrating its 25th anniversary.  Created in 1989-1990 by Edward Connery Lathem, '51, Rocky Stinehour, '50, and Mark Lansburgh, '49, three former students of Professor Emeritus Ray Nash, the studio is located in the former location of Nash’s Graphic Arts Program, Baker Library Room 21-23. From its early beginnings of letterpress instruction the workshop has grown to include book binding and curricular support of the arts of the book.

PRESENTATION & OPEN HOUSE: Baker-Berry Library/ April 10, 2015
In conjunction with the exhibit the The Friends of the Dartmouth College Library will host a talk by Louise Hamlin, George Frederick Jewett Professor in Art, "25 Years of the Book Arts Workshop and More to Come" Friday, April 10, 2015 at 4 pm in the Current Periodicals Room, Baker Library. A reception will follow in the Baker Library Main Hall. 

The Book Arts Workshop will be open on April 10 from 2-4 pm for guests to tour the studios and create a keepsake. Events are free and open to the public. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Structural Intervention: Treatment of Albums from the Iconography Collection

As a Samuel H. Kress Conservation Fellow, I have been spending my first post-graduate year revamping Rauner’s Iconography Collection. The Iconography Collection is an image-based collection which includes prints, photographs, negatives, albums, and various other materials.  In my initial survey of the collection I found that a number of the top treatment priorities were albums.  I decided to focus on treatment of these albums not only because they were in poor condition, but also because this allowed me to further explore my interest in album structures. 

Example of a damaged album discovered during the survey.

In conservation we try to preserve the original structure of the books we work with, but there are times when the original structure is inherently problematic and must be altered to prevent future damage. I have found that this is especially applicable to albums.  A common condition issue was that either one or both of the boards were detached. 

For the album shown below, I successfully reattached the boards and preserved the original structure of the album.  The detachment occurred between two of the front pages, and the spine covering had pulled away from the text block.  I cleaned the old adhesive from the inside of the spine covering and the spine of the text block, and then placed new linings on both.

Carte-de-visit album before treatment, showing detached front board.

 Here you can see that the new spine lining was used to successfully reattach the front board.
Carte-de-visit album after treatment, showing reattached front board.

However, for some of the other albums treated, such as the next example shown below, I decided that returning the album to its original structure was not the best solution.      
Carte-de-visit album before treatment, showing detached front pages 
and detached cover.

While I placed a new lining on the text block spine and attached the text block to the back cover, I chose to leave the front board detached. Reattachment would have made the album too difficult to open and would have caused it to break again in the same exact manner. 
Carte-de-visit album after treatment, showing reattached front pages and front cover 
left purposefully detached  (back cover has been attached to the text block).

My favorite album from the collection features stunning watercolors from 1857-58 made by Sir Henry Hugh Clifford, who was stationed in Canton, China an Assistant Quartermaster General in the British Army.  While Clifford was stationed in China to serve in the Second Opium War, his meticulous paintings capture serene and colorful landscapes and portray scenes of everyday life in China.

Watercolor painting by Sir Henry Hugh Clifford entitled "Chinese Junk"

As we are nearing the end of a long, cold winter, this album has been a treat to work with, and has led me to start fantasizing about warmer weather and beaches.

Watercolor painting by Sir Henry Hugh Clifford entitled "Sunset, Victoria".

Prior to treatment, the album was bound in a post-style binding.  After close examination, it became clear this was not the original binding structure and the cover did not add informational value to the object. 

Overall image of album: please note the significant amount of
surface dirt on the pages in the upper right.

Detail of post binding structure: cord strung through two holes through
text block and tied together, pages are not secure.

We decided that removing the album from the binding completely and storing the leaves in an enclosure was the best solution, because this will allow for easier access and prevent strain on the pages.  While dis-binding the album, I conducted dry surface cleaning of the pages to remove the highly noticeable, easily-transferable dirt.

Dry surface cleaning a page from Sir Henry Hugh Clifford's album using
cosmetic sponges.

Album page after surface cleaning.
Album page before surface cleaning.

Collectively, these treatments show that, while we strive toward minimal intervention, altering the structure of bound materials is sometimes the best course of action to prevent further damage. 

Written by Tessa Gadomski

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