Robert Fulton’s Birthday

Robert Fulton , who was born on November 14, 1765, in Little Britain, PA, was an American engineer and inventor who is widely credited with developing the first commercially successful steamboat. In 1800, he was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte to design the Nautilus, which was the first practical submarine in history. He is also credited with inventing some of the world’s earliest naval torpedoes for use by the British Navy.

University Products’ founder, Dave Magoon, is quite a collector of paper ephemera and we were able to get our hands (and cameras) on some of the pieces from his collection related to Robert Fulton and his amazing inventions. The best way to protect paper artifacts such as these is to ensure they are stored in a dry cool place. Archival encapsulation (to shield it from dust, dirt and other dangers) as well as appropriate box storage solution (to protect from light and other hazardous elements) can greatly extend the life of even most fragile paper treasures.

Conservation Dance

We decided to share with you this wonderful video, showing (and describing) conservation process that took place at the esteemed Victoria and Albert Museum‘s conservation labs a few years ago, during preparations for a large exposition dedicated to Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. An extremely diverse collection, ranging from theatrical set decorations to ballet costumes, worn by world renown dancers, with everything in between (amazing posters, created by some of the greatest artists of the time, photos and other mementos). Costumes, obviously, presented biggest conservation challenges, being actual pieces, made and used for dancing, some of them extremely fragile but nonetheless impressive in their imaginative designs and meticulous detailing.

Conserving Diaghilev from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

Dead Sea Scrolls Visit New England

There is a very old and honorable guest visiting New England, more specifically – Boston, Massachusetts. This guest has been around… longer than our current calendar, is fragile and extremely brittle, yet, it’s still standing, and can even travel around the world on occasion! The guest of honor, of course, is the exhibit of Dead Sea Scrolls, joined by a large collection (more than 600 objects) of artifacts on loan from Israel Antiquities Authority.

The exhibit, Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times, opened at the Museum of Science this week with the main attraction being, of course,  2000+ year old fragments of the manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible. Mostly written on parchment (although there are some on papyrus and bronze), these precious texts survived all this time because they were hidden in dark caves in the dry and arid climate of the Qumran area adjoining the Dead sea. Dead Sea ScrollOriginally discovered by a Bedouin shepherd around 1947, the first found scrolls underwent some very rough handling (hanging from a tent pole and occasionally being passed around in attempts to figure out their value), and sustained considerable damage. After that, they traveled around, sustaining further damage (one was stuck between two pieces of window glass, trapping the moisture with it, others were nearly destroyed with glue and tape during attempts to “fix” them, and quite a few suffered major mildew and acid damage from being stored in a damp vault placed in non-archival manila envelopes). But once they were finally identified and acquired by the Antiquities Authority, major preservation efforts were made. Tellingly, the maximum time conservators allow for them to be displayed is 90 days, after which the 10 featured scroll fragments will be switched out with new pieces.

Since 1991, the scrolls reside in solander boxes in a climate controlled laboratory while Israel Museum conservators concentrate on removal of tape, oils, metals, salt and other contaminants using the most advanced modern scientific methods. The Museum and Google joined forces to complete the digitization project which is due to be finished in 2016, but you can already scroll (pun intended) through the scanned texts, zooming in areas with very high resolution views, and even read the instant online translation.

Preserving the Old Glory

Archival Quality Flag Box from University ProductsMemorial Day was established for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces and naturally, the American Flag takes center stage in this somber celebration. There are very particular rules and procedures, called collectively The Flag Code for everything from carrying and hanging to folding and disposal of Old Glory (which are actually part of U.S. legal code). Although “flag etiquette” is not particularly enforced, taking good care of your cherished symbol will exponentially increase it’s life span, whether it’s brand new or an old family heirloom!

Conservation – As with any textile, make sure to conduct all necessary cleaning and repair before attempting to store or display the flag. Checking for possible insect infestation/ damage is always a good idea with textiles, especially if previous storage conditions were not ideal. Once it is deemed clean of unwanted visitors, conservators start by carefully removing dust, dirt and other environmental debris, treating stains with appropriate cleaning products and, if required, mending rips and/or signs of wear and tear. Old Flag conservation, repair and mounting at the Museum Textile ServicesWe always recommend contacting a professional conservator if you are dealing with an especially fragile item of high monetary or sentimental value. Our friends at Museum Textile Services specialize in treating all sorts of fabric treasures, including flags. Click on the image to read just one of their flag-restoration stories.

Cleaning – Minimize washing or cleaning of older flags. You should not wash or dry clean them except with the advice of a professional conservator. However, vacuuming gently (on low suction) using a brush attachment covered by a clean piece of cheesecloth is usually a safe and effective cleaning method. New flags, depending on the type of material, can usually be washed by hand using a mild soap.clear view flag storage box

Special Storage – triangular-shaped archival quality boxes are designed specifically for storing properly folded flags. Acid-Free Tissue or Polyester Batting may be used for stuffing and support, if needed. University Products offers 2 kinds of ready-to-assemble flag boxes: the Archival Quality Flag Box in Blue/Gray Corrugated Board and the Clear-View Flag Box in 20pt. inert Polyester.

Day at the Museum

International Museum DayThe annual International Museum Day, established by The International Council of Museums (ICOM) will take place on or around May 18 and will involve more than 30,000 museums in over 100 countries around the world. The theme of this year’s celebration is: Museums (Memory + Creativity) = Social Change and the offerings for museum-goers are designed to entice all senses:

TASTE – At the Archaeological Museum, Arlon, Belgium,
guided tour with a spicy taste are offered, in relation to Gallo-Roman food, followed by a tasting session of food and drinks famous in the Antiquity.

TOUCH – In Lima, Perú, at the Museo de sitio Arturo Jiménez Borja-Puruchuco,
conferences and artistic presentations will take place. Conferences are essentially intended for the craftsmen in general on the ancestral techniques of production of ceramic, textiles and work of metals, in addition to the display of drawings used to explain the working techniques.Le Jardin des Sciences

SMELL – in Strasbourg, France, at Université de Strasbourg’s Jardin des Sciences festivities will include tours of the botanical garden, the Herbarium, and the university gardens, and the planetarium.

SIGHT – In Nigeria‘s National Museum Lagos objects from the reserve will be displayed in the museum courtyard. Lecture on IMD theme will be given on May 21 by a museum professional, followed by a cultural dance by a professional dance troop and a theatrical performance on IMD theme by museum staff.

Money Museum of the Bank of LithuaniaA lot of the Museum Day activities will be FREE of charge. For example, at the Money Museum of the Bank of Lithuania, in Vilnius, Lithuania, which offers a memorable interactive journey through the world of money, there will be no entrance fee for a day!

A lot of special exhibitions will be INTERACTIVE – at the Stewart Museum, in Montreal, Canada, animated model of Montreal will be used, with six touch screens representing different areas of the city around 1750, to discover its little-known history and explore the way of life, streets, ancient buildings, and historical figures that shaped the city.

At the Hong Kong Museum of Art it will be very HANDS ON – under the guidance of the conservators, workshop participants will experience the fun and challenges of conservation work through the making of plaster models and subsequent application of gold gilding. In addition, participants can talk to conservators to have a better understanding of conservation work.

It will be DARK in Vagos, Portugal‘s Museu do Brincar (Toy Museum) at the night-time tours at the light of the lantern and QUIET in National Art Museum of Kiev, Ukraine,
at the meeting of people who talk using images instead of words.

It could be FUN, like in Guatemala with exhibitions on the theme of “Parties and Celebration of Guatemala’s Old Days” or SERIOUS, like in Cairo, Egypt Children Museum, where a seminar on Museum Education Development will be organized to train museum professionals and curators on the principles and techniques of museum education.

But no matter where you are… GO TO A MUSEUM on or around May 18th. You will be glad you did!

Night at the Library

It is no wonder that self-proclaimed “international web-action” Biblionight (site in Russian only) was conceived and takes place in the territory of Russia and some Former Soviet Republics. In the land where Libraries are revered almost as (or sometimes even more) than churches, an event where people get a look at the inner-workings of the temples of knowledge sounds very natural and exciting. During the day, libraries and archives are a somber, academic place, “policed” by super strict librarian ladies, one night a year, the motto becomes “Be Loud, you’re in the Library!”.
On the night from April 19 to April 20th, hundreds, if not thousands of institutions throughout the region (from tiny countryside libraries to giant state archives) opened their doors for the enthusiastic public and tried to make it as fun as possible. The main focus of the event is promoting literature and reading, while using various formats to attract as many people as possible and getting them interested in books and libraries.

One of the major organizations that took part in this year’s event (which begun in 2011 but has already gained wide popularity) is the famous Russian State Library in Moscow, known affectionately as “Leninka” (quite naturally, it used to be named after Lenin). The State Library is home to millions of artifacts (books, journals, periodicals) from state and over 200 private collections. It’s vast collections are accessible to the general public (over 18 years of age) during normal business hours, although it might take about 2 hours to receive a requested volume from the storage area. The old building still employs some archaic contraptions for book transportation as well as a pneumatic inter-office messaging system. From a conservation point of view, the system doesn’t seem very sound (even the older, fragile looking books don’t seem to have protective individual enclosures) but there’s a massive dust-removing machine, supposedly the only one of it’s kind in Russia.

As part of Biblionight, Leninka opened its’ back doors to curious book lovers, who got to experience the library from the inside. Late at night, small groups were given the guided tours of the common areas (even the ones that are currently under construction), as well as various book repositories, archival storage room and shelves filled with rare collections. Participants got to leaf through some aging tomes with gorgeous original illustrations, and look at thematic collections of periodicals and other printed materials. The night was truly magical!   All images courtesy of photographer Nina Takovaya

Latest Presidential Library Praised for Conservation Inside and Out

George W. Bush Presidential Center Dallas, TXAlthough President George W. Bush is not famous for his ecological innovations or environmental initiatives, the New Presidential Center carrying his name is to be commended on achieving Platinum certification in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) program.
Dedicated on April 25 and opening to the public today, on May 1, 2013, the building is located in Dallas, Texas features green roofing systems to reduce heating and cooling demands, solar panels for producing electricity and hot water, with only local building materials sourced, and a rainwater recycling system. Another clever feature is literally hidden in it’s architectural design – a large portion of the building is wedged into a sloping site, which effectively keeps out of sight most of the necessarily windowless space required for archival storage.

The Center houses, among other things, the 13th Presidential Library and Museum administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. As other Presidential Libraries formally started by FDR, it preserves various artifacts related to President Bush’s years in office, as well as a multitude of Presidential Gifts, received by him and the first lady. Some of the gifts can be viewed in all their 360 degrees glory in this online gallery.

Fragile Balance

Three standard box sizes and some examples of glass negatives with their four-flap enclosures open.

We came across an article in AuthentiCity, The City of Vancouver Archives Blog, describing a recent project completed by archive’s volunteers. The project consisted of cataloging and creating archivally safe housing for a large (over 8000!) collection of glass negative in various sizes. Not an easy task!

First, each negative was placed in a convenient 4-flap acid-free paper envelope, which was marked on the spine for easy browsing. Next step was re-housing the negatives in archival boxes which came in standard sizes, but some needed to be modified (by adding foam to the bottom and/or by adding corrugated board dividers) to accommodate size variations. The light-weight sturdy corrugated dividers within the box assure snug fit and immobility of the negatives which now uniformly stand on their side and also add air circulation around small groupings of negatives. Each box was also labeled on the front, so it can be easily spotted and identified while standing on the shelf among others.

Glass negatives stored neatly in their special modified box. Photo by Cindy McLellan.
Glass negatives stored neatly in their special modified box. Photo by Cindy McLellan.

This seemingly complex but necessary storage process provides maximum protection from the elements:
• paper envelopes protect from dust and fingerprints during handling
• board and foam provide cushioning and air circulation
• archival grade specialty boxes shield from dirt, dust, light and moisture while holding negatives upright and supported on all sides

Cudos to Vancouver Archives and their dedicated volunteers for tackling such large but important project and preserving fragile treasures, such as these Glass Negatives so they would continue providing priceless historical information to future generations!

Hidden Treasures

Brooklyn College Time CapsuleIn 1955, “Before a sun-soaked crowd of 1,500 viewers,” the Brooklyn College president Dr. Harry Gideonse, who served from 1939 to 1966, and Brooklyn Borough President John Cashmore placed a watertight copper box into the cornerstone of what was to become the Walt Whitman Hall.

More than 50 years later, a construction crew, demolishing the Hall to make way for the new Center for Performing Arts, discovered the hidden treasure and brought it to light. Among other things, the box contained some Brooklyn College memorabilia, President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration commemorative medal and some personal items of then college president Dr. Gideonse. All items were sent to the college library’s archive to be preserved and placed in protective enclosures before becoming available for public viewing. All the items appear to be in great shape and represent a great piece of the college’s history.

Time CapsuleThis Top 10 Incredible Time Capsules list on Listverse.com recounts some of the most grandiose and ambitious projects of this sort. But you don’t have to be part of a large Japanese corporation or Space Program to create a very special Time Capsule for your descendants. Although it is not strictly an “archival” preservation method, no truly valuable family heirlooms should be put in the capsule. Make sure both the capsule and your items are absolutely dry. Avoid staples, paper clips and rubber bands and separate the items as much as possible, reducing the risk of interaction of various materials. That said, some appropriate ephemera, photos, mementos and personal items will most certainly create a great educational and emotional “present” for future generations!