From the outside “A Samoan Dictionary” looks fairly innocuous, but inside lies horror that would strike fear in the heart of any conservator (or book lover). The cover looks like an after thought – a simple piece of vellum with a handwritten title. Upon closer inspection it is evident that the cover is a recycled piece of vellum. The faint images of rows of typed numbers are visible to the naked eye. more »
Re-housing is one of the least glamorous but most important responsibilities of the Smithsonian Libraries Conservation Department. Re-housing encompasses placing library materials into protective enclosures ranging from ready-made acid free envelopes to intricate custom made boxes. It is a way to treat a large number of materials fairly quickly providing them with a stable environment. For this set of Eugène Séguy prints form the Joseph F. Cullman III Library of Natural History more »
The Book Conservation Lab recently had a visit from bookbinder and inventor Bill Minter. Bill created the Ultrasonic Welder we use in the lab for encapsulating items. Encapsulation entails sealing an item between two sheets of Mylar (an inert polyester resin.) The welder is particularly useful for encapsulating brittle, fragile items ensuring that information is preserved while allowing them to be handled. Bill disassembled the motor unit, cleaned and oiled the machine and replaced several more »
When a book that had the impact of Edward Jenner’s An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae comes into the conservation lab we get fairly excited. This 1798 first edition, part of the Dibner Library, outlines the technique of infecting patients with the mild cowpox virus to create immunity from the highly contagious and often deadly smallpox virus. As a result of his findings Jenner is considered the father of immunology more »
Eight Le Chic fashion magazines are currently patients in the Book Conservation Lab. The magazines came to us from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Library. They date from the early 20th century and were published in Vienna, Austria. The fashions are reminiscent of the costumes seen in Downton Abbey or Mr. Selfridge!
April 21-27 is Preservation Week! Preservation Week was created by the American Libraries Association to bring attention to preservation matters in libraries and to help the public maintain their own collections. In honor of this event, we will be featuring preservation-related content on the Smithsonian Libraries’ blog as well as our other social media outlets, like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. We encourage you to join the conversation! And if you’re in the DC area, check out our free event on Wednesday, April 24th! The Conservation Lab received a very interesting patient from the American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library recently. The book is “Andy Warhol’s Index Book” designed by the artist in the 1960′s experimenting with the idea of the book as a work of art.
Paper repair is an elusively simple repair. Using wheat starch paste and Japanese paper we repair tears in paper in a manner that is flexible and reversible. The trick to a good paper repair is select the proper color and weigh of repair tissue.