Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is celebrated during March in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, corresponding with International Women’s Day on March 8.

Throughout this month, many major archival institutions in the US (including the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, and Smithsonian Institution) join together in paying tribute to the generations of women and their invaluable contributions to American History, Science, Politics and many other aspects of life.

Our friends at Museum Textile Services featured a conservation project they just completed for The Wheaton College’s Permanent Collection that is directly related to one of women’s critical roles in American history. You can read this fascinating series of blog posts (parts 1, 2 and 3) describing preservation efforts on a large collection of artifacts from the American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS), the largest American women’s service organization in the United States during the World War II. MTS staff were entrusted by Wheaton College with a large collection of WWII uniforms and accessories, as well as tiniest clothing details such as spare buttons and badges. Each garment/accessory was assessed individually and prescribed various conservation/cleaning treatments administered to them depending on the material, condition and individual qualities of the item. In the end, all were surrounded by (and/or stuffed with) acid-free tissue and placed in archival textile boxes for safe storage.

Overall, it was a modest but precise treatment for these prized pieces of history, making them safe for study and display. We sincerely thank Museum Textile Services for employing our archival quality products throughout this important project.

Lucky Letter

Coming up on the day when “Everybody is Irish”, we couldn’t help but share this heartfelt story from The Huffington Post about a letter answered almost 3 decades after being sent.

Such is the tale of Megan Smolenyak, described as “an incurable genealogist who wears many hats in the family history world and does all she can to get the g-word out there and inspire others in their quest for roots.” Among many other genealogical mysteries that she has tried to solve was one of her own family history and Irish heritage. Please read the story about the letter and the answer received from the son of the addressee.

If you are on the path of discoveries of your own, you might be interested in the variety of books on Genealogy available from University Products. For example, the new edition of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors retains the familiar structure of previous editions but is now more useful than ever. Combining the key features of a textbook and a reference book, it describes the various steps in the research process while at the same time providing an indispensable body of source materials for immediate use.

“Erin Go Bragh!”

March Workshop Madness

This month brings a bounty of online and live educational offerings from the major archival organizations here in the US. Check them out and hurry to register for ones that might be of interest. Some of them are even free…

Society of American Archivists is offering a wide variety of live classes this month, including Digital Forensics for Archivists at the New England Archivists Spring 2013 Meeting in Worcester, MA on March 22. (see full list here) as well as numerous on-demand online courses (available any time).

Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) will have two Collections Care Webinars: Writing your NEH Preservation Assistance Grant, March 14, 2-4 PM ET and Care and Handling of Multimedia Materials March 26, 2-4 PM ET

New England Archivists’ Spring Conference will take place in Worcester, MA March 21-23. You can see full schedule of the events here.

American Library Association (ALA) has prepared a 4-week online course Fundamentals of Preservation that introduces participants to the principles, policies and practices of preservation in libraries and archives. See full course schedule and other info here. First session is scheduled to start on March 25.

Regional Alliance for Preservation  has several workshops planned for March. Some will take place on location and some online. First up is a seminar on Housing Solutions designed to give practical, hands-on knowledge of preservation materials and constructing housing for collections), presented by Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts.  It will take place on March 13, 2013 9:30AM – 3:30PM in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. See full list of classes here.

Hats Off to Dr. Seuss

If you are familiar with creative work by the beloved children’s book author and illustrator, Dr. Seuss, you might have noticed that hats play a very important role in his art. Cat in the Hat? The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins? Even the big fat fish from “One Fish, Two Fish” has a tiny yellow hat perched (no pun intended) on it’s head! You can find a creature sporting some sort of headgear on practically every page of his prolific collection of books! But what you may not know, is that Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) himself was an avid collector and wearer of hats! Hundreds of them, according to his sister, Marnie, who wrote about it in Springfield Union News in 1937: “Ted has another peculiar hobby—that of collecting hats of every description…”
Now, twenty-six original hats from Dr. Seuss’ fascinating personal collection, as well as photographs and art reproductions showing the intricate links between the real hats and the imaginary ones, are part of the National Touring Exhibition, appropriately called “Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!” Current stop for this marvelous show is Wilmington, NC, and you can see the full schedule here.

Obviously, we are also interested in hats from a conservation point of view. Being rather fragile, 3-dimentional and often oddly-shaped objects, they are not very easy to preserve. University Products has many options for both storage and display that are used by museum professionals and conservators all around the world. Whether you’re trying to preserve a Fur Hat worn by the Czar of Russia or your grandmother’s little pill box number worn on the day she eloped with your grandfather, similar guidelines should apply.

First of all, conduct all necessary cleaning and repair before attempting to store or display the hat. Professional conservators start by carefully removing dust, dirt and other environmental debris and, if required, mending rips and/or signs of wear and tear. After the initial prep, the hats need support from the inside, so they will not loose their original shape. This can be achieved with a custom-made support (for example, carved out of Ethafoam), by using a Head Mount, or simply by stuffing the hat with Acid-free Tissue. For long term storage, protection from sunlight and dust is essential. Archival Quality Hat Boxes are a perfect solution for these tasks. For display, specially designed Hat Stands or Head Mounts with Lifelike Features would be ideal.

Please remember to always consult a professional conservator (unless you are one :)) before attempting any kind of treatment on objects of monetary or sentimental value.