Tag Archives: Jessica Ebert

Making the Perfect Wheat Starch Paste

As I’m sure anyone in a book & paper lab will attest, good wheat starch paste is key to most, if not all conservation treatments.  And achieving that perfectly smooth and lump-free paste is often easier said than done.  So when the Preservation Lab crew returned from UC’s winter seasonal days off, the first thing on the docket for our resident paste maker, Veronica Sorcher, was to make a brand new batch of wheat starch paste to start the new year off right!  My purpose in documenting her through this process was two fold: first, it’s been ages since I’ve made paste myself (because Veronica almost always does it – she loves it and we love her for always making it!) and I could use a refresher, and secondly, I thought it would be interesting to show the making of (or behind-the-scenes, BTS, if you will) of something so core to the day-to-day conservation in the lab.  To give those who might not understand how much attention is put into the quality of every aspect of what we do here in the lab.  Plus, I thought it might be fun!  I hope you enjoy…

 

A huge thank you to Veronica for being the paste making master she is and allowing me to film her and to Catarina for allowing me to film her while she strained and used the lovely paste that had just been made.

Jessica Ebert (UCL) – Conservation Technician

Our Students

As the end of the year is drawing to a close (this is our last day before UC’s winter seasonal break when the university is closed until the New Year!!) I find myself looking back at the past year in the lab and thinking of all the things we’ve accomplished, individually and as a team.  I know all of us in the lab consider ourselves very fortunate, our work is fulfilling and interesting and we are continuously surrounded by a great group of dynamic and talented people.  And as the student supervisor for the lab, I have to say, our students have made this year even more stellar.  They’re just the best!  Ask any staff member in the lab and I’m sure they’ll say the same exact thing, we are so lucky to have the group of passionate, energetic, and skilled students that we have working with us.

Each year, instead of the usual departmental pizza party for students, the lab sets aside some time to thank our students and volunteers for everything they do for us by having two days of fun activities for our students and volunteers.  These “fun days” are generally around finals, when the students are reaching the end of the semester and their holiday break, and usually involve activities that tie back into bookbinding/book arts/conservation/etc. somehow.  This year we enjoyed papermaking, pulp painting, explosion books/ornaments and origami boxes.  Our annual “fun days” are just that…fun, not only because we get to watch the students relax and unwind and thank them for all they do, but we always get to learn more about them and connect with them even more.  One of my favorite parts is seeing which students get really into which activities; sometimes it’s fascinating and unexpected, and sometimes it just makes total sense.  But that moment when a student gets to relax and enjoy, after a semester of rigorous schoolwork and general collections repairs, well that’s just the cherry on top!

This year has been extra fulfilling not only because our students are amazing and it is because of them that the bulk of our general collections repairs happen, but also because those warm fuzzy feelings all our staff feel for the students…well, apparently they’re mutual.  For four years now the UC Libraries has been offering an annual UCL Student Worker Scholarship, thanks to generous donations from the faculty and staff at UCL.  This year, we are happy to say, a Preservation Lab student was awarded the scholarship for the second time in four years!  Two years ago it was our student, DJ Davis (who recently graduated earning his MBA….go DJ!), who received the scholarship, and this year it was our student, Stefan Apostoluk!  Stefan is a senior Computer Engineering major who is also working his MBA through the ACCEND program.  I am beyond proud of Stefan!

We actually had two students apply for the scholarship this year, Stefan and our DAAP fine arts student, Alex Phillips.  This isn’t surprising, because in my eyes, all of our students are award worthy.  In fact, our binding student and business major, Drew Eaton, was awarded the Student Quality Service Award in April of this year!  So, our students have been killing it this year; again, that’s no surprise to the staff down here.  They crush it on a daily basis in the lab, but it’s great that they are getting some public attention for it.  What has been immensely fulfilling in writing the scholarship recommendation letters for Alex and Stefan was getting to read their essays on how working in the libraries has inspired them.  They’ve both given me permission to share their sweet words about the lab and our team…

Alex wrote:

“Working for the University’s Preservation Lab has been a dream-come-true.  Ever since I learned that such a job existed, I wanted to be involved…There is a sense of satisfaction with each book that passes through my hands in need of care, and my work feels purposeful.  Not only do I enjoy my work, but my co-workers and mentors have been a great model of what a productive and positive work environment can be.  It is a relief to work in a space where there aren’t constant negative and harmful conversations such as gossip.  The Lab has proven that a positive work environment is not a myth, and I am so grateful.”

Stefan wrote:

“Working at UC Libraries has inspired me to find a job where I fit in and matter. I have the great pleasure of working in the Preservation Lab at Langsam, a place that I’ve come to love dearly in my four years there as a student worker. While the lab is small and has a full-time staff of less than 10, my coworkers are all heartfelt, funny, and interesting people. They are truly what makes my job so special and enjoyable. A few hours at the lab can be enough to turn a miserable day into a good one. Even though doing spine repairs on books and making enclosures is a far cry from software development and project management, I’ve learned some very important things working at UC Libraries. The lab has taught me about the importance of work culture, of loving where you work, and of loving who you work with. Wherever I end up working in the next year after I graduate from UC, I know it’ll need to be some place I love.”

It doesn’t get much better than that, right?  If that doesn’t make you feel like you are doing something right and are one of the lucky ones, I don’t know what would.  And darn it, if it doesn’t make me appreciate those students, volunteers, and staff that I get to call team members even more!  A big thank you to our entire team, for all the amazing work you have done this year and for your enthusiasm, personality, and dedication!

OUR TEAM:

Students –

  • Stefan Apostoluk
  • DJ Davis
  • Drew Eaton
  • Evelyn Mendoza
  • Brad Miller
  • Alex Phillips

Volunteers –

  • Joan Konecny
  • Lucy Schultz
  • Jeanne Taylor
  • Alex Temple

Staff –

  • Jessica Ebert, Conservation Tech
  • Catarina Figueirinhas, Sr. Conservation Tech
  • Holly Prochaska, Preservation Librarian & Co-Manager
  • Ashleigh Schieszer, Conservator & Co-Manager
  • Veronica Sorcher, Conservation Tech
  • Hyacinth Tucker, Binding Processor
  • Chris Voynovich, Conservation Tech

Here are some more pictures from the papermaking portion of our student/volunteer appreciation days…

You can also watch a brief video on the beating process of papermaking on our UCL MediaSpace channel, here.

Happy Holidays from the Preservation Lab!

Jessica Ebert (UCL) – Conservation Technician [and the very fortunate student supervisor]

 

NEW! Preservation Lab Channel on UCL MediaSpace

The Preservation Lab now has its own channel on the UC Libraries MediaSpace, a YouTube-like media platform powered by Kaltura!  You can find the Lab’s channel, here.

We currently have 8 videos on the MediaSpace, most of which relate to RTI.  But I recently created this fun little time-lapse video of sewing conservation endbands on a Classics collection item.  (If you enjoy twangy bluegrass music, then make sure to turn your volume up!)

Stay tuned for future videos from the Lab!

Jessica Ebert (UCL) – Conservation Technician

The Codex Symposium

On August 4th, the Ohio Preservation Council hosted a full day symposium in celebration of the book, The Codex: History, Art, and Practice.  The lab shut down for the day so that staff could attend this great event.

Keynote speaker, Julia Miller

Panelists James Reid-Cunningham, Macy Chadwick, and Bonnie Mak discuss the idea of a post-codex at the Jessing Center in Columbus.

Panelists James Reid-Cunningham, Macy Chadwick, and Bonnie Mak discuss the idea of a post-codex, with moderator Ed Vermue.

Julia Miller shows off historical examples of various codices.

Kyle Holland from the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory and Educational Foundation discusses his project that’s been years in the making.

Symposium attendees admire Kyle’s finished product.

Carrie Phillips, archives and special collections librarian from Bluffton University, shares one of the most significant codices to be produced in pre-revolutionary America.

Attendees peruse vendor goods during one of the breaks.

Attendees peruse vendor goods during one of the breaks.

Conservators Jayme Jamison and Ashleigh Ferguson Schieszer discuss two Ohio Public Library conservation treatments performed on scrapbooks significant to the collection/the community.

Many thanks to all the wonderful guest speakers, exhibitors, and fellow Ohio Preservation Council members for a wonderful day dedicated to celebrating the history of the book!

Ashleigh Schieszer (PLCH) – Book & Paper Conservator

Jessica Ebert (UCL) – Conservation Technician

Basement Finds

We follow that old rule of conservation labs always being in the basement (though we do have a window!).  Well, technically we’re not actually in the basement.  While our lab space was originally storage space when the library was built, there is actually another storage space below us, i.e. the real basement.  Or, more accurately, the deep, dark void full of stuff…random chairs, pieces of shelving units, leftover carpet tiles, etc.  Recently we heard a lot of activity going on down there and when Holly made a little trip down to check out our PackTite she found the space completely different.  Dare I say, verging on organized.  And front and center was this little gem with a thick layer of dust on it…

A little letterpress printing press!

Needless to say, Holly scooped that puppy up and whisked it away to the lab (and then promptly called our facilities manager to make sure that was ok)!  We have every intention of fixing this beauty up and doing some very fun and exciting things with it in the future.  So stay tuned!

Jessica Ebert (UCL) – Conservation Technician

Fun with PhotoDoc – RTI Viewer Video (Edition 6)

In my last “Fun with PhotoDoc” post I discussed the my recent RTI training with Cultural Heritage Imaging at Yale University.  If you missed that post you can check it out here.  In that post I discussed our first RTI capture session on a book entitled, Aller Bücher und Schrifften des thewren, seligen Mans Gottes Doct. Mart. Lutheri …, which is part UC’s Archives & Rare Books Library’s collection and is the eighth volume in an eight volume set.   The binding is most likely age-hardened alum-tawed leather (though possibly vellum) on wooden boards with embossed paneled decoration that is barely visible under normal illumination.  In that first RTI blog post I shared some snapshots of the various RTI modes you can explore within the RTI Viewer software, but I knew that I ultimately wanted to create a video capture of the RTI Viewer in action.  I was finally able to do that using a free software called TinyTake.

This video can also be viewed through UCL Media Space:  https://stream.libraries.uc.edu/media/AllerBucherUndSchrifften_i17632730_VideoCaptureRTI/1_s13c9opc

In this video we explore the following modes built within the RTI Viewer as the light position is moved around the object:

  • Default Mode (HSH)
  • Specular Enhancement Mode with color removed (HSH) – notice the “1571” inscription that becomes more apparent.  This volume was printed in 1568, and we believe that 1571 was when the publication was bound.
  • Normals Visualization Mode (HSH) – allows the human eye to better determine is convex and concave on the surface of the cover.
  • Diffuse Gain Mode (PTM) – This mode is ideal for visualizing surface abrasions and losses. Take notice of the “ID” inscription that becomes more visible, and when we switch back to the default mode you can see that this “ID” inscription is virtually invisible to the naked eye.

I have to say, Catarina and I really enjoyed the capture process for this binding, but when we found that “ID” and then looked at the physical binding and could barely see anything…we were kind of giddy!  I’m hoping to create more RTI Viewer video captures like this as we carry out more RTI capture sessions for collection materials.  When I do, I will make sure to share them here.

Jessica Ebert (UCL) – Conservation Technician

Fun with PhotoDoc – RTI (Edition 5)

At the beginning of April I was lucky enough to attend a RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) workshop offered by Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) at Yale University.  CHI is a non-profit organization  that shares and teaches RTI and Photogrammetry technology with cultural heritage institutions around the world.  The class I attended was a 4-day NEH grant sponsored course taught by three RTI experts from CHI, and it was amazing!

This is a composite image of all the highlight points from one RTI section. The software uses these highlight points to map the surface shape and color of your object.

So, what is RTI?  CHI describes it on their website as “a computational photographic method that captures a subject’s surface shape and color and enables the interactive re-lighting of the subject from any direction”.  For highlight RTI, which is the least expensive and most accessible method for most institutions and what I was taught in the class, you basically take a series of 36 to 48 images of an object where everything is constant (settings and position of objects, camera and spheres) except for the light position.  With a reflective black sphere (or 2) set up next to your object, you move you light source around the object at varying angles.  Then, you take that set of images and plug them into the free RTI software provided by CHI and the algorithm detects the sphere(s) and the highlight points (from your light) captured on the sphere(s) and voila!…you have an fun and interactive way to look at your object’s surface texture.

Before I attended this fantastic training opportunity, our conservator and I knew right away what the subject of our first capture would be when I returned…a 16th century German Reformation text by Martin Luther with a highly decorated cover that is practically invisible under normal illumination.

Here’s a time lapse video of our first (and second) capture in the Lab…

That day (Tuesday) were were able to capture the upper and lower covers of the Reformation text (from ARB), the original silk cover from a 17th century Chinese manuscript (from Hebrew Union College) and an illuminated page from a German vellum prayer book (from PLCH).  And here our some snapshots of our results from two of those captures (click on the thumbnails for a larger view of the image)…

This possibly 13th century German Prayer Book has a full stiff vellum binding and an illuminated first page.  The varying modes highlight condition issues like worn/abraded parchment and flaking gold illumination, as well as the overall surface texture of the illumination.

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a little sneak peek into RTI.  I will be demoing and discussing in further depth this afternoon from 1:30 to 3pm at the Lab’s annual Preservation Week Open House.  I also hope to do more RTI captures/processes in the future and share them here.

Jessica Ebert (UCL) – Conservation Technician

Welcome President Pinto!

Xuemao Wang and Neville Pinto

Dean and University Librarian Xuemao Wang and President Neville Pinto

The Preservation Lab had the opportunity to collaborate with our Director of Library Communications, Melissa Norris, and the Head of Archives and Rare Books Library, Kevin Grace, to create a hand bound writing notebook full of fun facts about the Library system.  The book was bound by Jessica Ebert, conservation technician.

Also pictured is a custom bind of Dot Christenson’s book Keep On Fighting: The Life and Civil Rights Legacy of Marian A. Spencer, also bound by Jessica created to mark the gift of the Marian Spencer collection to the Archives and Rare Books Library.

Fun with PhotoDoc – Edition 4

The amazing enclosure made by our very own conservation technician, Chris Voynovich, for volume 1 of the W.S. Porter Collection.

We very recently returned a two volume collection of photographs taken by William S. Porter, known as the W.S. Porter Collection, to the Public Library.  William S. Porter is known in Cincinnati as one of the two photographers responsible for the 1848 Cincinnati Panorama (you can read more about and even explore this amazing daguerreotype panorama here). Volume one of the collection consists of 7 cased photographs (including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes) and 1 non-cased tintype, all reportedly taken by W.S. Porter, while volume 2 consists of one framed daguerreotype of W.S. Porter and a preservation print of that photograph.  When these photographs arrived in the Lab for treatment, many of the cases were damaged (especially along the spine – some broken completely, one previously “repaired” with tape, etc.), the framed photograph needed re-packaging, and the collection needed two custom enclosures (vol. 1 & 2) to safely store all the photographs.

(Left) Before “bench” photos of one of the cased photographs labeled “John Wesley Lever”, (Right) After photos of the mended case.

Now, as anyone who does photographic documentation will tell you, taking treatment documentation photos of photographs is a pain, especially on the copy stand (i.e. from above) and especially when you were trained in-house in a book and paper lab.  Glass objects just aren’t as common around these parts.  During PhotoDoc glass just acts as a mirror, reflecting all your light and even your camera lens and obstructing the actual photograph you are trying to capture.  But we knew that we wanted some good quality photos of the photographs to print as surrogates and to also use in the enclosures.  Black foam core and an Olfa rotary cutter to the rescue!  Using these two supplies I created a non-reflective black surface to place around the camera lens to help reduce reflections and absorb light.

In order to mount this black foam core on the camera lens I measured the diameter of our lens and the distance from the edge of the lens to the neck of the copy stand when the camera was in place.

The foam core allows enough flexibility for the deflector to just slide past the UV filter and snap into place securely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the black non-reflective board in place, I was able, with guidance from our conservator, to get some pretty good shots of the photographs to be used as surrogates.  The photos were also printed out and attached to the back of individual tuxedo boxes for each cased photograph.  Instructions to “store face down” were placed on the front of each tuxedo box to assist patrons in proper storage.  (The glass on all of these photographs is degraded and if stored face up the glass can actually weep onto the photograph causing significant damage, therefore cased daguerreotypes/ambrotypes/tintypes are generally stored up-side-down to prevent further damage to the actual photograph).  All of the tuxedo boxes for volume 1 were housed within a two-tiered clamshell box with two removable trays made by our resident “Box Master”, Chris Voynovich.  It should be noted that it’s a miracle this enclosure made it out of the lab and back to the Public Library, because several staff members were so enamored with it and thought it would make the best jewelry box!  I mean, it kind of would, wouldn’t it?

Here are the images I was able to obtain using my homemade non-reflective board:

Jessica Ebert (UCL) – Conservation Technician

Fun with VideoDoc: Lining a Oversized Map (Edition 3)

Before treatment photo, map with cloth lining.

A couple months ago the lab received an oversized map from the Public Library’s collection.  The map is from 1863 and depicts the businesses of downtown Cincinnati at the time.  The Public Library would like to digitize the map, however when it arrived in the lab it had a variety of creases, stains and losses.  It was also previously lined with cloth.  Conservator, Ashleigh, and Sr. Conservation Tech, Catarina, began the work of removing the map from the prior cloth lining, washing the detached sections of the map to assist in removing the prior cloth lining adhesive, and locally humidifying and flattening the creases and distortions in the paper (caused when the map was previously lined).

Next up, lining the map with kozo fiber tissue and a mixture of wheat starch paste and methyl cellulose.  For this, Ashleigh and Catarina created a make-shift light table, since the Lab’s was not large enough and began piecing the sections of the map back together.  I couldn’t not document this climactic part of the treatment, so I went a little crazy, threw my go-to documentation equipment out the window (i.e. our Nikon DSLR), grabbed my iPhone and made a little video to illustrate the process.  I hope you enjoy it!

*Please note, portions of this video have been sped up to shorten the length of the video…Ashleigh and Catarina work quickly, but not THAT quickly!

Jessica Ebert (UCL) – Conservation Technician