Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Preservation Week -- A Glimpse into our Preservation Lab

Preservation Week is here, so it is my pleasure to share with you a little bit about what I do as a preservation professional. While I work in the Special Collections department as the Preservation Librarian, I oversee the collection maintenance and in-house preservation/conservation treatments for the whole library. My ultimate goal is to conserve, preserve and protect our circulating and non-circulating material to the best of my ability using the resources we have in our Preservation Lab. The tools that I have in the lab are critical to ensuring quality work, and that the collections get the best care possible. The lab is filled with tools ranging from document repair tape to a sizeable encapsulator. Each item is so important, and so useful, that they each deserve their own blog post!  However, in the interest of time, I would like us to take a look at the lab basics. These are items that I use almost every single day, and couldn’t produce quality work without.

Preservation tools

Much of the work my intern and I produce in the lab begins with surface cleaning. Before any type of material is re-housed, repaired or encapsulated, it has to be cleaned. In the image above you will see the tools we use to make this happen. Soft brushes sweep away dirt, grime, and debris. Surface cleaning sponges are two-sided tools that we can use to clean documents (with the white, soft side) or artifacts (with the blue, rough side). Q-tips can be used for small areas that need spot cleaning, and erasers are perfect for getting rid of stray pencil marks that we often times find in our atlases or directories.

Book cloth

Repairing books is a major responsibility of the Preservation Lab. Regular readers of our blog will know that we recently underwent a significant cataloguing project that entailed physically going through our entire collection. There are many books in the lab awaiting repair; loose pages, damaged spines, and missing cover boards are included in their ailments. These are the tools that I will go to constantly to make these books like new again (well, almost!): White adhesive, applied with a standard painting brush is a necessity, as is book cloth. In the above image you can see a large sheet of book cloth that can be cut to size, and a roll of self-adhesive book cloth, which is perfect for spine repairs. Tissue paper, when interleaved between pages and covers, helps keep the adhesive from sticking to any area that it should not. The small spray bottle of de-acidification spray is a handy tool and a necessity when items are becoming yellowed or fragile.

Book clamps

Once books are repaired, we can use weights or book clamps to hold them together until the adhesive dries. In the above picture, my intern Andra is setting up a book in a book clamp.

Bone folders

As in the images above,  these items, though they be small, are used several times a day for a number of different projects. Bone folders (left) are used to fold and crease mat board, smooth book cloth, and mark fabric. Micro-spatulas (right) are used for lifting tape, removing adhesives, book-binding, and for putting adhesive in those small, hard to reach areas.

These gadgets (above) are always accessible to Andra and me, as we use them on a daily basis as well. We have dozens of the weights at our fingertips for when we are binding books or flattening objects. Pencils, scissors, rulers, and utility knives ensure that we cut mat board, paper, and book cloth straight and even every time. A PH pen can let us know if material is turning acidic; this helps us figure out what conservation and preservation efforts should be taken so that the item does not deteriorate even more. Tweezers help lift fragile items for re-placement or to lay Japanese tissue paper down for mending. The blue handle with the round metal wheel is used to score mat board or fabric, so we know where to fold or cut.

One of the final steps in our conservation and preservation efforts is to make sure that the material that we repaired, and the rest of our collection, is properly housed. We do this by having archival quality, acid-free supplies on hand. Document boxes, folders, envelopes, and photograph sleeves are always on hand so that we can re-house our paper material, books, and photographs properly. If a book is in need of its own box, one can be fabricated, like the ones above, to suit its measurements.

I hope you enjoyed your glimpse into the lab. Check in with the State Library of Massachusetts every day on Twitter during Preservation Week to get tid-bits on how you can take care of your family documents, photographs, and scrapbooks at home!

Kelly J. Turner
Preservation Librarian