Our student assistants and volunteers are a dedicated, hardworking group of individuals and they are invaluable to the Lab. They are constantly learning new treatments, expanding their preservation knowledge, and helping our Lab move forward and treat general collection items. For the students, this means they do all this while going to school full-time at the University of Cincinnati. So, every year we like to pick a day or two around the holidays to celebrate our students and volunteers and say “thank you” by treating them to a little bit of preservation-related fun. We appropriately call these our “student/volunteer fun days”.
We always pick an activity that will be enjoyable for the students/volunteers, but also benefit the Lab in some way. In the past this has included paste paper and paper marbling. For both we asked everyone to donate a portion of their papers to the Lab for our supply. This year for “fun day” we decided to demonstrate and create a selection of book structures with the idea that the people could expand their conservation skills and learn new techniques, and afterward the Lab would have a selection of models of the various structures.
Since we have students and volunteers of various skill levels we decided to have a simple structure (miniature adhesive bound ornaments), a moderate structure (flag books), and a more difficult structure (long stitch). That way everyone could start out with the simple structure and move at their own pace, working their way up to the long stitch (this is exactly how our conservation training is done).
For the simple structure we prepped 2”x3” adhesive-bound textblocks and cut 49pt binder’s board in order to create miniature book ornaments. For many of our students who are new this structure gave them insight into the structure of a simple case, as well as some of the basic binding skills such as pasting, creating turn-ins, casing in and pressing.
Everyone had a blast with these little book ornaments since they were easy to make and the finished product was just so adorable.
Examples of some of the ornaments that were created and the ecstatic staff/student/volunteer who made them: (from top left, clockwise) Ashleigh with her ornament in process, our volunteer Lucy’s ornament covered in Japanese paper from her personal collection, Pat posing with his paste paper book, LB selected some departmental-made marbled paper to cover her ornament, Holly was excited about her ornament covered in some more beautiful paper Lucy contributed, and Chris showing off his marbled paper covered book.
Once students, volunteers and staff made a couple miniature book ornaments they were ready to move onto the moderate-level structure, the flag book.
Veronica, who has a passion for bookbinding, generously accepted to teach everyone how to make a flag book, a variation on an accordion structure. Before fun day Veronica prepped some basic supplies such as 60pt binder’s board (5”x7”), folded accordions using Mohawk cover-weight, and cut some matching Mohawk pastedowns. The rest was totally up to the interpretation of the creator. Cover materials used varied from cloth to marbled paper to paste paper, as did the flags that were pasted inside the books. Some people even took it a step further and incorporate text and images into their flag books; it was exciting to see what everyone created.
After mastering the miniature book ornaments and the flag books, we moved onto the long stitch, a historical binding primarily in use from the 16th century to the 19th century. Ashleigh, our newest addition to the Lab (conservator), kindly volunteered to demonstrate this structure for “fun day” and it was a huge success.
Ashleigh and I worked together to prep the material for this structure, which consisted of handmade paper covers, leather scraps for the spine, speckletone paper for the textblock, and templates for the sewing pattern. Veronica was nice enough to donate some of her waxed linen thread so we would have a variety of dynamic colors for the sewing, which is visible on the spine.
As per usual, “fun day” was a gigantic success and all our students and volunteers walked away with smiles on their faces and a couple books to take home.
If you are interested in making a flag book, Veronica has offered to share the instructions she created, here.
Jessica Ebert (UCL) — Conservation Technician