A Typical Case of Repair Work

Many books within the various general collections of the Smithsonian Libraries arrive at the Book Conservation Lab in need of similar treatment. Though the several collections in the Natural History Museum Libraries are largely filled with science related items, some reveal aspects of the natural world through artistic and literary presentations. Recently, a book of this type, entitled The Poetry of Nature, selected and illustrated by Harrison Weir and published in 1868, more »

A postgraduate work placement experience

This post was written by Roger Williams, intern in our Book Conservation Lab. I came to the Smithsonian for six weeks for the work-placement segment of my studies at West Dean College. As a Virginia native and a longtime visitor of the Smithsonian, I was excited at the opportunity to get some real-world experience both close to home and at one of the most impressive museums on the planet.

The Fix – Paperwork you can love

This post was written by Vanessa Haight Smith, Head of Preservation Services. The Book Conservation Lab makes use of hand-made marbled papers in some of our book treatments and projects.  Originally used for decorative book covers and endsheets, marbled papers are occasionally replaced during treatments with new handmade papers when the originals are substantially damaged or missing. 

The Fix – The Art of Camouflage

This post was written by Vanessa Haight Smith, Head of Preservation Services.  Japanese paper is used for many applications in book and paper conservation and I often choose this material when reattaching weak or detached boards.  The practice of toning Japanese paper hinges for reattaching boards to leather bindings, promoted by conservator Don Etherington, is widely used in the field.

The Fix – Post Binding

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 »

The Fix- Ultrasonic Welder Repair

  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 »

Chilling out with rare books

This post was written by Morgan Arronson, intern in the Dibner Library for the History and Science and Technology and Preservation Department. If you want to stay cool during DC’s hot and humid summer, head to the Smithsonian and find the nearest rare book. Instantly a wave of cool air will rush by. This may sound strange but it works every time. Here at the Smithsonian’s Dibner Library and the Book Conservation more »

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