There’s No Place Like Conservation Lab: The Wizard of Oz Ruby Slippers Scheduled for Maintenance

Smithsonian Institution Ruby Slippers
Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

American popular culture’s most recognizable pair of shoes were removed from display and went into the Smithsonian’s conservation lab for some much-needed repairs on February 23. The famed ruby slippers, worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz, will return to the Smithsonian Museum of American History display cases on April 5, where they have been featured on a nearly continuous basis since being anonymously donated to the museum in 1979. The shoes will be a part of a new exhibition entitled, “American Stories.”

Originally, the shoes were not supposed to be kept for posterity nor be the iridescent red color for which they are famous. In fact, the shoes designed by the film’s costume designer Gilbert Adrian, were intended to be used solely for the movie. Most film fashion props are just used for the short duration of a shoot, and not showcased for several decades afterward. During an earlier conservation treatment, it was discovered through tests that the shoes’ famous red sequins were made of gelatin, an organic material that would be damaged if cleaned with most cleaning solvents. Smithsonian conservators decided that their best course of action would be to use cotton dipped in ice water to complete the tedious process of cleaning each sequin individually.

PortaScope Digital Microscope In both L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel, from which the film was adapted, and early variations of Noel Langley’s screenplay, the shoes were originally intended to be silver. However, with the advent of technicolor film, the shoes’ hue was changed prior to filming in an effort to catch the eyes of moviegoers. During the conservation treatment, the original silver color of the shoes was discovered after being examined with a hand-held microscope. Conservators also found a netting underneath the bright red sequins that originally allowed the film’s costume designers to stitch those sequins to the silver slippers. This netting was added to the shoes in an effort to make the process of stitching the sequins to the shoes easier.

Similar conservation projects could be accomplished with the following tools and equipment from University Products: precision miniature fiber-tipped applicators, stainless steel conservation work trays, and PortaScope digital microscopes.

Conservation Video from Harvard & New Exhibition at Springfield Museums

Conservation Focus: Anatomical Flap Prints from Harvard Art Museums on Vimeo.

Conservator Theresa Smith talks about repairing Heinrich Vogtherr’s multilayered anatomical “flap” prints. The anatomical flap prints are on view as part of the exhibition “Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe” at the Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum from September 6 through December 10, 2011.

More information on the exhibition and related programming at harvardartmuseums.org

old masters to monet springfield muesum exhibitIn the meantime, right here in Springfield, MA, a new exciting exhibition is about to begin at the Springfield Museums. On loan from Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum, the Old Masters to Monet collection will open its doors to the public on December 13 and will run until April 29, 2012.

And for all of your conservation framing needs, refer to the Archival Quality Materials Gallery Edition Catalog or visit the Framing section at universityproducts.com

Happy Birthday Mark Twain

Archives and Rare books, Mark Twain first editions, first printing, University of Cincinnati
Mark Twain first editions, first printing, Archives and Rare books, University of Cincinnati

Today, on the 176th birthday of one of the America’s most famous and mysterious authors of all time, we would like to talk to you about book preservation. Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, left numerous letters, writings, photographs and artifacts that are lovingly preserved in several collections around the country. We are fortunate enough to be located half an hour from Mark Twain’s amazing Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT.

Some of Mark Twain’s collections are being carefully and meticulously digitized. The Mark Twain Project and others, like his Childhood House and Museum Collection in Hannibal, Missouri, are dedicated to preserving priceless objects that used to belong to Twain and his family.

First Editions of Twain’s world-famous The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are extremely valuable and some are even signed. Storage and conservation of rare books needs to be done with extreme care. Antique tomes’ spines can become damaged from exposure to the elements, improper storage practices as well as regular wear-and-tear. Using Adjustable Rare Book Boxes will ease the pressure on the spine and the book can be well preserved while stored either horizontally or vertically. Ripped off spines can be reattached using Spine Repair Tape.
Pressure Sensitive Mending Tissue is perfect for repairing torn or brittle pages.

We have collected some wonderful resources to help you identify, care for and preserve the literary treasures you may possess. Please feel free to download these PDF files on Care And Security Of Rare Books, How To Care For Bound Archival Materials, and What Makes A Book Rare? and read a comprehensive article on Display and Storage of Books. University Products offers numerous products, tools and literature for Rare Book Conservation.

Silent film of Mark Twain at “Stormfield”, Redding, CT 1909 (by Thomas Edison), courtesy of Online Archives and University of Cincinnati:

New Equipment Acquisitions Lead to Expanded Custom Capabilities

University Products Archival Solutions Blog custom boxesUniversity Products has added several pieces of new equipment to its New England manufacturing facility. The new equipment expands the company’s ability to provide custom enclosures and increases the options available to its customers.

Zund G3
University Products Archival Solutions Blog zund g3 custom archival box cuttingThe recently installed Zund G3 Digital Cutter allows the company to produce prototypes and small runs of custom size (and shape) boxes, folders, envelopes, etc. without the need of costly dies. This computer controlled machine automates all cutting and trimming functions and works on all archival paper and boards including Perma/Dur e-flute and b-flute corrugated board (see our video below).


Boxboard Laminator

University Products also added a boxboard laminator. This new equipment provides the company with the ability to laminate paper, cloth and other materials to its archival quality boards, creating unique and decorative exteriors for custom boxes.

Metal Stay Box Machine
University Products has also replaced its metal stay box machine with new faster and more efficient equipment. They have increased productivity and expanded the colors and sizes of metal stays available, adding to the options available for custom boxes.

No longer do museums, libraries and archives need to sacrifice form for function. With University Products expanded manufacturing capabilities, the customer can get the quality acid-free enclosures the company has always provided, in the exact sizes and look they want.