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.

We Are Crazy About These Collections!

Stirling District Asylum’s 50 volumes of meticulous medical records, detailing the care and treatment of mental health patients in Central Scotland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were transferred for treatment and preservation to the University of Stirling Archives. They are undergoing thorough cleaning, and after being cataloged will provide wealth of historical, social and medical information for genealogical and historical researchers at the archive.

1446 items removed from patients' stomachs. Photo from the Glore Psychiatric Museum.

Glore Psychiatric Museum, part of St. Joseph, Missouri Museum Group, boasts probably the largest collection showing the evolution of mental health care in the United States. Appropriately located in one of the buildings of ‘State Lunatic Asylum No. 2’ which opened in November of 1874 with 25 patients, the museum hosts multiple full-sized replicas, interactive displays, audio-visuals, artifacts, and documents to illustrate the history of the treatment of mental illness.

Last but not least, Mütter Museum at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is celebrating it’s 150th anniversary and is working on restoring it’s Hyrtl Skull Collection, consisting of 139 fine specimens, all of which are now up for “adoption”. During the SOS (Save Our Sculls) Campaign, the $200 price of your contribution would assist with initial cost of cleaning, repair, and remounting of your chosen artifact and your (or somebody else’s) name will be permanently included on the the skull mount!

For the Love of Valentines

Antique Valentines CardsLast year, we wrote about history of Valentines, but this time, we’d like to simply admire some very special holiday cards we found on the web…

In this lovely video, conservators from The Currier Museum of Art, an internationally renowned art museum located in Manchester, New Hampshire, are demonstrating some very delicate fanciful cards from the late 19th century donated to the museum by the family of John W. Sanborn:

And in this photoset, courtesy of Chip Oglesby/chipoglesby.com you can see a more personal side of Valentines, complete with his mother’s comments on the actual history of each card, who they were given to and from sometime between 1930s and 1950s. You can read more about these cards in his original blog post here.
greeting card archival storage boxCards appear to be in great shape (a few creases and rips non withstanding) with bright colors and intricate details intact. We highly recommend storing cards in Acid and Lignin Free Boxes so they would last for a very long time and will be able to “tell” their stories for generations to come. Happy Valentines Day!

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.

Happy 130th Birthday, FDR!

The 1934 White House Birthday Party had a “Caesarian” theme, with guests wearing togas and centurion costumes.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, was born on this day in Hyde Park, New York in 1882, so today we are celebrating his 130th birthday. Roosevelt himself seems to be a big fan of Birthdays. Members of his “Cuff Link Gang”, a group of close associates, usually gathered for themed meetings around FDR’s birthday. And later on, he established the National Committee for Birthday Balls that sponsored charity parties across the nation. Even though the Birthday Balls ended in 1945 with the death of President Roosevelt, both of their legacies live on in the March of Dimes, which helped to eradicate polio and continues raising funds for medical research and works to improve the health of mothers and babies.

Historic view of FDR Library archival stacks, featuring the original document boxes. FDR’s carefully arranged shelving remains in place in some areas of the Library today.

President Roosevelt happened to be an avid collector – from stuffed birds and stamps to prints and books. During his 12 years in the office, many presidential gifts and other memorabilia joined his personal collections. When FDR donated his personal and presidential papers to the government in 1939, it formally started the Presidential Library System. At the same time, Roosevelt pledged part of his estate at Hyde Park, New York to the United States, and his friends formed a non-profit corporation to raise funds for the construction of the library and museum building. The National Archives took custody of his papers and other historical materials and to began administering his library.

University Products' Archival Quality Clamshell Boxes
Because the President needed a wheelchair for daily mobility, the library’s archival shelving had to be spacious enough to accommodate it. Roosevelt personally designed the document storage boxes initially used to house his papers. These Clamshell Boxes allowed his own lap-top style reading while in the storage areas and acted as a sort of paper tray. For preservation purposes, these boxes have since been replaced with newer, acid-free archival containers, but FDR’s original shelving remains in place in many parts of the Library storage areas.

FDR amassed an enormous number of political and personal artifacts, including ephemera and souvenirs from his multiple election campaigns. The Center for New Deal Studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago holds nearly 1,500 artifacts from the Remembering FDR memorabilia collection, on loan from Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Most of it comes from Joseph M. Jacobs, a Chicago labor lawyer, who managed to accumulate the largest private compilation of FDR’s paraphernalia.

More interesting Places and Websites to visit:
FDR Day By Day

Presidential Library and Museum

FDR Presidential Library & Museum on Flickr
Roosevelt Campobello International Park

World Famous Tapestry Comes Alive

The Bayeux Tapestry, is probably one of the most famous pieces of embroidered cloth (yes, despite it’s name it’s not really a tapestry) in the world. This massive (nearly 230 ft) depiction of the Norman conquest of England which was first mentioned in 1476, has survived multiple invasions, wars, revolutions and finally, after nearly being taken away by the Nazis during the WWII, was returned to it’s home town of Bayeux in 1945, where it is still exhibited at Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux. Amazingly, the Tapestry has survived over nine centuries practically unscathed!

The Tapestry serves as a tremendously important historical document, even though it was commissioned by the House of Normandy, and presents a rather one-sided view of the event. In 2007 it was added to the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

The artifact is embroidered in wool yarn on linen, which is why it is not technically a tapestry (in which the design is woven into the cloth). It has been patched in numerous places and some of the embroidery (especially in the final scene) has been reworked, but we can be certain that it maintained much of its original appearance seeing that it compares closely with a careful drawing by Antoine Benoît made in 1730. It has quite a few replicas and has inspired some pretty impressive imitations around the world including the amazing needle lace 30ft “table runner” in the Textile Collection of the National Museum of American History.

The real thing, however, is still in the little French town of Bayeux, where it is housed in a long glassed vault with a door. In case of fire, gas cylinders will trigger automatic extinguishers. The vault is also equipped with an air conditioning system to preserve the embroidery. But if you are not planing to visit Normandy any time soon, you can see the The Bayeux Tapestry “come alive” in this wonderful animation:

New How-To Video on Mount Making

University Products is adding instructional videos to its www.universityproducts.com website, and the first video is now available. The new series of videos will showcase the company’s line of tools and equipment in operation, as well as demonstrating materials and offering assembly instructions.

The video series are designed to provide customers with an understanding of how tools and equipment are used, and the potential applications for products that will save time and money, and improve collections care.

The debut video highlights the creation of Ethafoam® Cavity Mounts for 3-dimensional objects. This instructional video demonstrates mount making tools including the Ethafoam® Knife/Saw, Benchmark® Foam Knives, and the Quick-Cut Hot Knife in use.  In addition, a variety of mount making materials including Ethafoam, Artifact Wrap, and Polyester Batting are included in the demonstration.

In the video, Ethafoam is cut to size to accommodate a specific object.  A cavity is then created in the Ethafoam using a variety of cutting tools and contour gauge for measuring the depth of the cavity.  Finally, appropriate padding and lining materials are added to create the perfect storage mount.

Future videos will include the use of Fosshape for creating lightweight forms for costume display, the Colibri Book Covering System in use, a demonstration of the University Products’ new Polyester Spot Welder and dozens of others.

We want to make you a star!  Share your video of University Products’ tools or equipment in use in a professional library, archives, or museum setting and you could receive up to $100 in free supplies for your organization.  Email mpfoster@universityproducts.com for details.

Not So Ephemeral Library

Prelinger Library
Prelinger Library, photo courtesy of meetar on Flickr

{ Ephemera (singular: ephemeron) is any transitory written or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved. The word derives from the Greek, meaning things lasting no more than a day.}


The Prelinger Library
is an independent research library located in San Francisco’s South-of-Market neighborhood. It is open to anyone for research, reading, inspiration, and reuse.

Founded in 2004 by Megan Prelinger and Rick Prelinger, the library is a vast collection of the most fragile of artifacts – 19th and 20th century historical ephemera, periodicals, maps, and books. Never intended for longevity, these, mostly image-heavy pieces of history are carefully picked and preserved for free perusal, copying, and in many cases – scanned and available for downloading.

The Library is truly a local community project, consisting of donated materials, being sustained with help of volunteers and collaborating with local artists, crafters, writers, and activists.

By definition, ephemera is not a long-lasting media, which makes it much harder to preserve. However, proper handling and storage techniques can make a world of difference and allow you to enjoy collectible (rare, interesting or sentimental) ephemera pieces for a very long time. As with any artifact, the less direct handling – the better. Cotton gloves should be used to avoid transfer of harmful fingerprints. Clear archival quality enclosures will keep the fragile paper safe from ripping and environmental dangers, such as humidity, dust and dirt. And last but not least, archival quality acid-free boxes or albums will protect your treasures for long-term storage. University Products’ website has an entire section dedicated exclusively to products designed to protect your Ephemera collection.