Celebrating Thomas Edison’s Birthday

Thomas Edison in 1887 signed photo University ProductsToday, electric light bulbs, recorded music, and motion pictures are so integrated into our daily lives that we take them for granted. We can thank Thomas Edison for these revolutionary inventions. He was one of American history’s most prolific inventors having 1,093 US patents bearing his name. He would be celebrating his 165th birthday on Saturday, February 11, 2012.

Edison was born and raised in Michigan, but by the 1870’s, he made the home of his inventions and research in Menlo Park, N.J. This facility was an innovation in itself as it was the first research laboratory of its kind stressing teamwork and scientific collaboration. The Menlo Park lab was built with the money Edison received from Western Union for selling his quadruplex telegraph in 1874. The entire lab was relocated and can be currently seen in Greenfield Village, part of The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.

thomas edison signed photo in polyester sleeve by university productsEdison’s additional inventions include the phonograph, electric light bulb, kinetoscope, and the carbon telephone transmitter among over a thousand others. The transmitter was still being used in telephones until 1980. Edison also helped advance film-making by pioneering the practice of copying films and widely distributing them. In an effort to better protect his copyrights and to ensure preservation of the films, Edison deposited prints of them on long strips of photographic paper with the U.S. Copyright Office.

University Products proudly owns several photographs of Edison, signed by the man himself, and we featured one of them on the cover of our catalog a few years ago. To protect your own photographic treasures, polyester sleeves offer a great storage solution. Our hand-held magnifiers with LED illumination give you an opportunity to get a closer look at your photos, and our white cotton gloves are essential in the handling of your collection.

Happy 200th Birthday Charles Dickens!

Charles Dickens’ classic holiday novella, A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843. In 2011, the original manuscript was given new life and extensive treatment from New York’s Morgan Library and Museum‘s crew of conservators at the Thaw Center for Conservation.  The manuscript restoration was done in anticipation of the bicentenary of the famed author’s birthday which is being observed around the globe today.

Charles Dickens, seen here in an 1860's photograph taken by famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady.

Each page, written word, and the binding itself were carefully examined before the treatment of the manuscript could begin. The initial steps of this process began with the removal of each page from the book’s binding. Each of these separated pages is then bathed in a combination of water and alcohol solution.

Soaking the paper in this solution caused a previously used adhesive to dissolve. According to Morgan conservators, the adhesive coating was probably applied sometime between 1910 and 1920. This now-antiquated technique, called “silking” was once used to strengthen and reinforce paper. The sheer silk coating tends to become brittle over time and loses its effectiveness.

The washing process was completed by a second bath in a combination of  calcium carbonate-enriched deionized water and alcohol. This bath has a neutralizing effect on soluble acids and adhesives. Dickens, like many other writers of the age, wrote in black iron-gall ink (iron gall ink test paper), which is water-resistant and adhered permanently to the paper’s surface.  However, with its high acidity, this ink caused the pages to deteriorate drastically and the ink itself changed to a dark brown tone over time.

After this washing, each page of the manuscript was air-dried and then humidified. To gently flatten each sheet, the pages were placed on blotting paper for several days. Each page was examined further  for tears, rips and holes, and those were repaired with Japanese tissue and a diluted wheat starch paste. Thanks in large part to the high quality paper that Dickens used, The Morgan’s conservators were pleased to report that the manuscript’s pages were in remarkably good condition after the conservation process and have incredibly similar color and flexibility to the original document penned by Dickens.

Reversing Water and Moisture Damage in Traditional Photographs

Photographs are the most common way to hold onto memories. However, water damage can both distort your photos and cause them to adhere to one another.

archival method for separating stuck photosThe gelatinous emulsion of a photograph acts like an adhesive when it becomes moist. As a result, pictures may adhere to one another when they are exposed to moisture or high levels of humidity. Trying to separate them can result in tearing and loss of portions of the image.

A photographic conservator will be able to separate most photos without damage. However, there is a technique that can be used to separate most photographs that doesn’t require a professional conservator. There is risk of further damage involved in the process, so it should only be used as a last resort – and never with any one-of-a-kind, valuable, or irreplaceable photos.

Place the stuck photographs image side up in a bath of room temperature distilled water (which can be purchased at most grocery stores or pharmacies) for a period of 15 to 30 minutes (longer exposure to water can result in distortion).

Remove and gently pull apart the photos with your fingers. A thin, silicone coated spatula inserted between may be required for stubborn cases.

Finally, shake off any excess water and place the photos image side up on paper towels or blotting paper to dry. Weight down the edges to minimize curling as they dry. This process can also be effective for photos that become stuck to glass while framed.

Though there are several ways to repair water-damaged photographs, the Image Permanence Institute recommends both blotting and air-drying in a very comprehensive guide on the subject. Blotting is the most widely recommended practice in drying wet photographs. Placing the wet prints in between sheets of blotting paper, while also applying constant pressure, ensures drying and consistent flattening of the photos. Air-drying can also be used, but be aware that this method has the potential to show cockling, wrinkling, and distortion.

For stuck photographs of high historical, sentimental, or monetary value, it is highly recommended that a photographic conservator be consulted.

University Products offers a wide variety of photo products that are sure to help you with your photo restoration and preservation projects.

His Songs are Our Songs: NEDCC Conserves Woody Guthrie Scrapbooks

In anticipation of this summer’s 100th birthday celebration of Woody Guthrie, the Northeast Document Conservation Center, in concert with the Woody Guthrie Archives, (curated by Guthrie’s daughter Nora) began the process of conserving and digitizing (made possible though a grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)) six of Guthrie’s scrapbooks and notebooks. The process of conservation included cleaning, digitizing and encapsulation.

Woody Guthrie publicity photograph for his 1943 autobiography, Bound For Glory. New York, 1942.
Woody Guthrie publicity photograph for his 1943 autobiography, Bound For Glory. New York, 1942. Photograph by Robin Carson. Encapsulation of photographs and fragile scrapbook pages in polyester film provides excellent protection during handling.
One of Woody Guthrie’s notebooks from 1952.
One of Woody Guthrie’s notebooks from 1952. Nora Guthrie, Woody Guthrie’s daughter and Archives Director, personally delivered materials from the Woody Guthrie Archives to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, MA, for conservation treatment and digitization.

These materials showcase the ideas, illustrations, and songwriting techniques of one of America’s musical treasures. All of these items are in Guthrie’s own handwriting and include lyrics, poetry, artwork, and photographs with handwritten captions. These books captured road trips that Guthrie and his family took through Oklahoma, Texas, California, Florida, and New York. The scrapbooks date back to the 1940’s and 1950’s and even include rejection letters from major record labels.

NEDCC’s process for conserving the scrapbooks included the removal of photographs for cleaning. Found on the back side of these were handwritten captions that shed light on the setting and subjects of the photos. “It has changed the way we research,” says Guthrie Archivist Tiffany Colannino. “And solved more than a few mysteries,” she added. The condition of some of the volumes was so poor that researchers at the Guthrie Archives had not been able to fully examine them. Through conserving these scrapbooks, NEDCC conservators were able to introduce new resources to the Guthrie Archives’ collection.

Included in this set was a 230-page book that contained details about Guthrie’s 27-year stay in New York City and his friends, associates, and collaborators there including Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Allan Lomax, and Sonny Terry. This scrapbook is now a cornerstone of a book project from Nora Guthrie and the Woody Guthrie Archives entitled My Name is New York: Ramblin’ Around Woody Guthrie’s New York Town; A Walking Guide that is slated to be published by PowerHouse Books in May, 2012.

With Woody Guthrie’s indelible influence on making music to bring about change, successors like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Bruce Springsteen have kept his message alive and with this conservation project and the resulting archival discoveries, more artists will continue to follow in Woody Guthrie’s footsteps.

If you have a special collection of photographs or documents, see University Products’ selection of photo products and archival storage folders & enclosures.

Washington Conservation Guild Meeting

New product for textile restoration - Miniature Suction ToolThe Washington Conservation Guild January Meeting took place on Thursday, January 5th at the S Dillon Ripley Center of the Smithsonian, 1100 West Jefferson Drive.  A reception began at 5:00 pm with talks starting at 6:00pm.  Among the sponsors of the event was University Products.  John Dunphy, who was representing the company, displayed a varietyNew Product - stylish and convenient lighted magnifying glasses of new items including a new miniature suction device, lighted magnifying glasses, and the new publication, Health & Safety for Museum Professionals, a joint publication of the Society of the Preservation of Natural History (SPNHC) and the American Institute for Conservation (AIC).  University Products is the official distributor of SPNHC publications.

New Product - Health & Safety for Museum Professionals book.While in Washington, John also visited the Lunder Conservation Center. Paper Conservator Kate Maynor was kind enough to show him around.  Like other visitors here, John had the unique opportunity to see conservators at work in five different laboratories and studios. The Center features floor-to-ceiling glass walls that allow the public to view all aspects of conservation work— work that is traditionally done behind the scenes at other museums and conservation centers. Interactive kiosks and special displays make it easy for visitors to learn about the importance of conservation and show how to take an active role in caring for public art and monuments, as well as how to care for personal treasures at home.smithsonian institution museum

During his brief visit to D.C., John also had the opportunity to visit friends at the Preservation Department of the Smithsonian Museum of American History, The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Museum Textile Services Conserves and Mounts A Star-Spangled Banner

With this past December’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, our friends at Museum Textile Services in Andover, Mass., took on the task of conserving an American flag from the US Coast Guard ship the USS Centaurus earlier in 2011. The USS Centaurus served as an attack cargo ship in WWII’s Pacific Theater including the Battle of Guadalcanal (in the Solomon Islands) in June 1944. The ship’s career also included being involved in the Battle of Okinawa and servicing Pearl Harbor.

American Flag from US Coast Guard ship USS Centaurus
The USS Centaurus flag prior to conservation, Courtesy of Coast Guard Historic Collection

Museum Textile Services’ conservation process required multiple steps and extreme care. With an additional flag that also served at Guadalcanal, the flag from the Centaurus was removed from its old backing fabric and vacuumed and humidified to remove particulates, folds, and wrinkles. Also, upon arrival to MTS, the Guadalcanal flag had such severe fraying that servicemen tied knots in the strands on the fly end. Not every knot was able to be untied prior to mounting.

Both the Centaurus and Guadalcanal flags were pressure mounted in an effort to cut down on the amount of required stitching. MTS used our quarter-inch archival Polyfelt to make a soft surface for the flags. This padding was placed on a solid support panel made by our friends Small Corp, Inc., in nearby Greenfield, Mass. MTS also used a UV-filtering acrylic box to complete the project.

If you require specialized archival materials for your textile conservation project, see University Products’ selection of textile conservation products.

Protecting Textiles with Photo-Tex Tissue

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has recently augmented their collection of antique gloves and wristlets as part of their Fashion Arts and Textiles collection. Many of the pieces in this collection are being stored and preserved with Photo-Tex tissue. Wristlet pieces in the collection that did not require padded supports, were stored and stacked in pairs with an interleaving of Photo-Tex. Additionally, a pair of lace gloves in this collection were stored with Photo-Tex for support and as a catch-all for any loose parts or pieces from the pair.

Archival Storage Tissue unbuffered, high-purity, 100% cotton all rag sheetNew for 2012, is the addition of Photo-Tex tissue to our inventory. This unbuffered, high-purity, 100% cotton all rag sheet meets the highest standards for the storage of photographs, textiles and works of art on paper, as well as silver and artifacts.

In addition to Photo-Tex, the Museum of Fine Arts used the following types of products to build the custom storage solutions for their antique gloves and wristlets: custom trays, 4 ply matboard, Volara, Tyvek, polyester batting, muslin, twill tape, polyethylene foam blocks, and Corrosion Intercept Film Rolls.

Protect your archival collection with the finest preservation materials from University Products!

 

Smithsonian Restores the Jefferson Bible

Thomas Jefferson was notorious for staying very busy in his years after leaving the White House. In 1820, our nation’s third president set out to assemble a “personal bible” consisting of passages from the first four books of the New Testament. The result was an 84-page compilation, cut-and-pasted from four bibles, of the teachings that resonated most with Jefferson. The Jefferson Bible, as it’s referred to by historians, was never mass-published, because Jefferson feared that these religious beliefs would be used against him by his political rivals and could have potentially offended religious officials. The book remained in the possession of Jefferson’s family until 1895, when it was purchased by the Smithsonian’s librarian and curator of world religions, Cyrus Adler.

Earlier this year, the Smithsonian took on the task of restoring the book. The project involved deconstructing, and then reconstructing this incredibly rare text. Everything from re-binding to page reconstruction went into this restoration project. Throughout the arduous repair process, the Smithsonian has kept the public up-to-date through blog posts, and later, a very comprehensive and interactive website devoted to the subject.

Many of the same types of materials that the Smithsonian’s staff used during this process can be purchased from University Products. For instance, many of the stubs and pages of the Jefferson Bible had to be repaired using a micro-spatula. Also, the Japanese paper Kozo, which has excellent aging properties, was used in repairing and protecting the leather cover on the book. If your project includes the repair of a rare book, look for University Products’ collection of book arts and conservation materials.

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Photographs on display at Currier Museum of Art

Backstage Pass: Rock & Roll Photography at Currier Art MuseumAre you ready to see some photos that…rock?

If you fancy yourself a rock and roll aficionado and are making your way to Manchester, N.H., don’t miss Backstage Pass, an exhibit that started earlier this year at Manchester, N.H.’s Currier Museum, showcasing some of the most iconic photographs in rock and roll history.

The artists captured in these famous photographs include Rock and Roll luminaries Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and The Sex Pistols. Legendary rock photographer, Bob Gruen, snapped a portion of these famous photos in the exhibit.

Arguably, Gruen’s most iconic photograph is one of John Lennon in a sleeveless New York City T-shirt standing arms folded with the Manhattan skyline as his backdrop. The photo, taken while the ex-Beatle was recording “Walls and Bridges” in the summer of 1974, became a famous one some six years later in the wake of Lennon’s death according to Gruen in a New York Times piece that appeared earlier this year.Backstage Pass: Rock & Roll Photography at Currier Museum of Art

Gruen had selected the photo amongst his Lennon collection to be displayed at Central Park’s band shell for the public memorial for Lennon in 1980. Gruen’s work is just a small sampling of the photographs on display at the Currier from more than 50 photographers.

Are you looking to archive (or even exhibit) your own photo collection? University Products has the professional archival products you need to preserve, protect and present your photographs. From framing essentials to photo storage supplies, our products can turn your photos “up to 11!”

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