Angels Project at the Ukrainian Museum-Archives

Once again the Costume Society of America is sponsoring an Angels Project on the day before its Annual Conference and this year the project will be held on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at the Ukrainian Museum-Archives in Cleveland, Ohio.  This small museum was founded in 1952, is located in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, and is dedicated to preserving and sharing the Ukrainian culture and Immigrant experience.  The museum’s collection includes literature, recordings, photography, and artifacts in addition to approximately 200 to 300 un-housed and un-catalogued textile objects.

The Ukrainian Museum-Archives staff are in need not only of archival supplies, but hands on direction from Angel volunteers who donate their time, skills, and expertise to museums in need.  In May, the Angel Product participants will be vacuuming, photographing, labeling, documenting, and re-housing the costume and textile collection at the museum.

At the request of the Angels Project Committee, University Products has agreed to provide archival materials.  As in previous years, University Products is proud to help in these types of projects.  The company will be donating textile storage boxes, acid-free tissue, label holders, and Pigma pens.

Creating a Family Archive at the Thanksgiving Table

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we begin to anticipate a day filled with family, friends, food, celebration, sharing, and gratitude. Our Thanksgiving Day traditions are largely centered on family history, whether it is a special dish served every year, or a large gathering in a relative’s home.

The week leading up to Thanksgiving includes recipe planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation. This Thanksgiving, in addition to bringing food to the table, we seek to include a serving of family history.

We challenge you to join us in establishing a new family tradition by creating a family archive this holiday! Perhaps you’ll get inspired by the following fun ideas:

  • Bring out the photos! Dig out some old photos to pass around the table. This is a great way to spark memories and perhaps identify some of the unknown people in your photos! Afterwords, make sure to use archival quality albums or Boxes for your family treasures. Check out our Heritage Scrapbooks, Album Pages, and sleek Portfolio Binders.
  • Ask your relatives to share stories! Begin by asking elders at the table if they can remember what they typically ate for Thanksgiving when they were younger. Bring a small digital voice recorder and tape the conversations! Check out the Smithsonian’s Interview Guide for more ideas of questions to ask relatives!
  • Bring your camera and take new pictures! Invite your family to join a photo sharing website, or create a traditional Photo Album. Add new snapshots every year! These pictures can even serve as great holiday greeting cards or Postcards!
  • Time CapsuleIf you’ve inherited a family recipe, ask around the table and see if anyone wants to create an informal family cookbook. Our archivally safe Albums &  Pages can help collect and safely store the collected recipes and complete your project!
  • Create your very own family Time Capsule and decide on the date in the future to open it. Perhaps, Thanksgiving dinner in 10 years? Or even 20! Collect personal “artifacts” from all family members in presence and don’t forget to request something to be sent from the absentees.
  • Save information about items of sentimental (and/or monetary) value, by working on the Heirloom Diary together – the book contains space for detailing family heirlooms as well as the story behind them.
  • For the children at the table, create a family genealogy game by challenging them to match baby pictures to adult pictures. Or, make a personalized memory game using your own photos. Use their creative talents to build a family tree (2- or even 3-dimensional!) The children will become very familiar with their relatives, especially those they may not see very often.

These simple steps can help make your Thanksgiving a time of sharing family history and working to create a unique family archive. You may just discover information you have never known and learn something about your ancestors that you never imagined. You may even be surprised how your family traditions today have carried on or evolved between generations. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Museum on the Move

In some places they say moving is worse than (or at least equals) an earthquake. Now imagine moving a fragile and priceless Museum collection? Or, better yet, the entire museum! The challenges that museum professionals face when presented with a task of packing, transporting and re-installing precious artifacts can be daunting.
Each individual item needs to be assessed, based on it’s individual qualities and state. Precise measurements need to be taken. Custom temporary housing that can withstand the hazards of traveling (be it by air, or by car/truck) needs to be created. Special traveling arrangements, including such diverse details as security and climate control during the journey, have to be made.
Amongst several institutions that recently undertook such monumental tasks and lived to tell the tale, is the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which lent one of 64 objects from 21 collections that were delivered and set up at Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, OR. UPenn even dispatched a specialist, Katy Blanchard, keeper of the Near East collection, to head the unloading and installation of a 5,000 year old sculpture on loan for the ongoing show “Breath of Heaven, Breath of Earth: Ancient Near Eastern Art From American Collections” which will be on display at Hallie Ford until the end of this year.

Now, the process of moving the entire collection of Alaska State Museum to a brand new Alaska State Libraries, Archives and Museums building in Juneau hasn’t even started, but the staff and volunteers are hard at work, packing it all up and getting everything ready. Even though the trip won’t be long and most of the items will be moved on carts via a tunnel that will be built between the old and the new buildings, the task is not an easy one. Apparently there’s no manual on how to move a museum collection, so they had to improvise a lot.

Ivory cribbage boards sit in custom storage mounts made by museum professional Jon Loring. Photo by Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau.

Individually designed custom mounts and boxes were devised for each fragile item in the collection. Literally, each drawer, display and a box  of items has a special plan. Every item is numbered and the numbers are linked with the museum’s database which helps to keep track of the entire collection. Although they are still in the beginning of this road, museum staff are confident that by this time in 2016 when the new building opens it’s door, all the precious artifacts will be safely moved and preserved for admiration by the many generations ahead.
ethafoam planksAmong the many useful tools that might help to achieve such a task are:
Ethafoam planks, rods and sheets – lightweight, versatile archival foam material which is ideal for creating mounts, temporary, as well as long term storage housing for oddly-shaped 3-dimensional artifacts. Ethafoam cutting and shaping tools are also available.
Artifact Bubble Wrap and/or Polyester Batting will provide much needed cushioning and protection on the move.
Drop-N-Tell and Tip-N-Tell indicators together with large warningA-Frame Painting Transport Cart labels will serve as a caution against rough handling during shipping.
• Perma/Cor E-Flute and B-Flute Corrugated Board is a prefect material for creating custom-sized (and shaped) protective enclosures and boxes.
Glass Shield and Adjustable Frame Corner Protectors will temporarily protect your framed art from damage during the move.
A-Frame Painting Transport Cart is perfect for moving large heavy items around and beyond the museum walls.

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.

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

Charles Dickens’ Holiday Treasures

Tired of endless shopping, crowded malls and traffic jams? “Bah, humbug!” Get into the real holiday spirit with something traditional and even a bit old-fashioned. And nothing says “traditional Christmas” better than Charles Dickens and his wise tales.

If you are our fellow New Englander and can visit Boston, for something truly special, try doing The Freedom Trail Foundation’s Historic Holiday Stroll. Offered Thursday to Sunday from November 18 to January 31 (holidays excluded), costumed tour guides dressed in Victorian garb will help you revisit the days when Boston hosted the triumphant American premiere of Charles Dickens holiday classic A Christmas Carol. Hear the story of how Christmas and holiday traditions evolved in Boston and the highlights of the American Revolution as it happened just 75 years earlier.

If you don’t feel like leaving the house and braving the elements, you can still enjoy some of the Dickensian magic, but in a different way. Project Boz (“Boz” was Dickens’ early pen name) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute Gordon Library is helping modern readers experience the novels of Dickens in their original, serialized form. Famous for it’s rich collection of Charles Dickens materials, including rare first editions of almost all of his major works, manuscripts, and letters, the library is scanning and uploading for public access most of the novels in their original serial form, including original advertisements, and illustrations!

And if you are a world-traveler and just happen to be in London for the holidays, you simply MUST visit beautifully restored and just re-opened Charles Dickens Museum! For a “Very Dickensian Christmas” you can enjoy caroling and story telling, film screenings, walks and even festive food! It doesn’t get any better than that!

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
Charles Dickens

Conservation Photo Feature – Vega Papers Processing at Wistariahurst Museum

Vega Papers Processing (Wistaria Hurst)
Project archivist Emily Toder holding one of the newly labeled boxes on the last day of processing (photo courtesy of Wistariahurst Museum, Holyoke, MA)

Last winter, Wistariahurst Museum of Holyoke, Mass, was awarded a Mass Humanities grant to process the papers of Holyoke activist and community organizer Carlos A. Vega.  As the collection arrived in plastic bins, binders, and all sorts of acid-full paper cartons and boxes, one of the first stages of the project was to identify and acquire the archival supplies needed to suit the large task of rehousing and properly accommodating the various sizes and formats of the collection’s different materials.  Its administrative records, clippings, photographs, posters, plaques, memorabilia, a diverse assortment of buttons, and one pez dispenser turned out to span 43 boxes (24.5 linear feet) of University Products’ 60 pt. buffered acid-free document containers, corrugated bulk storage cartons, and photos boxes. The collection demonstrating Vega’s tireless commitment to social justice, and documenting myriad facets of the Latino experience this culturally unique area of Western Massachusetts, is now open for research at the Museum’s Carriage House Archives.

Wistariahurst Museum is dedicated to preserving Holyoke’s history and inspiring an appreciation of history and culture through educational programs, exhibits and special events.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Wistariahurst is the former home of William Skinner, a prominent silk manufacturer.

 

A University Products How-To Tip: Display and Storage of Books

Books present a variety of unique conservation concerns.  Numerous construction materials may include paper, leather, fabric, silk, thread, and adhesives, each of which have specific requirements in the area of conservation.  Unlike a photograph or simple sheet of paper, a book has moving parts (pages) and must be handled and manipulated to perform the function it was designed for.

Protection from temperature and humidity fluctuation, ultraviolet light, and damaging display or storage materials is necessary for the long-term survival of books.  Beyond that, books take on a whole new set of rules.

Open Books
Opening a book completely (180 degrees) can flatten the spine and cause considerable damage.  Collectors often wish to display the book opened. To do so safely, the book should not be opened more than 90 degrees, and both front and back covers should receive full support.This can be accomplished using commercially available book cradles, support wedges and book mounts. They should be manufactured of inert materials (usually Plexiglas) and provide smooth, strong support.

A sheet of polyester (Melinex) cut to the proper size is ideal for holding down “springy” pages of an open book on display.  Because it is crystal clear, the page can be viewed without obstruction.  In addition, it will protect the exposed page(s) from dirt, dust and fingerprints.  The polyester page protector should be fastened to the support, never to the book itself.

Closed Books Storage
Closed books are a little simpler to store.  Adequate circulation should be maintained within the storage area.  Books stored on shelves or in a book case should not be pushed against the back wall, but kept an inch or two away to allow circulation of air.  This is especially important if it is an exterior wall since changes in temperature and humidity are more likely to occur. They should be stored upright on the shelf rather than laid flat, but should not be allowed to lean since the strain could damage the spine.  Books with leather bindings should be stored away from those with cloth or paper bindings to prevent migration of naturally occurring acids and oils in leather from damaging paper or cloth bindings.  Like-size books should be stored together to provide proper support, but should not be so tight as to cause damage when removed or replaced.
The downside to storing your book collection closed and on shelves is that viewing the book requires handling the book.  Careless handling of books can cause irreparable damage, and a few common sense handling procedures can preserve a book in its pristine condition.  Instead of pulling a book out by the top of the spine, push in the books on either side and remove by gently grasping both sides (another good reason to leave a few inches of space behind the books).  Modern day books with dust jackets should be covered with a polyester book jacket cover. Book jacket covers are fairly inexpensive and provide increased protection from general wear and tear. They also prevent chemicals from body oils in the hands and fingers from damaging the book.  Use only polyester or other inert materials to cover books since some plastics or acidic papers can cause more harm than good.  Most libraries use polyester dust jacket covers.

Older/Damaged Books
Older books that are already exhibiting signs of weakness or damage must be treated differently.  These should be stored flat rather than upright to provide needed support, and never more than two or three books high.  Ideally, each damaged book should be stored individually in a box custom made to the book’s dimensions.  These boxes should be manufactured from archival quality materials only.

Some damaged books can and should be repaired. Repair work should only be attempted by a qualified  book conservator trained in using proper materials and techniques.  A book conservator can deacidify any books manufactured with acidic paper, repair tears in pages, tighten loose hinges, and create proper storage boxes, among other procedures.  Properly cared for, your book collection will last indefinitely.

 

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.