Monday, August 29, 2011

Love that Dirty Water? Not Quite

Earlier this year a library staff member brought me a badly water-damaged item. What follows is a photo essay of the preservation process. Here's how the item looked when it first arrived in the preservation lab:
It kind of looked like a topographic map had been added to the cover. The item was dry when I received it, and my best guess is it had been in the path of a periodic leak. The drying and subsequent wetting of the item could cause rings of varying sizes. A close up of the title and images:Sediment from the water was left at the edges of the puddles as the water dried, creating dark rings of hardened sediment. The rings from a slightly different angle:

The cover of the book has a glossy finish which both saved this item from being destroyed and allowed for cleaning. Using a cotton swab dipped in distilled water, I carefully tested one small area of the cover to see if it would come clean. This test showed positive results and I began slowly cleaning the entire cover. After a bit of cleaning, this was the result:

The top layer of dirt was removed from the majority of the cover and many cotton swabs were used in the process. Blotter paper was put on both sides of the front cover and the item was placed under weights overnight. This process helped to draw out any remaining dampness from the cover and help prevent further warping from water absorption.

After the remaining area of dirt had been cleaned, I was left with only the toughest areas of residue to clean.
The first layer of dirt had been easy to lift with just a damp cotton swab. However for this next phase of cleaning, I swabbed on a bit of distilled water and let it sit for about one minute before I began lifting the dirt with a damp cotton swab. This technique proved quite effective, though I was careful to keep the water used on the item to a minimum. If I had to leave the item for any substantial amount of time I would sandwich it between blotter paper and put it under weights.

The result of this detailed work is an item that looks remarkably beautiful when compared to its pre-preservation state:
There is still a bit of staining along the top edge where the water was able to migrate between the glossy top layer and the backing paper. Removal of a section of the glossy layer might aid in further cleaning, however I am reluctant to remove it as it includes the grid design seen throughout the cover. A custom phase box will be the last step in preserving this item. I leave you with one final shot of the title and images:

- Lacy Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian

Thursday, August 25, 2011

91st Anniversary of the 19th Amendment

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the United States constitution, granting women the right to vote, became law. Here in Massachusetts the state legislature had approved in June "An Act to Enable Women Voters to Vote at Primaries and Elections When Qualified." You can read the preamble to that Act on the right, and the full text of the Act is available through the State Library's website.

A celebration of Women's Equality Day will take place on Friday, August 26, from 11am to noon at the Swan Boats Pavilion of the Boston Public Garden. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino will be the guest speakers. You can find more information about this event at the Attorney General's website.

Happy Women's Equality Day!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Brown Bag on the Massachusetts State Archives

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
On Thursday, August 25th, 2011
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442 State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and join us to hear Dr. John Warner,
Archivist of the Commonwealth, speak about resources
and programs of this important division of the Secretary
of State’s office. He will provide handouts and will answer
questions about the historical documents available for researchers
at this Columbia Point, Boston, location.
To register, RSVP to:
You may also let us know you will attend by calling the Reference
Department at 617-727-2590 of e-mailing to

Sponsored by the Friends of the State Library

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Slight Diversion

Work on the Massachusetts Room Preservation Project is moving at a swift pace, with the lab preserving over 3,900 items in fiscal year 2011. One of the items that came across my workbench in this time was a series of four reading lists published in 1919 by the library of the Massachusetts Agricultural College at Amherst (now UMass Amherst). Each card is approximately three and a half inches by five inches and includes numerous titles on a given subject. The reading list shown at left is on the topic of sports and recreation. Other topics in the reading list series include flower arranging, gardening and the domestic arts. These reading lists can be found in the Mass. Room under the call number 630.72M3J A27r. In these hazy days of August, I encourage you to heed the words of H. More:

The mind ought sometimes to be diverted, that it may return the better to thinking.

Lacy Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

World War I Scanning Project Completed

As part of a long-term State Library project to make as many collections as possible available to the public through the web, we have been at work since late 2007 digitizing a collection of World War I portraits given to the State Library by the Boston Globe in 1935. With over 8,000 photographs and three times as many corresponding biographical cards, we have also created a database that includes basic information about each soldier – assignment, rank, merit awards, and sometimes even extra facts from newspaper clippings.

On July 20, scanning was finally completed—8,487 New England soldiers yielded over 11,000 images! The final photograph is of J.W. Zwinge, member of the 101st Field Artillery, Battery A. Although the last photo scan suggests the end of an era, the database will continue to grow with over 25,000 biographical cards that have yet to be added. In addition, over the coming months these images will be added to our digital repository. To view a selection of photos from the collection, please visit the State Library's Flickr page.