You may recall that back in July I blogged about these two beauties that came to the Lab for custom enclosures. They both returned to PLCH at the beginning of September in their custom enclosures, so I thought I’d share what type of enclosures we came up with to address all the fragile elements of these particular artists’ books. Continue reading
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.
While all the books, documents, and objects that we receive in the lab are interesting and exciting, artists’ books are definitely a crowd favorite, especially amongst the technicians. When Holly and Ashleigh come back from the PLCH rare books meeting and announce they’ve brought back some artists’ book we all get a little excited and know that there are probably some fun cloth covered clamshell boxes in our future. Last week when the techs met with Ashleigh, our conservator, to discuss upcoming projects there was quite a bit of oohing and ahhing when she unwrapped and assembled the two artists’ book they had brought back to the Lab for enclosures.
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.
The start of Fall has been a busy and productive time for the lab. We’ve been engaged in workshop opportunities with the Ohio Preservation Council, have started training two new lab volunteers, and now we are in the news! Check out two great articles from two great publications – the University of Cincinnati UC Magazine and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s LibraryLinks.
Now on exhibit at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County are a collection of stereoview photographs that were treated and rehoused in the Preservation Lab this past winter.
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has a wonderful collection of materials about the use of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers known as the Inland Rivers Collection. Recently a group of photographs with accompanying film negatives from this collection came to the Lab.
What for? Well, film has been made using different chemicals over the years, some of which are very unstable. The Lab’s task was to divide and house the entire grouping according to film type. Special attention was given to identifying any cellulose nitrate negatives and isolating them in separate storage housing with the recommendation they be digitized and then disposed of in accordance with Ohio’s guidelines for discarding hazardous materials.
Cellulose nitrate film was the first widely used flexible plastic film. In the late nineteenth century it supplanted heavy, fragile glass plates. Great! Except nitrate is also a chemical component in gunpowder. As cellulose nitrate film degrades it goes through several distinct stages, beginning with silver mirroring and yellowing. Then it may become sticky and smelly (nitric acid odor). Gradually the negative changes to an amber color with the image beginning to fade. Eventually the negative can soften to a point where it may stick to adjacent pictures or its enclosure. In the final stage it turns to a brown acidic powder. As deterioration progresses it accelerates and in the last stages the film may begin to generate its own heat and ignite. A cellulose nitrate fire doesn’t need oxygen to burn so most of the usual firefighting methods won’t put it out. Any grouping of cellulose nitrate film increases the risk. Reels of motion picture film contained in metal canisters concentrate the off-gassing and accelerate the deterioration process.
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.
Moving from sunny California to the “most northern southern city, and the most eastern Midwest city,” A.K.A. Cincinnati, I’ve found that I love living in a climate with the change of seasons. In particular, one of my favorite sightings on the University of Cincinnati campus made me feel as though I was living in an page of an Andy Goldsworthy book! Just before this yellow ginkgo tree began to lose its leaves, the ground received a light autumn dusting of snow that whimsically highlighted the presence of the tree’s newly fallen leaves.
One of my favorite aspects of this job is learning about cool old stuff. I have just had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with stereoscopic images. In the process of surface cleaning and rehousing this project, I saw a lot of cool images and learned about the use of antique stereoscopes.
Antique stereoscopes, also known as stereopticons or stereo-viewers, were popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A stereoscopic viewer is a special device that helps us see 2 mounted photographs as one three dimensional image. The way it works is a stereo-view slide is inserted into the viewing device, and the person viewing looks through the device while adjusting the distance of the slide. The slide is adjusted either closer or farther from the viewer’s face until it comes into focus. The two images appear as one 3D image to us when looking through the viewer because we are seeing two perspectives merge into one – not too different from the Magic Eye books that were popular in the 90’s filled with stereograms. The two perspectives are taken with a special camera that has two lenses that mimic how we see the world through two eyes. The lenses are spaced slightly apart, roughly similar to the distance of our eyes.