Wednesday, October 29, 2008

From the Preservation Intern

Preservation lab image
At this point, I’ve performed preservation work on several of the Brigham Extension architectural plans. Cleaning the plans required several different tools and steps:
Preservation tool image

Large sheets of scrap white paper (1) are placed under the plans to protect them from picking up dirt left on the desk. The paper also serves to catch the dirt removed from the plans during cleaning. The magic sponge comes in large blocks (2), and small squares (3) are removed using scissors or an X-acto knife. The sponge absorbs and removes dirt, and is less likely to remove ink or pencil markings.

The block eraser (4) provides a more thorough cleaning, leaving the paper looking brighter. The stick eraser (5) is the most precise instrument. The tip can be cut into a neat edge using an X-acto knife (6), which helps when one it trying to remove dirt from around pencil markings without them. The pencil marks were added after the plans were drawn in ink, but can still be very significant. In this plan reflecting the interior design of the Senate Reading Room, the pencil drawings are some of the most ornate and interesting, and include the suggestion of a portrait on the wall.

Here is the Senate Reading Room as it exists today. I'm not sure that it exactly represents this architectural plan, but it is beautiful nontheless.

As the dirt is removed using the erasers, a brush (7) is used to remove dirt and eraser shavings from the work area. When applying pressure to the plan to keep it steady during cleaning, pieces of acid free paper (8) are used to protect the plan from the oils on human hands.

After cleaning, the plan looks brighter. In the picture below, the area on the right has been cleaned, and the area on the left awaits preservation work.

My next blog post will discuss the encapsulation process.

- Laura Pike, Preservation Intern

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From the Preservation Lab

Lately I've been on a mission to rid our stacks of plastic document folders, originally described in this post from July. I've now started on the section of our collection cataloged using the Library of Congress classification. Beginning with the Zs I've pulled both items housed in plastic document folders and thin paperback brochures that are easily lost between larger books.

At the right is one such paperback brochure that struck me as particularly charming. Published in September of 1952, this brochure outlines the need for further public library service in thirty-five western Massachusetts communities. The cover of the brochure is shown at left and at right is one of the last pages of the brochure. As the images show, this item is in good condition so it just received an envelope to help protect it on the shelf from larger hardback books.

The Boston area is lucky to have numerous libraries that are open to the public, and we at the State Library are happy to be included in that group. Though the library is here to serve the legislature and state employees, we are open to the public Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. Our main library has a lovely collection of interesting new books, Massachusetts Book Award winners and current periodicals in addition to its thorough collection of Massachusetts legislative resources. Recent updates to the main library, as well as to the periodicals balcony, make it a welcoming and relaxing place to enjoy a bit of casual reading or more in-depth research. Our Special Collections department has a large collection of city directories, maps and atlases for cities and towns throughout Massachusetts. And of course our exhibits are on display anytime the State House is open to the public.

- Lacy Crews, Preservation Librarian

Friday, October 17, 2008

State Documents Online

The reference staff at the State Library has compiled a webpage with links to many of the Massachusetts State Documents that exist in digital form. These include recent reports from state agencies, as well as several series dating back to the 19th century.

Series digitized by the State Library include the Acts and Resolves from 1960 to 1996, Legislative Biographical Directories dating to the 1890s, and the Annual Reports of the Attorney General (from the 1840s to the present). Several other series, such as Massachusetts Election Statistics and the Massachusetts Census have been scanned by other area institutions, such as the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

-Alix Quan, Head of Reference

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Massachusetts Campaign 2008

The State Library, in the height of this campaign season, has received "Campaign 2008 Issues Briefing Book for Massachusetts Candidates and Voters" from MassInc.

This volume presents information to help candidates as they run for office. It serves also to "brief" the general public about what issues are in the forefront of this election cycle in the Bay State. Come visit the library to use this new resource.

-Pamela Schofield, Reference Librarian

From the Edward Kirby Collection

This post continues our series of selections from the Edward Kirby Collection of legislative papers. Processing is now complete, and the collection is open to researchers. The finding aid is available in the Special Collections Department, and a catalog record will soon be viewable in the library OPAC.

These doodles were drawn by Kirby in 1963, during his terms as a State Representative. They are on the back of a dittoed information sheet about a meeting of the Plymouth Couty Republican Club at which Edward M. Swartz, the Assistant Attorney General, would give a talk and answer questions about a new Conflict of Interest Law. In the detailed view of the sheet, you can see Kirby's notes about the planning of the event.

My favorite element, though, is the drawing of Abraham Lincoln shown at left.

-Katie Chase, Special Collections Librarian

From the Preservation Intern

As part of the introductory archives classes at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, students complete a sixty-hour internship of their choosing. I was intrigued by the preservation internship here at the Massachusetts State Library because of the opportunity to learn hands-on preservation techniques, including document cleaning and encapsulation, on a fascinating collection of architectural plans. Created in the 1890s for the Brigham Extension, the135 working drawings feature interior plans for plaster, marble, woodwork and glass elements throughout the extension.

The extension was commissioned when the Bulfinch State House (red area) proved too small. The Brigham Extension (yellow area) was added to the back of the Bulfinch State House and was completed in 1895. Later, the State House was extended with East and West Wings (white area), which was completed in 1917.* I look forward to investigating how these plans represent the interior design and style of the Brigham Extension as it exists today. It’s a great reminder of how archival documents can illuminate the present as well as the past.

The plans are larger than any archival documents I’ve worked with before, and vary in terms of size, shape, and level of preservation needed. Some are in need of minor cleaning, while others are much dirtier and may be on paper that is more brittle. Here is an example of how the plans vary. The plan on top is much smaller and is in better condition.

The plan on the bottom, already encapsulated in mylar, is larger and in worse condition, and will more challenging to preserve:

The plans are in ink, but many have pencil marks in various places, and care must be taken not to remove these during cleaning. All of the plans will be encapsulated in Mylar. However they vary, the plans are all beautiful in their design and unique in their historical value.

Because I had never worked with architectural plans before, I was interested to read a book published by the Society of American Archivists called Architectural Records: Managing Design and Construction Records. It provided a good overview of the different types of architectural documents and best practices for their preservation. Lacy also took me on a tour of the Massachusetts State House, which helped provide context for the project.

As I proceed in my work, I will update the blog to discuss how the work is performed and what I’m learning from the experience.

* Graphic Source: The Secretary of the Commonwealth's information on the State House model

- Laura Pike, Preservation Intern

Friday, October 10, 2008

Plymouth: People, Politics and Primary Sources

The anxiously awaited exhibit is now open to the public. Please stop by the State Library in room 341 of the Massachusetts State House to view the exhibition of materials from the State Library's collections highlighting the Town of Plymouth and the Wampanoag, the town's first inhabitants. Some items on display include maps from the 1700s to present, town reports and newspapers from the 1800s, a tax valuation from 1784, legislative papers from former Senator Edward Kirby, and library resources on the Wampanoag. When you visit be sure to pick up a copy of the exhibit bibliography, available in the exhibit area. The exhibit runs through January 23, 2009.

Pilgrim Portrait: Baker, George B. The Pilgrim Spirit. Boston: Marshall Jones Company, 1921.
Portrait of Eben Quippish: Peters, Russell M. The Wampanoags of Mashpee. Jamaica Plain, MA: R.M. Peters, 1987.

- Lacy Crews, Preservation Librarian