Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Conserving Collaborators: making it work.

Last October, I had the pleasure of having Giselle Simon, Head of Conservation at the University of Iowa, in the lab for a day.  Giselle and I go way way back so it was just like old times.  I thought "What could we do in a day?"  I recalled that Giselle had treated many antiphonals when she was the Conservator at the Newberry Library in Chicago.  And it just so happens that we have one here that is displayed in the reading room of Rauner Special Collections in need of assessment and attention.  So how perfect, with Giselle's help (which this was definitely a two person job) we transported the antiphonal down the long corridors and elevator rides to the conservation lab.

All tied up and ready to go.  Rauner Special Collections reading room.

Being able to maneuver the pathway was tricky.

Getting the book into the elevator.  Tight squeeze.

Riding solo going down, no people allowed.

Once off the elevator, transport got a bit easier as we had a truck to put the book on and wheel away.

The goals for the day were simple.  To assess the book, perform some minor stabilization, and create a carrying/support tray.

Giselle using a HEPA vacuum to clean soiled surface.

Once we got the book situated, we realized that the surface needed quite a bit of cleaning.  Surface debris was evident in a substantial amount of areas.  Giselle hopped right in and gave it a go with her gentle touch.

In the paste down area there was extra surface debris which she was able to clean.

The back board was damaged at the fore edge, missing the outer portion of the board.  This resulted in the pages bending at the fore edge because there was no support under them.  Therefore we came up with a quick solution for a moderate fix.  We cut a strip of matt board that fitted precisely into the missing area and pasted it down with a tissue strip placed in top for a bit of extra strength.

Piece of matt board secured to fore edge of lower board.

 The next step was to fabricate a carrying tray.  We didn't have all the materials to make one like the Newberry so we improvised.

Carrying tray at the Newberry.  Coroplast lined with Volara.

Newberry tray showing a catch wall at the back.

Nothing like getting out the glue gun.  I knew I had bought that for something!

Multiple layers of blue corrugated board were laminated together to make the tray, then we adhered a sheet of Volara.  We also had time to relax and flatten some of the pages.  So in a few hours a lot was accomplished.  The antiphonal was returned at the end of the day in much better shape than it had been.  Because of the detailed inspection and keen team work the next steps are within reach and a game plan is laid.  Sometimes, those seemingly overwhelming big jobs, just need that initial step, and having a conserving collaborator around can be just the thing.

I've always fantasied about a conservator exchange program, whereby we could visit each other's labs to help on a project, to share our experiences, and to learn new techniques and approaches.  A week would be great, but I'll take a day!  Thanks Giselle.

Giselle, settling in!

Written by Deborah Howe

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