Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Not All Pretty

Being located in a rural area has its perks in regards to natural beauty, but when it comes to gifts and donations to the library from local collections, these items can carry some serious baggage. Case in point are two collections that were clearly stored in a barn or shed where the storage container was used as alternative housing for some little furry friends.

Challenge Number One:

Ryland holding an unopened tube.

This was one of two tubes. The first one had been unrolled for a quick look and unveiled a few fluffy remnants, some chewed edges and urine spots, hinting at what might be in this tube.

When unsure of the contents of boxed items that have been stored in dubious locations, we always take extra precautions, including opening items in a fume hood or contained area (or even outside), wearing protective masks and gloves, and proceeding slowly in case something nasty comes out.

Fortunately the occupants had long gone away; unfortunately it appeared they had stayed for a bit of time. These blueprints having been rolled suffered multiple layers of damage.

The first goal was to get the items unrolled and flattened. At the same time preliminary surface cleaning was done using a brush and soft towels. Care was given to cleanliness and washing the brushes afterward. Animal secretions can cause negative reactions in people.

Chewed and stained.

This piece took a hard hit and seems to have been quite the favorite for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

The prints were weighted down for a few days then put in an oversized folder. The decision on what to do with them will be deferred.

Challenge Number Two:

Not only were these papers stored in a barn but they were housed in very acidic wooden boxes with the lids nailed shut.

Again proceeding with caution, I was able to fit a box inside our fume hood and carefully pry off the lid.

Working with these items did make me feel squeamish as I had no idea what I would find besides the papers in the boxes.

This box was well lived-in and was made quite comfortable by its occupants.

Luckily, in all the boxes I found essentially an empty house with no one home either deceased or alive, much to my relief. After removing the papers and discarding all else, the papers were surface cleaned and put into acid free folders so they could be processed at a later date.

So when dealing with items that have previous dubious storage conditions it is helpful to examine them in a separate dirty room if possible, wear protective clothing and gear, and take caution.

Written by Deborah Howe.

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