Preserving New Hampshire’s Past for the Future

One of America’s earliest and most successful operetta composers, George W. Stratton (1830-1901), was one of the few to compose and self-publish operettas entirely for children. He and his wife never had children, but instead brought joy to youth through their widely performed showpieces with chimerical plots and advanced choruses, solos, duets, and even recitative. Mrs. Stratton worked with her husband to write lyrics and draw cover artwork. In 1885, they sought a final resting place for their legacy, and gave to their native town of West Swanzey, New Hampshire, the “Stratton Free Library and Art Gallery.”

Stratton provided the library some 2,000 of the best books in the English language, over 200 pictures selected in Europe to be educational in the lines of art, history, or architecture, and music volumes by the finest classical composers to that date. His family trust maintained the library until 1914, when it was given to the town. Alas, much of the artwork was sold in the 1920s to raise funds for the library. At the moment, library has 5 of Lucy Stratton’s oil paintings, and as it happens, they have just heard from someone, whose parents bought one of the paintings by Lucy and he is going to return it to the library.

Upon visiting the Stratton Free Library, one would find only two rooms with minimal belongings. A marble bust of Stratton stands in the main hallway along with neat rows of brown leather-bound books arranged in glass cases. The once-filled gallery is now left with only two landscape paintings. An old trunk contains various operettas and sheet music with exquisite detail. Every booklet includes specific stage directions, costume descriptions, and previews of new operetta releases. One of Stratton’s most notable works, Fairy Grotto, written in 1872, has a plot reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with a whimsical musical overtone.

Anne Meyer, a “generalist” conservator with a wealth of knowledge, works in the library taking care of the remaining artifacts of the library’s benefactor and his wife. She began as a curious child with an interest in antiques and personal history, and now focuses mostly on restoring textiles, costumes, and period pieces. Her work at the library includes removing over a century worth of dust, finger oils, improper storage damage, and mold with Groom-Sticks, Hydrophilic Sponges, and Wishab Dry Cleaning Sponges. She also spends a lot of time advising visitors on how to preserve their own historical treasures.

Along with the collection of operettas found in the library, many works have also been donated or purchased by the town or Stratton trust. The music that once brought joy to countless children and adults is now being restored in hopes of continuing Stratton’s legacy of great American children’s music.

For more information on the life and works of G.W. Stratton please call (603) 352-9391 or visit the Stratton Free Library, 9 Main St, Swanzey, NH

Custom Mount Making for Books

There are so many ways to display books, and by using Vivak® Polyester Sheets, you can create a unique design that safely shows off your book’s best features.

In our How-To: Mount Making using Vivak Polyester Sheets tutorial we have instructions to create a basic mount out of Vivak. For cutting any mount out of this material it is best to use the Swivel Blade Acrylic Cutters or Heavy Duty Blade.

The great thing about Vivak is that it becomes soft and pliable when heated, making it easy to form into almost any shape. Once it cools it retains in the shape it has been given and offers superior impact strength. To create creases, you can save time, effort, and obtain better results by using an Acrylic Sheeting Bending Strip. This will heat only the narrow area that is being formed. For a wider, more gradual bend, it is best to use a Heat Gun.

Besides the style of book mount shown in our How-To, there are many ways to create one specifically for your needs. You can experiment with combining boards and Vivak, and using display accessories like Clear Polyester Strips. Here we have examples of other styles thanks to Tim Corlis at Rutgers University, Special Collections & University Archives.

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

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.

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.

 

Stereographs and the Stereogranimator

stereo card viewerA current and popular trend in film-making is shooting films in eye-popping 3-D format. Throughout history, 3-D technology has evolved from the simple red-blue anaglyphs of the mid-20th century, to big-budget effects that are displayed on the cinema screens today. But the fascination with 3-D and special effects is certainly not a new phenomenon, and a new project from the New York Public Library has rekindled interest in stereographs, a precursor to 3-D, with their Stereogranimator. This new page puts the NYPL’s large collection of over 40,000 stereographs at your fingertips where they can be instantly converted, viewed and shared as either animated GIFs, or 3-D anaglyphs. This initiative was loosely based on the works of artist Joshua Heineman on his site, Cursive Buildings, that he created in 2008.

stereo card archival storage boxStereographs were a popular form of entertainment over a nine-decade period spanning from the 1850’s to the 1930’s. Queen Victoria praised stereographs and consequently popularized them after they were displayed at London’s famed Great Exhibition in 1851. Oliver Wendell popularized this medium in America with his invention of the hand-held stereoscope and promotion of stereograph libraries. The first of these types of images were printed on copper (daguerreotypes) or glass (ambrotypes). It wasn’t until the printing of stereographs on card stock that their popularity truly skyrocketed. Eventually, companies like the London Stereoscopic Company started to establish and sell millions of stereoscopes and stereographs in the mid-1800’s.

four flap stereo negative storage envelopeThese images gave viewers a glimpse of a very early variation of 3-D possibilities that we see in movies today. While peering through a stereoscope at two seemingly identical photos, the viewer’s brain tricked them into thinking that they were looking at one three-dimensional image. However, unlike the animated GIFs made through the Stereogranimator, original stereographs were motionless.

Do you own or care for a special collection of stereo cards? University Products offers products to both view your images and keep them archivally safe. Our stereo card viewer is an economical option for viewing your prized stereo cards. We also provide enclosures for your stereo cards and stereo card negatives as well as stereo storage boxes to house both.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

dr. seussToday is Dr. Seuss’s 108th birthday. The famed author and illustrator was born Theodor S. Geisel, in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904 to parents who had emigrated to the U.S. from Bavaria, which is now a portion of modern-day Germany. The famous Seuss surname was both his mother’s maiden name and his middle name.

Seuss began his writing and illustrating career while in college as he served as a cartoonist at Dartmouth’s humor magazine, The Jack-O’-Lantern, in the mid-1920’s. After a very brief stint at Oxford, Seuss returned to the States and started working on a new profession, drawing cartoons for corporate advertisements. Included in these pieces are cartoons created for Flit, a popular bug spray at the time. Seuss came up with Flit’s famous tagline, “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” which became the catchiest advertising slogan of it’s day. Seuss also drew advertisement cartoons for NBC, General Electric, Standard Oil, Ford and many others. These pieces are housed in the Mandeville Special Collections Library within the University of California-San Diego’s Geisel Library in La Jolla and in an interactive online database on the library’s website.

Geisel Library Building
Geisel Library Building

As the international climate turned to war in the 1940’s, Dr. Seuss used his talents to make a statement about what was going on abroad. Seuss was an interventionist who believed strongly that America’s involvement in the war was necessary. Captain Geisel (as was his military title) served in the war with a unit alongside famed film director Frank Capra and even made military training films with Chuck Jones, who would later develop the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons. From 1941-1943, Seuss served as the editorial cartoonist for a liberal-leaning newspaper in New York City, PM. The Geisel Library website contains hundreds of these cartoons. According to Seuss scholars, Seuss’s political views formed during WWII later influenced his famed children’s books, Yertle the Turtle and The Sneetches.

Dr. Seuss died in 1991 at the age of 87. However, his legacy lives on today with a reading celebration Read Across America and other events across the country. The Geisel Library is also home to close to 8,500 Dr. Seuss items ranging from books, to speeches, to films and fan mail. Due to the fragility of some of the pieces in this collection, it is available to researchers by appointment only at the library.

dr. seuss national memorial sculpturesUniversity Products is fortunate to be located near Theodor S. Geisel’s birthplace. The whole Greater Springfield area has ties with the famous author and his characters. For example, it is said, that “The Lorax”, on which the new movie coming out today is based, has direct references to some local landmarks (where Seuss grew up). To get a feeling for the place that inspired the iconic children’s author, please visit  Dr. Seuss National Memorial, at the Quadrangle in Springfield, Mass.

For more information on Dr. Seuss, his works, Seuss related-events, and much more visit Seussville.com.

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.