Tag Archives: Ashleigh Schieszer

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



Connections. Collaboration. Community. Oh My!

Each year, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) holds an annual conference bringing together colleagues from over 120 countries to experience international librarianship.  Past conferences have been held in Istanbul, Singapore, Berlin, and Bangkok.  In August of 2016, IFLA hosted their annual conference in Columbus, Ohio titled, Connections.  Collaboration.  Community.

On August 19th, as part of the University of Cincinnati Libraries tour, the Preservation Lab was honored to welcome our international librarian colleagues for a visit to our lab where we discussed our role in collaborative preservation within Ohio – and locally as a conservation lab serving two institutions.

During our 40-minute tour, we highlighted treatments for special collections and discussed the importance of treatment documentation.  Ashleigh invited guests to see in-process treatments and demonstrated filling paper losses using leaf casting techniques on a suction platen.  Jessica walked visitors through the lab’s treatment documentation process in the conservation lab’s digital photography studio.  Teaming up on preservation were Holly and Hyacinth who showcased preventative storage enclosures and exhibition mounts.  They worked in conjunction with Veronica who carefully hot-stamped bookmarks to make keep-sake souvenirs for guests to take home from the lab.

IFLA 2016

Conservation Technician, Jessica Ebert discusses conservation photographic documentation during an IFLA Langsam Library Tour.

IFLA 2016

IFLA tour guest communicates with Alex Temple, lab volunteer, with translation assistance from library staff member Yu Mao

We’re absolutely honored to have participated on this year’s American IFLA post-conference activities and were delighted to present about the work our collaborative lab conducts to preserve both academic and public library materials.

Next year, IFLA’s annual meeting will be held in Wroclaw, Poland.  Click here to learn more about this international professional library association.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the Cincinnati IFLA tours, check out the UC Libraries blog and Ohio Library Council’s website.

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: http://cdm16998.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16998coll52.

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

Just Can’t Get Enough

For some of us here at the Lab it’s not enough to work with books all day, we even work with them in our spare time!

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County collaborates with the Cincinnati Book Arts Society every year to put on Bookworks, an exhibit celebrating the work of book artists. We’re thrilled that four staff members (we’ll always think of Pat as staff, no matter how long he’s retired!) have pieces in Bookworks XVI .

Pat Schmude’s leather-bound “Zombies,” made with techniques learned from bookbinder and conservator Jeff Peachey during a 2013 workshop at the Lab on Eigteenth-Century French Bookbinding.Zombies“The Red Door” is a piece Pat worked on over many years, adding a detail here and there when the inspiration came to him. All of us at the Lab fell in love with it. Don’t you just want to walk through that door and see what new world it takes you to?
RedDoorJessica Ebert’s “Curiosities Behind Glass” shows off the carousel form we learned during our December “fun day” to great effect.
Curiiosities Behind GlassAshleigh’s “Study of Impermanence of Early Contact Printing Photography” is research and binding skill rolled into one!ImpermanenceStudyShe also saved neat old spine linings she had to remove during treatments over her years as a student worker and turned them into a nifty and whimsical documentary for “Spines.”
SpinesMy own wee accordion book, “Wholehearted” uses techniques I learned for toning paper for treatments.Wholehearted
If you’re in the area check out the show in the Atrium at the Public Library’s Main Branch. It’s up from June 10th to September 6th, 2015.

Veronica Sorcher (PLCH) — Conservation Technician

Housing the Public Library’s historic stained glass

When the original Main Library at 629 Vine Street opened to the public in 1873, three beautiful and intricate stained glass windows graced one of the reading rooms in the building. In 1955, when the building was demolished, the windows were sold at auction, later to resurface as part of the decor of the Old Spaghetti Factory on Pete Rose Way. After the restaurant closed to make room for Paul Brown Stadium, the Library purchased the windows and began making plans to return them to the Main Library for the appreciation and enjoyment of our customers and staff. Thanks to the generosity of the Friends and the Annabel Fey Trust Fund, the three windows have now been re-created and restored to their original glory and will be on permanent display in the Main Library.

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18th and 19th century leather: A Conservation Challenge!

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of handling special collection materials, you may have noticed that some books stand the test of time better than others.

In particular, why is it that some older leather books that date to the 15th century still function well, while other leather covered books from the 1700’s and 1800’s fall apart and turn to powder in our hands?

The reason is twofold. Books made in the Carolingian, Romanesque and Gothic periods were highly engineered luxury items that were made with high quality materials. Later, as books become more of a household commodity, quality was sacrificed to meet rising production needs, leading to books being made cheaply with poor quality materials. The common degradation we find in 18th and 19th century tightback leather bindings is a direct result of poor construction combined with the use of poor quality materials.

What exactly is causing this later leather to degrade? There are many reasons such as environmental factors, but two of the most common condition issues are caused by the type of animal skin used, and the materials used to tan the leather.

For example, sheepskin leather exhibits characteristic degradation of shearing away in layers while calfskin does not. This is essentially because sheep have a thicker undercoat of fur. The roots of the sheep’s undercoat grow in-between the lower corium and upper grain layers of the skin, and after the hair is removed during the tanning process, a microscopic void is left between the layers of skin. As a result, the leather becomes vulnerable to delamination overtime (see photo below).

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Conservation – a Complex Profession

“WhAsleighat is it that you do, exactly?” is a common question that conservators are asked almost every time they meet someone for the first time.

As an emerging conservator, sometimes I find it difficult to describe to others what I do. When many people hear the word conservation, they immediately think of people protecting wildlife.

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Oversized poster moves made easy!

The Preservation Lab offers a suite of services to our parent institutions, including conservation, storage and handling, pest management, and environmental monitoring. Recently we got to flex both our physical and mental muscles, assisting the Public Library with a special collections move. While there were many interesting objects that required special attention during the relocation, a collection of locally and historically significant oversized posters presented a fun and exciting challenge.

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1st Fridays @ 4 – Bookbinding workshop!

Several times a semester UCL’s Reference and Instructional Services department hosts 1st Fridays @4, a fun activity (with food!) that engages and educates students/patrons. When Pam Bach, the lead coordinator of 1st Fridays, asked the Preservation Lab if we would be interested instructing a simple, fun bookbinding workshop we jumped on the opportunity. Being in the basement of the library can be a bit isolating, so any chance we get to interact with the students and patrons is very appealing to us. We decided to show the participants how to make an adhesive-bound miniature book with a paper case. We chose this because it would be easy for people new to bookbinding to construct, we had all the supplies we needed to prep for the workshop, and we already had a little experience prepping and teaching the structure since we made these cute little books during our student and volunteer fun day in November.

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