We field a lot of questions in the Book Conservation Lab about caring for personal collections. In the spirit of Preservation Week here are some answers to some of our Frequently Asked Questions. If you have additional questions we have a live “Ask Our Book Conservator Anything” April 30th from 12-2 PM!
Last year a book came into the Book Conservation Lab as part of the Smithsonian Libraries Adopt-a-Book program. The book, Systema Entomological by Heinrich Buchecker, was in two distinct pieces – text and plates. The color lithographic plates, depicting dragonflies, were printed on paper that is a higher quality than the text. Unfortunately, the text is printed on highly acidic paper that has become brittle with age. Usually the decision to post bind is more »
New York at Christmas time evokes many memories but as a child it meant a visit to FAO Schwarz, the oldest toy store in the United States. When a 1911 catalog from the famed toy store landed in the Book Conservation Lab it was like an early Christmas present!
On November 20-22 the Smithsonian Libraries hosted a three day workshop, “Understanding Asian Papers and their Applications in Paper Conservation,” given by Minah Song, a paper conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) in Philadelphia. The workshop began with a lecture on the process of papermaking in China, Korea and Japan and then moved onto hands-on techniques including learning different lining techniques, toning or paper with fiber reactive dyes, parchment repair and more »
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 »
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