Thursday, November 20, 2008

From the Preservation Intern

As I complete my preservation internship here in the Special Collections Department, I am most grateful for the variety of skills I gained, which involved gaining physical and intellectual control over some very fascinating documents. As I learned about the architectural history of the Mass State House, I was surprised at how political the process could be, as evidenced by a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings from 1913-1916 relating to the addition of the east and west wings. This work on a government building sparked debates on labor rights, animal cruelty, the use of materials native to Massachusetts, historic preservation of the building, and fiscal responsibility. Headlines included:

Expert Explains Why State House is Painted White”

“Construction Work on the State House Should Be Done Now WHEN MEN NEED WORK”

“Protest Against Vermont Marble”

"Beacon Hill Carried Out to Sea"

While these debates rage, architects must continue to work towards the creation of a safe, practical, and beautiful building. While most of the 1890s plans I worked on detailed the aesthetics of the Brigham Extension, I spent some time working on more practical designs. For example, the plan to the right describes the structure and placement of radiators, which is certainly an important detail for a New England building! Other plans I worked on outlined the structure of the basement for the purpose of fireproofing the building.

Still, the majority of the plans were concerned with the design of particular rooms. I went on a tour of the State House early this week, and was impressed with how lovely the building is, especially now that the Christmas decorations have started to go up. On the tour, I believe I saw the room with the portraits mentioned in an earlier post. Instead of representing the Senate Reading Room, as the plan indicated, the design looks like it reflects the current design of the Senate President’s Office. The office has been decorated for Christmas, and vintage toys were placed throughout the room. This would be a great time for those who haven't taken a tour to check it out.

I truly enjoyed my internship at the Massachusetts State Library, and would encourage anyone interested in architectural history and design, Massachusetts history, or the history of the State House to experience these documents for themselves.

-Laura Pike, Preservation Intern

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

From the Preservation Lab

This past Friday and Saturday I attended the New England Archivists' fall meeting, held in Boston. The central theme of the meeting was preservation and the discussions ranged from traditional item-level preservation to collection-level digital preservation projects. I was excited to attend the Saturday morning discussion session titled: Storage Solutions for Prints and Negatives, facilitated by Martha Mahard, a faculty member from Simmons College. As a former student of Martha's I knew that it would be a lively discussion, but as a practicing preservation librarian, I had a specific storage question I hoped to have answered during the session.

My problem was this: the library's collection of 51 tin type photographs were in need of new housing and I wanted a professional opinion on what would be an appropriate housing solution. The tin types feature portraits of Massachusetts legislators from the 1860s, one of which is pictured above. The grid on which the tin type is pictured above is a one-half inch by one-half inch grid - yes, these photographs are only one inch tall and three-quarters of an inch wide.

The tin types currently are housed in specially made Mylar envelopes that have a small pocket built inside to house the portrait. Each envelope contains one portrait and all the envelopes are contained within two archival boxes, pictured below. The Mylar envelope is nice because it allows a user to view without touching the item. However, the Mylar is held together with double-sided tape that is failing due to the curves created by folding the Mylar. As the Mylar sides pulled apart from one another, the enclosure failed, leaving the portrait free to float around the envelope and become lodged in the sticky residue of the tape.

After discussing the situation with Martha in the NEA session, I formulated a storage plan. Each tin type will receive a custom-made four flap box built out of .010 folder stock with a pH of approximately 8.5. Each of the inside flaps will be the full length of the portrait, alleviating any concern about the flap becoming lodged between the portrait and the metal frame. Once the portrait is placed inside the box, each box will be place inside an individual acid-free folder, which in turn will be placed inside a new archival box. With this plan in place I began creating a template and prototype this morning and now have a work flow for creating these boxes. Stay tuned to the blog for pictures once the tin types have been rehoused.

I must say, it's kind of fun working in miniature for a change. Each box is so tiny and I am somewhat surprised by the cuteness of the finished product. Even the lab intern volunteered to make a few boxes after she saw the prototype. With fifty-one boxes to make, I have plenty of time to enjoy the smallness of this project.

- Lacy Crews, Preservation Librarian

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

From the Preservation Intern

Today I encapsulated plan 1399, which shows the design of part of the Librarian’s room. But as it turns out, this plan is "incorrect". The design may have been put in the reject pile, but the plan itself still must be carefully preserved through cleaning and encapsulation. The plans are encapsulated in archival quality polyester film, often called by its Dupont-registered trade name, Mylar. Mylar is a clear, strong film that protects materials from dirt, oil, acids, and other pollutants, and has a life span of hundreds of years.

After a plan has been cleaned, it is ready for encapsulation, and the surface of the work area is wiped off with an absorbent cloth. If the plan is small enough, a scrap from a previous encapsulation may be used. The scraps are kept in the drawer of a dresser in the preservation area.

Otherwise, the large roll of Mylar is retrieved, which is kept under a large cloth to protect it. After bringing it to the work area, the sheet is pulled out to be measured for use. How you position and cut the Mylar for use depends on the size and shape of the plan, and the goal is to avoid wasting any of the material. In this encapsulation, I found that the new roll of Mylar had tape residue, so I was careful not to use the affected areas in the encapsulation.

The plan is laid on the Mylar, and when measuring pieces of Mylar for use, about an inch perimeter is left on all sides of the plan. In this way, two equal pieces of Mylar are cut for use. The Mylar is placed with the inside facing up, with the edges of the material curling upward on the sides, and an anti-static brush is used to remove static. The plan is placed on the Mylar, and a special type of tape is used to frame the document, with about 1/2" between the plan and the tape.

<On one corner, a small amount of space is left between the two pieces of tape, which helps to allow some air in and prevent a microenvironment from developing. The goal is to prevent the sliding of the document in its encasing, while preventing the plan from actually coming into contact with the tape.

The tape is firmly pressed down using a bonefolder, and the edges are lifted slightly, ensuring that the tape’s sticky residue is left behind. The second piece of Mylar is treated with the anti-static brush, then placed on top of the plan, making sure the inside is facing down. The tape between the plans is removed, leaving behind the sticky residue, and the top piece of Mylar is carefully laid on top of the plan, ensuring that no air bubbles are left between the pieces. The bonefolder is again used to press the pieces of Mylar together.

The edges of the encapsulated document are cut so that there is about 1/8” of Mylar around the taped edges, and the corners are rounded to prevent sharp edges from harming any other documents. After this process, you have a document that looks nice and is well preserved and protected.

- Laura Pike, Preservation Intern

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

From the Processing Intern

I am processing the Anne Sweetnam collection of papers. This particular collection is unique among recent acquisitions since it contains the records of a State House employee rather than a Massachusetts legislator. Sweetnam was employed in the Legislative Engrossing Division beginning in the mid 1960s up through the early 2000s. Her responsibilities as part of the Legislative Engrossing Division included preparation and certification of the Final Version of a Bill or Resolve on special parchment before final action was taking by either the House or Senate. The collection includes correspondence, information on engrossing a bill, and several photographs. This undated picture, probably from the early 1970s, shows Anne reviewing revisions as she prepares a bill to undergo the engrossing procedure.

- Andrea Mazzarella, Processing Intern

Monday, November 3, 2008

From the Preservation Lab

Last week I traveled to New Jersey to participate in week one of the Preservation Management Institute at Rutgers University. It was a packed week full of learning, field trips and meeting others in the preservation field.

The week started with presentations on preservation management, care and handling of library materials and the nature of paper. From there we moved on to a full day on HVAC and fire suppression systems; learning both how they work and which systems can work best for a specific type of institution. We were able to apply our newly acquired knowledge the next day as we toured Rutgers' Alexander Library. Library staff took us through the public areas as well as into the machine room and onto the roof to see the HVAC systems in action. It was great to hear the facilities staff speak about pre-action fire suppression systems and actually understand what that meant!

Our field trips continued the next day as we headed to Pennsylvania to the OCLC Preservation Services Center and the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA). At OCLC we got to see how preservation microfilm is produced as well as how digital images are made from both original items and from previously shot microfilm. Though I have dealt with microfilm in the reading room, it was so interesting to learn how it was produced and how it could be converted to digital images. (The photo at the top was taken at OCLC and it shows canisters of 16mm microfilm stored in the temperature and humidity controled print master storage vault). At CCAHA we were shown through all areas of the conservation lab and were able to see photographs, pastel drawings, oversized maps and many bound volumes being repaired by their trained conservators. It was such a treat to visit! The week ended on Halloween, with a fitting presentation on mold, bugs and rodents. I'll spare you the details, but will say that the entomologist speaking to us had a great sense of humor and provided numerous practical approaches for dealing with the smallest of library patrons.

The Preservation Management Institute is a year-long program, and last week was the first of three that I'll be spending taking classes at Rutgers. The information presented in week one provides a solid basis for my coursework, which involves writing a preservation survey for the State Library. This survey will provide an overall view of the library, its spaces and systems and how they relate to the preservation of collections. Once the survey is completed in early 2009 it will work to provide a structure for the preservation program and perhaps spur new grant writing opportunities. I look forward to applying everything I've learned over the past seven days to the preservation program at the State Library.

- Lacy Crews, Preservation Librarian