Tag Archives: Veronica Sorcher

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, http://www.graphicsatlas.org/, is particularly useful for identifying different types of photographs and prints, and the DP3 (Digital Print Preservation Portal) website, http://www.dp3project.org/, 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

Congrats on 10 Years of Service!

Yesterday, two of the Preservation Lab’s workers were recognized for 10 years of hard work and service at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.  Veronica Sorcher, Senior Conservation Technician, and Alex Temple, Preservation Lab volunteer.  Having previously been a University of Cincinnati student, Alex Temple worked in the Preservation Lab for many years as a student worker while also working part time at the Public Library.  We’re lucky to have Alex continue on in the lab as a volunteer even after graduating!

Thanks for all your years of hard work and dedication to preserving our library’s cultural heritage!

Alex Temple

Alex Temple, assisting with a special collections storage move at the Public Library.


Veronica Sorcher, Senior Conservation Technician looks at digital prints through a Carson Microbrite Plus microscope.

Veronica at work

Check out the microscope at http://www.carson.com/products/microbrite-plus-mm-300/.










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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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

Incendiary Films

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.

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The “S” Saga

S = Ship of ThesusEvery once in a while a library receives a new book that needs a little something special. Sometimes it’s a pocket to hold an enclosed map or other added material, sometimes it’s a special box or enclosure, or sometimes it’s an extra page that needs to be tipped in. Recently the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County received 20 copies of the book, “S” by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. It’s unusual and highly visual, filled with things like postcards and news clippings, 22 in all, stuck in at different points as if someone had been reading it and had absent-mindedly left their impromptu bookmark between the pages. None of these ephemeral-seeming pieces are attached in any way. It’s a really neat interactive book, in fact I want a copy of my own, but having a book with numerous loose parts is definitely challenging as part of a library collection. The potential for the various pieces, all part of the book’s storyline, to be lost or misplaced is huge! In fact there was an outcry across the country as the book arrived and librarians saw the potential for chaos and disaster:


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Meet the collaborative lab’s new conservator!

There’s a new face in the Lab these days. Ashleigh Schieszer (pronounced She-zer), our new Conservator and Lab Manager, arrived last week. She hit the ground running just a few days after moving to Cincinnati from Los Angeles, California where she was completing her internship at the Huntington Library. Somehow, though, in the midst of the orientation sessions, getting to know her way around the Lab and meetings with managers and colleagues she found time to sit down for an interview with me.

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A Weighty Issue

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.

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