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.

Recommended Reading

We’d like to share some wonderful online resources for reading about conservation, museums, archives and much more. Enjoy!

E-Conservation Magazine  – English-language e-Publication out of Portugal. Covers all sorts of conservation topics, from brush selection for painting restoration to chemical analysis of paper. Very professional, thorough articles.

Archive Journal – Relatively new online publication, featuring contributing staff from numerous colleges and universities around the US which focuses on the use and theory of archives and special collections in higher education.

Inside The Conservator’s Art – This blog, a behind-the-scenes look at conserving Egyptian artifacts at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, is actually in a dormant state right now, because the exhibit is over and the conservator blogger moved on to another task in the museum. But it remains available, and the topics, photographs and descriptions are absolutely stunning. Great read!

The British Museum Blog offers a lot of interesting info about the current events at the museum, but also at peek at the normally hidden archeology finds, conservation processes and preservation efforts.

The Bonefolder 2004-2012 archive of the online book arts publication, which, sadly is “no more”. But the back issues are full of interesting and educational articles, gorgeous photos of all kinds of items related to book-making, book-repair and book arts in general.

Memory of the World

UNESCO’s biennial Jikji Memory of the World Prize, established in 2004 and designed to promote preservation and accessibility of documentary heritage around the world is named after Jikji, the oldest existing book made with movable metal print.
The Prize consists of a biennial award of US$ 30,000 to individuals or institutions that have made significant contributions to the preservation and accessibility of documentary heritage. The award itself and the operating costs of the Prize as well as all costs related to the award ceremony are funded by the Republic of Korea. The Prize is open to the governments of Member States and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) maintaining formal relations with UNESCO.

2011 winner was National Archives of Australia, which plan on spending the prize (and matching it’s monetary value) on training the next generation of conservators, more specifically, to fund a six-months internship for conservation student Carolyn Milne who had started work in the conservation laboratory.

Here’s a long list of current nominants for 2012 award.

Traveling Exhibition Memory of the World

Mummy, dear…

Photo from the "in the Artifact Lab" blog by The Penn Museum Conservators.
The Penn Museum, which boasts one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts in the US, is giving the general public a chance to get uncommonly close and almost personal with some of them. In an effort to introduce visitors to the behind-the-scenes work of conservators, Penn created a workspace, surrounded by glass walls, in which the preservation processes can be observed. Moreover, Artifact Lab offers visitors a chance to speak with a conservator twice a day (Tuesday-Friday 11:15am and 2:00pm, Saturday-Sunday 1:00pm and 3:30pm). Apparently, the most common question people ask: “Is that a real mummy?”
Museum patrons can watch staff members use microscopes, brushes and other tools while they study and preserve the precious artifacts. Large screens allow visitors to admire the same magnified views as the professionals behind the glass wall. And if for some reason you can’t make a trip to Philadelphia, you can still follow the Lab’s wonderful blog, which features interesting facts about the artifacts, preservation tips (both preventive and restorative), tools and equipment used during conservation treatments and much, much more…

Celebrating American Archives Month All Across America

October is designated throughout the United States as American Archives month. The month was founded in 1969 by the Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, but now Archives Month is a collaborative effort by professional organizations and repositories. Society of American Archivists (SAA) takes active part in promoting and developing the month-long celebration, raising much needed public awareness and providing professionals with new ways to attract attention to the priceless treasures they preserve and valuable services they provide. Instruction on how to preserve family photographs and documents are also usually provided in each state. The majority of the states get involved and plan out different sorts of activities that pertain to archiving. You can follow the ongoing events by searching for hash tag #ArchivesMonth on Twitter and also by visiting SAA on Facebook.

Throughout Archives Month, museums, libraries, and other archival institutions all across the country are celebrating by defining their respective histories and the ways that make them unique to one another. Each participating state designed a poster that reflects the chosen theme while showcasing some of the finest archival ephemera and photo treasures normally hidden in boxes and folders.

Some states picked very unusual and original topics for 2012 Archives Month. For example, Washington is presenting it’s illustrious history of crooks, cops, and courts. University of Texas at Austin Archives were inspired by fashion and clothing, while The Oregon State Historical Records Advisory Board concentrated on a more serious issue by commemorating the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage in Oregon. From maps to music and home videos… Hey, even Rock&Roll Hall of Fame got in on some archival action 🙂

You can see the more comprehensive list of activities and themes on SAA’s site designated to Archives Month. or on the Council of State Archivists Archives Month Directory site, which sorted them by state.

A Restoration Gone Awry

Sometimes actions taken with best of intentions, can result in complete disaster. Such was the case in the tiny Spanish village of Borja, after an elderly woman claimed responsibility for attempting to restore a century-old fresco painted by Elias Garcia Martinez. The painting is a depiction of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns and is named Ecce Homo or “Behold the Man” translated from Latin. The new version unintentionally gives Jesus’s beard a drastic shave and removes the crown of thorns. Some have even said that the painting gives its subject a monkey-like appearance.

The Ecce Homo before and after "restoration."

Cecilia Gimenez told Spanish television that she wanted to help fix the painting after seeing it deteriorate from moisture and flaking caused by humidity over the years. She also told reporters that her “restoration” was done with the permission of the church’s priest. “The priest knew it,” Gimenez explained to local television. “I’ve never tried to do anything hidden.” Initially, officials believed that the painting fell victim to vandalism instead of the good intentions of one of the church’s parishioners. “I’ve seen many well intentioned do-it-yourself restorations; objects have great meaning to people, and they want to keep them looking good,” said Beth Edelstein, an associate conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. “It’s at least heartening that she did it out of love and care for the painting, rather than with an intent to do harm,” she added.

Fixes for the Fresco

Gimenez’s alterations to the painting render it largely unrecognizable compared to the original that had been hanging in her beloved church for years. Gone are the painting’s original proportions, perspective, shading, and depth. Edelstein believes that it is quite possible that Gimenez’s changes to the painting are in fact reversible. The elderly woman’s recollection of the materials she used and her methods will be a great help for conservators as plans for conservation move forward. “It is actually quite helpful that she can tell the conservators exactly what she did and what she used — we rarely have that information and often spend a lot of time trying to determine the answers to those questions,” she said to the Houston Chronicle.

The American Institute of Conservators strongly advises against do-it-yourself conservation projects undertaken by amateurs. On the organization’s website, there is a function to find a conservator in your area to perform the work needed on your piece. Additionally, AIC offers a comprehensive guide on how to choose the right conservator for your project, in addition to an exhaustive article regarding the care of paintings.

Despite AIC’s strong recommendations, amateur art restorers around the world now have a strictly internet-based chance to make their own changes to the Ecce Homo as part of the Cecilia Prize contest. Entry is simple: restore the painting using a virtual palette and then tweet  your submission using the #CeciliaPrize hashtag on Twitter. Your prize? A poster of the new Cecilia Gimenez version of the Ecce Homo.

A University Products How-To Tip: Encapsulation

One of the safest, most effective means of protecting a document from harm is through encapsulation. Encapsulation allows you to view and handle a document without exposing it to hazardous elements. The process involves the positioning of a flat document between two pieces of polyester film that are then sealed on all sides.

Clear Plastic Films
There are a variety of clear plastic films on the market. Some contain plasticizers or surface coatings that are inappropriate for encapsulation. They can and will react with the items they come in contact with, doing more harm than good. If you are planning to encapsulate, be certain you are using inert polyester. The material you choose should be free of plasticizers, or surface coatings of any kind.

Sealing
Sealing the polyester also involves specific methods and materials. Heat sealing and ultrasonic welding equipment is available for adhesive-free sealing of polyester. However, the price tag for this type of equipment may be prohibitive for the average collector. The alternative is to use a double sided pressure sensitive tape. The tape should feature a stable acrylic adhesive such as 3M’s No. 415 Polyester Transparent Tape.

Pre-Formed Encapsulation
An alternative to buying expensive equipment or using adhesive tape is to purchase pre-formed encapsulation units. They are available in sizes and styles that will accommodate items of just about any size. If you plan on encapsulating a small quantity of items, this may be the most economical and time saving approach. Should you choose this route, be sure, once again, that the encapsulation units you purchase are made from an inert polyester.

Research has shown that encapsulation can increase the rate of deterioration of an acidic document. A qualified conservator can determine if a document is acidic and also perform a deacidification treatment if it is required.

Besides the protection factor encapsulation provides, static electricity inherent in polyester film will hold a document in place. Worn and fragile documents benefit greatly from this static charge since it helps hold torn pages together. The downside is the same charge will attract some mediums, such as charcoal or pastels, away from the document. A qualified conservator can determine if a particular document should or should not be encapsulated.

Once an item is determined to be safe for encapsulation, and the procedure is complete, your document is safe from dirt, pollution and fingerprints. Encapsulation will not, however, protect your autographed document from the hazards of ultraviolet light, and temperature and humidity extremes. Your encapsulated document should be stored out of the light in a climate controlled environment. Ideally, it should be stored flat in an archival quality box.

Bridgeport’s Barnum Museum Comes Back From The Brink

In the spirit of their namesake, the Barnum Museum in Bridgport, Conn., has made the effort to ensure that the show will go on after sustaining heavy damage when an EF1 tornado ripped through the city on June 24, 2010. The museum, named after famed Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus showman P.T. Barnum, has been a landmark in the Southern Connecticut city since 1893. The museum’s over 25,000 artifacts reflect both Barnum’s life and personal items in addition to artifacts focusing on the history of the Greater Bridgeport area.

The Barnum Museum, pre-tornado.

Last month, The Barnum Museum reopened on a two-day-a-week schedule. Upon re-opening, the museum started a new and unique exhibition called Recovery in Action. This exhibition is presented on Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and allows visitors an opportunity to see the challenges of disaster recovery. The museum will showcase a unique array of artifacts including Tom Thumb’s miniature carriages and very ornate furniture owned by Barnum. However, these items will not be displayed traditionally. Instead, these pieces will be shown in their “evacuation” spaces. They were transfered from the museum and housed temporarily in the People’s United Bank Gallery. The museum’s visitors will see conservators work on artifacts while the recovery is in process. “The historic building itself is a work of art and the collection it contains is part of the overall restoration process,” Barnum Museum Executive Director and Curator Kathy Maher said about what’s taking place at her museum. “It’s now time to let everyone witness this tremendous effort as it unfolds,” she added.

The 2010 tornado caused millions of dollars in damage to the museum. A portion of the repair costs will focus solely on the museum’s collections. The American Institute of Conservation Collections Emergency Response Team in concert with both FEMA and the Institute of Museums and Library Services assessed the damage to these artifacts. The museum’s biggest problem has been elevated moisture levels that threaten pieces housed on the museum’s first floor and in basement level archival storage area. Amazingly, just one artifact was completely lost from the museum’s collection, a Barnum autobiography from 1870’s. Maher explained to New England Cable News that the tome was completely saturated and quickly molded over in the wake of the tornado.

According to initial estimates, well over 800 items in the museum’s collection will be reviewed, and many from that number will require some sort of conservation treatment. Included in the items that underwent this process was one of the museum’s pair of carriages built for Tom Thumb. The paint on the carriage had been stripped away by tornadic winds and debris as if it were scraped off by sandpaper. In fact, many of the painted surfaces in the museum experienced hydrothermal shock due to the drastic humidity and temperature changes from the storm. Conservator Chris Augerson coated the carriage with a thin layer of varnish before applying infill painting. Keeping with the tenets of conservation, these measures were taken so that this process can easily be reversed in the future. The fabric elements of the carriage are currently awaiting treatment.

In addition to the damage incurred by the museum’s collections, many structural deficiencies were spotted even before the tornado hit the building in 2010, including faulty support structures that hoist the museum’s famous dome. Due to the high speed of the tornadic winds and the compromised support structures, the domed roof actually shifted counterclockwise. To repair this, the dome will have to be supported by load-bearing columns placed on the museum’s third floor.  After the tornado, a historic buildings engineer also inspected the building’s structural integrity. The repairs to the museum are expected to be completed in another two years.

Natural disasters, like the tornado that hit the Barnum Museum, are largely unexpected weather phenomena. The key for a quick recovery from any natural disaster is preparedness. Both the National Park Service and Kansas Cultural Emergency Resources Network can provide you with numerous resources to help you formulate a plan in the event of a natural disa?ter. Once your disaster plan is finalized, University Products carries the necessary tools and equipment to protect your collections, as well as products to restore them if damage should occur.

 

Archival Photo Storage: Choosing The Best Enclosure

Your valuable photo collection is vulnerable to dangerous threats including environmental contaminants, water, fingerprint oils and PVC plastics. archival quality photo storage box drop front blackWe have products and solutions to protect and preserve your photos for many years to come. University Products offers a wide variety of archival photo products that will help you with your photo restoration and preservation projects.

Included in these products is our line of custom archival boxes that have passed the Image Permanence Institute’s Photo Activity Test. The Photo Activity Test (PAT) evaluates photo-storage and display materials and how they interact with photographic materials. This test can determine the archival quality of materials including, but not limited to, paper, boards, and plastics. The components of such materials are also tested. These may include inks, tapes, paints, and labels.

 

archival quality photographic plastic enclosure sleeveOver 8,000 samples have undergone the PAT test in more than the two decades of the test. This test is administered by stacking materials in contact with image interaction and stain detectors. These stacks are then placed in a humidity and temperature-controlled chamber to simulate aging. This climate-altered chamber stays at a temperature of 70 degrees centigrade and 80% relative humidity. The incubation process of each sample takes place over the course of a 15-day period. Test results are sent to clients and manufacturers within 4-6 weeks after the test is administered.

archival quality photo negative slide storage pagesIn addition to our line of custom archival boxes, University Products offers photo pages and sleeves that have passed the PAT. Per the recommendation of the National Archives, polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene enclosures provide the most stable and non-damaging storage environment for archiving your photos. Unlike PVC plastics, these materials are inert and do not stick to your photographs.

photo tex archival quality interleaving tissueAt one time, it was believed that photographs stored in buffered enclosures might be adversely affected by buffering. This is no longer believed to be true except for a couple of specific types of photographs. With dye transfer prints and cyanotypes, unbuffered enclosures should be used. The image of both print types can be harmed by alkalinity. University Products’ new Photo-Tex tissue was mentioned on our blog earlier this year as a suitable solution for interleaving between photographs when buffering is not desired.

 

Will You Be Our Archival Valentine?

valentine card archival storage and preservation university productsOn Valentine’s Day, let’s not forget about the Valentines themselves. Naturally, I’m talking about the cards, which besotted lovers exchanged for what seems like forever. In reality, the art of the Valentine Card migrated from England to the USA in the middle of 19th century, thanks to Esther Howland (1828–1904) of Worcester, Massachusetts.

valentine card archival storage and preservation university productsEsther was a daughter of a large book and stationary store owner, and after receiving a frilly Valentine card from one of her dad’s British associates, she began importing paper lace and floral decorations from England. She made dozens of hand-made card samples and with help from her salesman brother, got $5000 worth of orders on the first try. She developed and ran a very successful business, eventually becoming known throughout the US and is to this day called “The Mother of the American Valentine.”

archival quality valentine card memory albumWhether for sentimental reasons, because you are a serious collector, or just because you simply adore all the flowers, hearts and cupids, proper storage is the key to ensure that your beloved Valentines will last forever. University Products’ Oversize Memory Albums and Pages will protect and preserve the cards (or any other paper ephemera) while displaying them in an attractive and simple way. You can also choose from our many Museum Quality Boxes and/or Archival Storage Enclosures.

Also, for simple but effective advise on storage and preservation of your Private and Family Collections, we recommend Northeast Document Conservation Center’s excellent online resources.