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!
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
A picture is worth a thousand words.
First of all, you might be wondering. Why do conservation labs conduct photography?
The reason is because the most descriptive way for conservators to accurately document the physical changes made to an object during treatment is to photograph it.
In conservation, producing photographic documentation is a conservation professional’s ethical obligation. In conjunction with written documentation, the photographs help to more accurately and efficiently document the examination, scientific investigation, and treatment of special collection materials.
Afterwards, the photography becomes an important part of the treatment record for a rare object and it is permanently archived with the treatment report. This information is saved with the object in hopes of aiding future scholars and conservators in understanding an object’s aesthetic, conceptual, or physical historical characteristics.
One of the trickiest things about making a cloth-covered clamshell box happens at the very end when all the pieces finally go together. You’re applying a fair amount of adhesive to a fairly large surface area and the moisture in it inspires the boards of the case and the trays to want to curve. To suppress this natural tendency and make sure the pieces stick together properly we have to use a lot of weights.
A few years ago if someone had asked me what I cut paper with I would have said, “A pair of scissors, of course.” Then I came to the Preservation Lab.
We cut a lot of paper here. It can be in big sheets, little sheets or tiny scraps. It might be heavy or lightweight, made of short fibers like the ubiquitous wood pulp paper or long fibers such as Japanese kozo paper. We use it for different things too. Heavy board for book covers and boxes, corrugated board for different boxes, light board for folders, paper for pages or repairing spines, Japanese paper for mending tears and making hinges, newsprint for waste paper to catch adhesive overflow. With so many variables it helps to have a few options for cutting the paper.
Probably the tool we all use most often for cutting paper is a scalpel. We each have a least a couple at our work station. My go-to scalpel is the #11 which has a fine tip and straight, angular blade. The #23 with its curved edge is good too, depending on the particular task. Scalpels are great when we need to make a nice clean cut trimming excess paper from a repair, or we use them with a metal straight edge when we need to make a long cut that wouldn’t be straight enough if cut with scissors.