Category Archives: Collection Care

Slipcase Race

One of the Lab’s big projects recently has been to help the University of Cincinnati’s Classics Library with preparations for a move of a large section of their collection’s rare books. Moves like this are a great opportunity to assess the condition of a collection, and to provide enclosures for more vulnerable materials so they are protected in transit and beyond. In this particular case the Librarian also requested the lab maintain visibility of the original books as much as possible.

There are quite a few vellum books in the Classics Library collection. Vellum bindings are generally pretty sturdy, but may become brittle over time. They can also expand and contract quite a bit more than other types of bindings, depending on the relative humidity where they are stored. The Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology has a fun time-lapse video demonstrating this effect – the book looks as if it’s haunted! Given time this expansion and contraction can cause distortion.

Hard-sided slipcases do make it possible to protect most of a book while keeping its spine decoration and information visible, but they are not generally a preservation go-to. They can abrade the edges and covers when pulling the book in and out, and they don’t usually hold up over time because it can be difficult to insert fingers around the book to pull it out if the case is tight, resulting in a broken box or, alternatively, damaged endcaps.

A soft-sided slipcase can work well for vellum-bound books. The vellum is smooth, so abrasion is not a concern. The flexible sides give a little when reaching fingers in to remove a book, so the box won’t eventually fail and there is no need to grab the book from its endcap, damaging it. The cloth allows the book to breathe and flex somewhat, while at the same time preventing it from expanding too far at the fore edge, and squeezing its neighbors.

With a deadline looming we needed to figure out a way to produce soft-sided slipcases quickly and easily. Our solution was to create a template in an Excel spreadsheet, allowing us to simply plug in the book’s measurements and know exactly what size to cut the cloth and where the creases need to be, without needing to have the book handy.

We measured several books where they were, then took the measurements back to the Lab, where we used the spreadsheet to make a handful of slipcases. I was holding my breath when the time came to unite them with their books. Much to my relief  they fit perfectly!

Check out this picture showing 4 vellum books – the one on the left was already housed in a hard-sided, cloth-covered, board slipcase, while the 3 on the right are in the brand new soft-sided cloth slipcases. The books are protected, but the spines are still visible. Win, win.

Now that we know it works it’s time to go ahead and make the rest of them!

We’d like to share the Excel spreadsheet used to create these slipcases – Soft-Sided_Slipcase_template.  Try it out and let us know what you think!

Veronica Sorcher (PLCH) – Conservation Technician


Digital Print Crash Course

Digital print poster

Digital print poster

For 3 days in late October I joined a group of 15 conservation and archive professionals from as far away as Germany, Mexico City and the Northwest Territories of Canada for the “Identification and Preservation of Digital Prints” workshop at the Image Permanence Institute (IPI) at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

We learned about what curators might consider to be digital prints, what types of digital prints can be found within a collection, what their greatest vulnerabilities are, and how to differentiate between them. The workshop focused predominantly on the three most common types of digital prints: dye-sublimation prints, created through a process which uses heat to impregnate a surface with color; electrophotographic prints, which use toner-based colorants; and inkjet prints. We also discussed the best types of enclosures for storage, and how to use naming conventions to help collection curators and conservators identify these objects so as to best house, store, conserve and exhibit them.

Dye-sublimation prints are the least common of the three main types. The analog version of the process was invented for the textile industry and the digital version continues to be used to print images on fabrics as well as photo gifts like mugs. It doesn’t require liquid chemicals so it’s also popular for ID photos, photo booths, and instant photo kiosks in drugstores.  Generally speaking they can be stored and handled using the same guidelines as chromogenic prints as their vulnerabilities are similar. Light can cause fading over time, very high heat can cause bleeding. Most importantly though, while the clothes and mugs are obviously washable, the photos can delaminate in water, as shown below.

Dye-sub delamination

Dye-sub delamination

Almost everything printed on a copier or a laser printer is an electrophotographic print. They are ubiquitous in the documentation surrounding cultural heritage collections, if not in the collections themselves. The printing process is similar to that of photocopiers, though nowadays the image comes from a stored digital file rather than creating a photographic reproduction of an image. These kinds of prints are fairly stable. Though they can sometimes transfer with heat, or crack or abrade, their greatest vulnerability is the paper they are printed on, which can be almost any type of paper imaginable. In general they should be handled and stored the same way photocopies are stored and handled.

Inkjet prints show up as documents and ephemera as well as in the form of photographs and fine art prints. They can be made up of a broad range of papers and inks, many of them proprietary, which means it may be difficult to identify them accurately and their sensitivities to light, water, pollution, etc. can vary greatly. In general they are the most unstable of all the types of digital prints and therefore require the most care and attention for preservation efforts. We experimented to see how different inkjet prints responded to abrasion and exposure to water. From these tests we could see that even light friction or a tiny drop of water can be damaging to some types of inkjet prints. For a generalized approach to housing and storage of inkjet photos and art prints IPI recommends handling with gloves, using polyester enclosures and interleaving (paper enclosures can cause losses or burnishing), mounting with window mats, using UV glass when framing, and monitoring any exhibited prints closely throughout the exhibit. IPI’s handy mini-poster, Tips for Handling Inkjet Prints can even be printed out and included in enclosures.

Immersed inkjet print

Immersed inkjet print

It became very clear during this workshop that the term “digital print” can cover a dizzying array of objects. Curators, collectors and conservators like to have more specific descriptors for the media they are working with. For most purposes differentiating between electrophotographic, dye-sublimation, and inkjet prints in documentation is sufficient, but conservators in particular would benefit from even greater detail such as, “dye inkjet print on uncoated paper.” IPI strongly recommends that when new acquisitions are made a detailed document such as Martin Jurgens’ “Datasheet for Documentation of Digital Prints” from his book, The Digital Print: Identification and Preservation, be completed whenever possible.

Along with a very handy pocket microscope, digital print sample set, a color copy of the freely downloadable IPI Guide to Preservation of Digitally Printed Photographs, and a binder of the workshop’s Powerpoint presentations, IPI provided us with a tour of the online tools they have created. Their Graphics Atlas website,, is particularly useful for identifying different types of photographs and prints, and the DP3 (Digital Print Preservation Portal) website,, is an excellent resource for information on preserving digital prints. While visiting I also purchased a copy of Meghan Connor and Daniel Burge’s book, The Atlas of Water Damage on Inkjet-Printed Fine Art, which I found informative. Seeing how a pocket LED work light like the Larry light could be used to generate different angles of light to help in print identification on the fly was extremely helpful too.

I can’t recommend this workshop highly enough. I learned a great deal over those three days in October. I am very grateful to the Image Permanence Institute, the Ohio Preservation Council, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, The Institute of Museum and Library Services, and my colleagues at The Preservation Lab for helping to make my attendance possible.

Veronica Sorcher (PLCH) — Conservation Technician

Nineteenth Century Buddhist Religious Treatise

Palm leaf manuscriptIn August of this year, the Lab received a Palm leaf book from Archives and Rare Books library during one of our usual monthly meetings. This item was brought to the Lab to receive a new enclosure for a better long-term preservation storage and easier access. Along with a new enclosure, the Lab was asked to create two surrogates of one of the original Palm Leaves for classroom use.  Under the direction of Ashleigh Schieszer, lab conservator, technician Chris Voynovich constructed the housing working closely with Catarina Figuierinhas who created the surrogate leaves.

Palm leaf

Creating Surrogates

In order to create an accurate surrogate of one of the Palm leaves, the Palm leaf book was taken to the University of Cincinnati Digitization Lab to be photographed with a PhaseOne Reprographic System. This system includes 60 MP PhaseOne digital back, DT RCam with electronic shutter, Schneider 72 mm lens, and a motorized copy stand. At the digitization Lab, one of the Palm leaves was digitized, recto and verso. The collaboration between labs allows the Preservation Lab to obtain a great quality image of a Palm leaf to print a high quality surrogate.


Once the Preservation Lab received an image with enough quality to work with, the process of creating a surrogate started.

In order to create a surrogate, it is important to have in mind several different aspects such as the purpose of the surrogate and the physical characteristics of the original object (texture, thickness and colors). When thinking about the purpose of the surrogate one has to answer questions such as: Is the surrogate going to be displayed or handled?  If so, how?  Behind a glass case? Will it need a presentation enclosure?

In this case, the purpose was for the librarian to be able to show a “real” palm leaf page without having to actually handle the original fragile leaves.  Also, having a surrogate of a palm leaf would allow patrons and scholars to handle a replica of an original object without having to unwrap and open the book.

Our goal was to create two surrogates; one in color, true to the original Palm leaf page; and _dsc1362another black and white, allowing the writing to be read easier.

Since we wanted to create a surrogate as identical as possible to the original, it was necessary to study the original object’s texture and thickness, as well as consider specific details such as gilt edges or punched holes.

The first step was to select several papers to test for printing.  Selected papers had a similar texture and thickness to the original Palm Leaf and/or were selected because they contained a handy ICC profile.

Once the papers were chosen for texture, thickness and color profiling, the image obtained from the Digitization Lab was enhanced in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 and several surrogate samples were printed using a P7000 Epson Printer pigmented ink jet printer.

Middle holes were punched with a Japanese hole punch.

Middle holes were punched with a Japanese hole punch.

Surprisingly, papers containing ICC profiles did not necessarily produce a more accurate color representation.

Finally, after several trials and errors, a different paper was chosen for each surrogate. The colored surrogate was printed on an archival UltraSmooth Fine Art Epson paper.  The black and white surrogate was printed on an acid-free Curtis Brightwater Artesian white smooth paper.

Edges of the colored surrogate were pained with iridescent gold acrylic paint.

Edges of the colored surrogate were pained with iridescent gold acrylic paint.

Once the surrogates were printed and cut to the exact dimensions, the final finishing touches were made. On both surrogates, the middle holes were punctured in the same fashion as the original palm leaf.  For the colored surrogate, the edges were colored with an iridescent gold Golden High flow Acrylic.  Once the surrogates were complete, the process of constructing an enclosure for both the surrogates and the original object began.



Constructing a new enclosure

I’ve heard the joy should not be in the finished product but in the process. I have to say I agree with that theory. I love receiving a challenge like this and pounding out a solution. This particular enclosure had many facets which turned out to be exciting as well as rewarding to problem solve together with lab staff.


Using a structure engineered by our lab conservator, first, I created a double-sided sink mat with two open windows to display both sides of the two surrogates.  Rare earth magnets were introduced as fasteners to hold the objects secure inside each mat. The surrogates are supported and viewable through a Vivak and polyester transparent L-sleeve, which is removable.   The Vivak and polyester sleeve was welded together on the lab’s Minter ultrasonic welder.


Volara supports were constructed to cradle the book so the gilding would not touch any abrasive surfaces, and so there would be a support for the cover once opened. The surrogates help provide information to patrons without causing wear and tear on the fragile book through handling. Originally, we considered storing the surrogates in a tray below or above the book to conserve shelf space, however by arranging the mats next to the object, they could immediately be on display when the enclosure is opened.  I am pleased with the outcome.  It is now possible to enjoy all the parts of this amazing work within the enclosure itself while minimizing the opportunity for damage, as well as providing a “wow!” factor.


Final enclosure with the original palm leaf book and surrogates.

Catarina Figueirinhas (UCL) — Senior Conservation Technician

Ashleigh Schieszer (PLCH) — Book and Paper Conservator

Chris Voynovich (PLCH) — Conservation Technician

Photo credit:  Jessica Ebert (UCL) — Conservation Technician



A Simple Solution for Lantern Slides

This October the Preservation Lab arranged for staff training in photograph conservation with an expert in this specialty to help us address specific needs for the two institutions.  The lab hosted a 3-day workshop taught by Photograph Conservator, Tom Edmondson.  Lab staff and two other local paper and book conservators attended.  We were taught how to identify more than 16 types of historic photographic processes.  We learned how to safely preserve and store a variety of formats, including daguerreotypes and lantern slides. Using actual historical photographs as learning opportunities we were taught basic and advanced treatment techniques such as surface cleaning photographs, washing, removing linings, flattening creases, and matting.  The technicians have already begun to implement the knowledge gleaned from the workshop in the treatment of some Public Library lantern slides.

For example, with the lantern slide below the losses on the glass were filled with Vivak in order to prevent further damage.  Vivak, a clear thermoplastic sheet, was chosen since it is archival, looks similar to glass and is an easy material to cut and shape without losing its structural integrity.The Vivak was precisely cut and placed onto the missing areas.

The Vivak was precisely cut and placed onto the missing areas.


Detailed images of the Vivak fills. Verso and recto pieces were secured together with a strip of Filmoplast R.

To attach the recto and verso of the Vivak fill pieces to each other, a strip of Filmoplast R was used around the edges. Filmoplast R, a cellulose tissue coated with an acid and solvent free heat-activated adhesive, was toned with Golden fluid acrylics to match the original paper strip around the edges of the lantern slide.

To protect the edges of the lantern slide, and to secure the filled areas in place, a strip of Mylar (polyester film) was placed along the edges and secured with a small piece of Filmoplast R.

The strip of Mylar around the edges of the lantern slide will also work as a barrier between the edges of the original object and Filmoplast R adhesive.

The strip of Mylar around the edges of the lantern slide will also work as a barrier between the edges of the original object and Filmoplast R adhesive.

Finally, the lantern slide was sandwiched between two pieces of Vivak and secured with a strip of toned Filmoplast R by wrapping it around the edges.Collage2

With another lantern slide, the original plastic coated paper strip around the glass plates was lifting and detaching from the glass.Collage4

The detached black strip was mended and adhered in place with the heat activated adhesive BEVA film 371, and a tacking iron.Collage6

Since this lantern slide was not broken and the paper was mended, there was no need to sandwich the lantern slide between pieces of Vivak.

Since this lantern slide was not broken and the paper was mended, there was no need to sandwich the lantern slide between pieces of Vivak.

This project was a great opportunity to learn and work with different materials.


Ashleigh Schieszer (PLCH) — Book and Paper Conservator, Author

Catarina Figueirinhas (UCL) — Sr. Conservation Technician, Author & Photographer

Jessica Ebert (UCL) — Conservation Technician, Photographer


THE PRESERVATION LAB: A collaboration between the University of Cincinnati and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Object Institution & Library: PLCH CALL #: 529.43 F855 SUBJECT: Freeman's Almanacks from 1823-1829, all side sewn, some with threaded loops at top (to hook onto a nail in a wall), varying sizes, some missing covers, all received dirty/stained and torn edges DATABASE ID: 1124 ITEM #: i28069493 TREATMENT ID: LIGHTING: EcoSmart 27-Watt (100W) Full Spectrum Craft CFL Fluorescent with sock diffusers + reflector and foam board FILTER(s): none COMMENTS: CREATOR: Jessica Ebert WEBSITE: thepreservationlab.orgSome small booklets from the 1820s recently came to the Lab to be cleaned and prepared for digitization at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Ashleigh, our Conservator, noticed a couple of them had a small loop of string attached in the upper left hand corner.


Well, the booklets are all copies of “Freeman’s Almanack”. Before the days of smart phone calendars and weather apps, before the days of catching the weather on the radio or TV, people had almanacs. In fact some people still use them today, though these days their scope has expanded and some of them can be many hundreds of pages, depending on the information they contain. Back in the 1800s they usually looked like small magazines. Published yearly, they contained articles and snippets of wit and wisdom the publishers thought their target audience (often farmers) might enjoy. Most important though were the tables, usually organized to represent a calendar month, giving times for sunrise and sunset, astronomical highlights such as eclipses, church festivals, planting dates, and what kind of weather to expect.

So what about the loops?

Well, the almanac would be something a 19th Century family might refer to often, perhaps even daily. Where do you put such a thing in your home so everyone can grab it quickly when they need it? You hang it on a nail of course! How do you do that? You make a little hole in the top left corner of the booklet, you run some string or thread through the hole to make a loop, and you pop the loop over the nail.


Problem (and mystery) solved!

Veronica Sorcher (PLCH) – Conservation Technician

Prepping for a Shift

Stack shifts and moves are an inevitability in libraries.  Collections change.  Spaces change, more often than not becoming too small for the collection(s).  And in the end a shift of collections is imminent.  For most collections these stack shifts do not require the intervention of a conservation lab.  Periodical bindings moving to another floor?  It happens all the time and that’s that.  But when special collection items are shifted or moved, the Preservation Lab generally plays a part.  So when UC’s Archives and Rare Books Library decided to move and shift the bulk of their oversized special collections between stack levels the Lab was contacted to play a part in the prep work.

The plan? To measure and box as many unstable or unwieldy oversized books that will be moving between floors or shifting within narrow, restrictive shelving stacks before the move in April.  In order to keep our current workflow of treatments (both general circulating and special collections) for both institutions going, it was decided that a couple of lab staff would measure the books on-site (ARB Library), have corrugated enclosures created through our commercial bindery vendor, and then as the boxes were received the staff would match up the books with the boxes.  Three staff members, Holly Prochaska (librarian), Veronica Sorcher (technician), and myself, took on the duty of assessing the books and taking measurements for those we felt could easily hinder the move or be damaged further by handling and moving.


Measuring in the stacks and making do with the space you have.

At this point we are about half way through the process.  We’ve measured over 750 books for enclosures!  We enlisted one of our trusty student assistants to record all the data so that we could send it off to the commercial binder.  The first batch of 150 boxes arrived and were matched up with the books earlier this week.  And luckily, our error rate was actually very low, even with that first batch where we were still figuring out the kinks of measuring in confined spaces and often dim lighting!

What’s the workflow like?  Each person has list of numbers that correspond to the number the binder prints on the inside of the enclosure, per our request.  For each number, the staff member records the call number (to be printed on the spine of the box), along with the height, width and thickness of the book.  A flag with that number written on it (in pencil, of course) is then placed in the book so that it is visible on the shelf and clearly recognizable when matching the boxes to the books.  So far, the process has worked pretty well.

What kinds of things are we prepping for storage and handling?  Prime candidates for move-prep housing include…

  • Any book previously tied with cotton tying tape, usually to hold a detached/loose board or textblock in place.

    In this case, boards were detached from the spine/textblock. But let’s just talk about the reason I really took a photo of this book on Christopher Columbus…the anchor clasps and catches! How cool are those?

    In this case, boards were detached from the spine/textblock. But let’s just talk about the reason I really took a photo of this book on Christopher Columbus…the anchor clasps and catches! How cool are those?

  • Any book with loose, detached, or protruding parts that could be abraded, damaged further, or lost during the move.

    When I originally pulled this book off the shelf the measure it the corner was nowhere to be found, but I found it a couple shelves down resting on top of another book.

    When I originally pulled this book off the shelf the measure it the corner was nowhere to be found, but I found it a couple shelves down resting on top of another book.

  • Any extremely fragile or flimsy books, including extremely oversized, thin bindings or bindings with fragile paper or degraded leather covers.

    This full leather binding must have been fire damaged at some point. The leather on the spine was so fragile and would crack and break if you looked at it the wrong way.

    This full leather binding must have been fire damaged at some point. The leather on the spine was so fragile and would crack and break if you looked at it the wrong way.

  • The evil monster known as RED ROT!


    Obviously not all books with red rot were boxed, especially those with very minor cases. But books like this, where the movers and every book in the surrounding area would be covered in a red layer of degraded leather…those get boxes!

If you’re interested in seeing more snapshots from our adventures of measuring in ARB, check out the Preservation Lab’s Instagram, here.

Jessica Ebert (UCL) – Conservation Technician

Tiny Tomes – Now on Display!

There’s an exciting new Public Library exhibit located in the Popular Library in the Main Library building downtown. It’s titled, Tiny Tomes  and includes over 50 small books that are part of the reference library collection. There are a variety of subjects, binding styles, and time periods represented. Topics include sport flip books, lichens & ferns, children’s books, and many more!

This past week, the Preservation Lab assisted with preparing the books for display. Once the layout of the show was established and pages were selected for display, I helped strap bindings with soft polyethylene strapping and showed staff how to use various supports made out of Vivak and archival mat board. These supports were made beforehand in our lab by lab technician, Chris Voynovich.  Since we knew the overall size of the books were generally 4 x 6 inches, a variety of general supports were constructed out of lab scraps rather than custom fitting the supports to each book. This greatly expedited the process of making the book cradles.

Out of approximately 40 constructed supports, every single one was put to use!  There were V-shaped supports used to hold books open while lying flat, U-shaped supports to lift up books, triangle shaped supports to act as cradles, and other supports to hold books safely upright.




Some books were too fragile to be opened or had more than one page to exhibit. As an alternative to displaying interior pages, some of the books were scanned by Digital Services and surrogates were printed. These images are also available online, located here:

The exhibit runs from Jan 18th to March 13st. While you’re at Main Library, be sure to check out the Smallest Book on exhibit in the Cincinnati Room, located on the 3rd floor!

Ashleigh Ferguson Schieszer (PLCH) – Book and Paper Conservator

Custom Collapsible Cradle in a Corrugated Box!

We have many occasions to use cradles.  Including, in the lab while working on delicate materials and for viewing the text of fragile bindings.  In an effort to create a new standard for the lab to store with a book, I revisited the construction of a collapsible cradle that fits inside a corrugated clamshell box.

View of clamshell when lid is opened:Corrugated Clamshell with Integral Cradle

Opening the cradle by lifting the cloth tapes:Corrugated Clamshell with Integral Cradle

Obtuse (left) and acute (right) arm openings are adjustable:Corrugated Clamshell with Integral Cradle

The integral cradle is removable for display! Corrugated Clamshell with Integral Cradle


I am intrigued by this integral cradle system for a few important reasons:

  • The cradle is custom fit for the individual book’s opening and is stored safely with the book in the corrugated clamshell so it won’t become lost.
  • The cradle can be made adjustable to accommodate the book’s special handling needs by adding in additional notches.
  • The cradle has a base, making it removable from the box. This enables diversity in placement of the supported book. For example, librarians can remove the cradle from the box for exhibition.
  • This system is light, yet durable.
  • This system is fast and easy to create.
  • This system can be shelved with other books making it easily stored and accessible.


Considering all the cradles I have made so far, this one is by far the easiest and fastest to complete!

For a “one size fits all” solution, check out our blog on Elizabeth’s Rideout’s Collapsible Book Cradle.

It has been fun to explore solutions for this support mechanism to strengthen our arsenal of weaponry in the war of conservation!

Chris Voynovich (PLCH) – Conservation Technician


The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has recently set a plan in motion to digitize a collection of music scores. But before they can be digitized, the scores need to cataloged at the item level so metadata can be added to the digital files that are uploaded to the Virtual Public Library. But first, they are traveling to the lab to receive stabilization, to improve legibility, and rehousing. There are more than 200 boxes in the collection, each containing fifty or more scores, so this will be an ongoing project for many months to come. Because there are so many, and the Library would like to have them digitized as soon as possible, the decision was made to keep the treatments minimal –enough to stabilize the materials and render them more legible but no more.

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Shrink-wrap, a tool in the toolbox

The Preservation Lab is lucky to have a lot of equipment.  One of our more interesting pieces is a shrink-wrap machine.  We bring the machine out about once a year when we have a fair amount of bound materials that meet the following criteria:

  • part of the general circulating collection;
  • an item with a history of little or low use;
  • brittle paper, making rebinding or repair impossible or too time consuming;
  • replacements are not available or prohibitively expensive considering use.

Before the retirement of Pat Schmude, a UCL conservation technician in the lab for 28 years, we brought the machine up so that he could remind us of all the special things we need to do to make it work optimally — all the things you just don’t find in a manual but you know from 20+ years experience.

And of course we did have a little fun…here is my coffee mug shrink-wrapped.  I’m trying to give it up…so far I haven’t broken the seal!

Shrink collage

Clockwise – The finished product; Pat Schmude and Ashleigh Schieszer; Ashleigh, Jessica Ebert, and Pat; the coffee cup in question; Ashleigh and Jessica; and Chris Voynovich.

Holly Prochaska (UCL) — Preservation Librarian