Treating a rare French newspaper featuring the Statue of Liberty

In late 2019, a rare newspaper was discovered in the Indiana State Library’s General Pamphlet Collection by Rayjeana Duty, Circulation Support supervisor. The newspaper showed a single sheet from the Le Journal Illustré from May 13, 1883. What made this particular issue of this newspaper unique and special is that it contained articles and illustrations showing the construction of the Statue of Liberty, before it was given to the United States in June of 1885. The images in the newspaper showed not only the Statue of Liberty being built, but also showed various images of the internal structure of the Statue of Liberty.

Upon realizing how unique and rare the newspaper was – and also realizing the poor condition it was in – it was brought to the conservation lab for assessment and conservation treatment. The newspaper was in extremely poor condition. Most of the sheet had been torn along the original folds, and repaired at some point with rubber cement and a thin acidic paper. This caused extremely bad staining throughout the sheet, obscuring both the images and the text. The paper was also extremely brittle and the damage was so severe that the newspaper needed to be handled on a rigid board to prevent pieces from falling off and getting lost. After thorough testing and examination, a plan was put together for a way to remove all of the staining and repair all of the remaining damage.

The first step was to remove all of the old repair paper and rubber cement staining. This was carefully done by applying a solvent to the stained areas on a powerful vacuum table.  The solvent would solubilize the old rubber cement and move it into sacrificial blotter paper underneath. Slowly, this cleared out the staining and allow the removal of the old acidic repair paper without damaging the newspaper.

Once all of the staining and repair paper was removed, all of the tears opened up again.  This was sort of like taking an old bandage off a wound. Since the repair paper was the only thing holding all of the pieces together, once the repair paper was removed all of the pieces came apart. This was the point where it was possible to determine how much of the sheet was missing, and how many holes there were. Due to the brittleness of the paper and the staining, each of the pieces were individually washed in specially modified water to de-acidify the paper. This removed much of the brittleness and resulted in the paper being stronger. Much of the yellowing of the paper also went away.

Once all of the pieces were washed, the reassembly process began. All of the missing areas were filled with re-pulped paper on a suction table and the sheet was lined with a very thin Japanese tissue with wheat starch paste. This tissue was thin enough to still allow for the text on the opposing side to be read.

Working under a microscope, the loose pieces were carefully put back into in their correct spots.

Finally, the newly-filled in areas were carefully in-painted under a microscope to blend in with the surrounding image.

The final result is a newspaper that is better preserved and free of damage. This will allow for better viewing of both the images and the text. Click on the photos below for a larger view.

Translation of the bottom of the page featuring the Statue of Liberty:

The creation of the colossal statue of liberty
Executed by M. Aug. Bartoldi
Visit from M. President to the manufacture Gauthier and Cie, 25 rue de Chazelle (Parc Monceau)

1.       Fabrication in wood of the left hand of the statue.
2.       Modeling the same body fragment, covered in plaster.
3.       Scheme of the interior structure of the statue, facing forward.
4.       Building the statue in the courtyard of the manufacture.
5.       Section of the statue, seen from the side
6.       Modeling in wood of a part, molds built by the woodworkers.
7.       Beating of the copper on the molds built by the woodworkers
8.       Visit of M. President inside the statue. Entry through the right foot.

Drawings by Karl Fichot. See article p. 154.

Learn more about the Indiana State Library’s Martha E. Wright Conservation Lab here.

Translation courtesy of Sophie Barbisan, assistant paper conservator at the St. Louis Art Museum.

This blog post was written by Seth Irwin, conservator, Indiana State Library.

Treatment of a water-damaged 1943 U.S. Cadet Nursing Corps poster

As a follow-up to a recent post regarding material from the Indiana State Library’s Government Documents Division, this post will summarize the repair of a 1943 U.S. Cadet Nursing Corps poster that was damaged during an air handler water leak on April 15, 2019.

The poster is a 1943 lithographic poster for the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, drawn by artist Carolyn Edmundson. On that morning, a leak was discovered in the public documents room in the library. By the time it was discovered, the water had caused damage to a variety of pieces that had been left on a table under the leak spot. One of these pieces was the nursing poster. It was apparent, that while the poster had suffered water damage, there was also damage to the poster that predated the leak. The poster suffered from severe creasing, tears and areas of loss. A small amount of old pressure sensitive cellophane tape was found on the back and the paper was very dirty and brittle. Staining had occurred from the water damage. Additionally, the paper was cockled.

The treatment of the poster began with documentation. Both sides of the poster were photographed, and a report was written documenting its condition and proposing treatment options to address the damage. The first step was to dry clean both sides of the poster to remove the dirt and grime. The cellophane was then removed with the use of a hot air pencil.

The entire poster was washed in alkalized water and dried between wool felt blankets.

The area of loss was filled with re-pulped paper and the entire poster was lined onto a sheet of Japanese tissue with wheat starch paste.

The poster was photographed again and a final report was written documenting the treatment.

The poster is now safely back in the flat file cabinet with the library’s other broadsides.

This blog post was written by Seth Irwin, conservator, Indiana State Library.

Maps of Jennings and Ripley County, by William W. Borden (c. 1875): Part 1

This will be part one of a two-part feature on this collection item. Please be sure to check back in the near future for part two from Chris Marshall, who will give more information about the map book’s creator and the historical importance of its contents.

Rescuing a Book of Hand-drawn Maps from Repairs Gone Wrong

When Indiana Division Librarian Chris Marshall recently brought me a book of hand-drawn maps for consultation, it was a bittersweet experience. This little volume created by William W. Borden in 1875 contains notes, maps, and delightful remnants of pressed plants, evidence of which only remains in the impressions and acidic discoloration in the paper. Chris had selected the volume for digitization due to a patron request, but it needed some conservation treatment beforehand.

 

Suffering from loose pages, pages stuck together, taped hinges, and a fragile leather cover completely encased in stiff library book cloth with what was likely an overzealous coating of paste, this little book had received so much well-meaning but poorly executed repair work that it could barely open. A little pocket at the back also held three additional maps, each broken at their fold-lines in four sections. After some discussion with our Genealogy Division Supervising Librarian, Stephanie Asberry, a treatment plan for how best to restore access to this volume was agreed upon.

Here was the plan:

  1. Separate text block from binding safely
  2. Remove tape
  3. Separate all pages adhered together if possible
  4. Mend all loose pages back into sections
  5. Re-sew text block in a way that allows a relaxed, flat opening
  6. Mend the three additional maps back into one piece
  7. Send all to Chris Marshall for digitizing
  8. See if the original leather binding can be rescued from the book cloth
  9. Rebind either in original binding or new case, storing old binding with the book

As you can see, we are currently up to step eight:

Stuck pages have been safely separated. The title page seen in the first before image was a later, modern addition that Borden would not have intended to be there. We decided to separate the page and use the information for cataloging only.

Pages have been mended back together and the text block sewn back together for a comfortable, flat opening.

The pages can now relax flat.

Loose page from the before images above has been mended back in.

Lovely acidic discoloration left behind from a long-missing plant fragment.

While I was able to very carefully remove the book cloth from the leather binding, the leather is very stiff and brittle. Because it no longer flexes, it would not be safe to rebind back into its original binding.

When I receive the volume back from Chris from digitization, I will rebind it in a new case and create a box for the volume, the extra maps, and the original binding. At that point it will be readily available for researchers to view in person in addition to the digitized copy Chris will make available online in the near future.

Stay tuned for a part two about this map book in the near future! Also, if you’re interested in learning more about William W. Borden, the Indiana Historical Bureau had a wonderfully written feature about him in The Indiana Historian, December 1995 available here.

This blog post was written by Rebecca Shindel, Conservator, Indiana State Library.

Making it “happy” again

During a recent treatment, I was reminded by a librarian that it’s amusing to them that I describe conservation treatment work as making something “happy” again. To be perfectly honest, that is exactly how I see it. When I see something that is torn, stained, and taped within an inch of its life, it looks miserable to me. I see the potential and I can’t wait to get stuck in.

A great example of this is a recently completed treatment on one of our beautiful 1920s South Shore Line broadsides. “Steel Mills at Gary by South Shore Line,” (C. 1925) had come to my attention because it will be featured in an upcoming exhibit here at the library this summer. We have also been digitizing these broadsides and, in its current condition, it would have been very unsafe to do so.

With a large disfiguring tear down the front and several edge tears, creases and losses, this broadside just looked uncomfortable. As you can see on the back, an enterprising former employee had attempted to mend this posted with one of a conservator’s most-dreaded nemeses: tape. This mending job had also not quite lined up the tear carefully enough, causing the main disfiguring problem: bumpiness in the overall surface (or as we call it in fancy conservation terms, cockling and planar distortion). The edges definitely held promise because I could see that much of what appeared “lost” at the front had actually just been torn and folded over onto itself. With careful work, it could be made happy again!

The plan of attack was simple:

  • Surface clean the front and back carefully
  • Remove the tape from the back, ensuring all adhesive residue is removed
  • Properly align and mend tears
  • Re-encapsulate

Self-mending flap tears, where the paper has torn in a way that overlaps itself and can be mended to itself, sometimes without Japanese paper needed.

Encouraging folded edges to lay flat again with the use of localized humidification.

More of the same.

Using gentle pressure to encourage folded edges to lay flat.

After the tape and adhesive residue were painstakingly removed, I was able to realign the tears and mend it all back together using wheat starch paste and Japanese paper. Here are the results:

After treatment.

This broadside looks much happier and can now be safely exhibited, digitized, and accessed by our patrons. A very satisfying treatment, indeed!

This broadside is part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Broadsides Collection at the Indiana State Library.

This blog post was written by Rebecca Shindel, Conservator, Indiana State Library. 
Please note that colors presented on computer screens are not precisely accurate, and may look slightly different from one screen to another.

Preservation Week Road Show

Preservation Road Show

Preservation Road Show_Social Media from WFYI Productions on Vimeo.

The American Library Association celebrates Preservation Week each year to highlight the need for caring for our collective history. For the third year in a row, the Indiana State Library is celebrating Preservation Week by partnering with the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana State Archives, and several local Appraisers and Conservators to bring you the Preservation Week Road Show this Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 from 10AM to 3PM at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center.

This free event provides members of the public the opportunity to come schedule time with professional Appraisers as well as Conservators to find out more about the history, condition, and potential value of your family heirlooms, antiques, or oddities. Not sure what to do with your Great-grandmother’s hand-stitched quilt or your collection of family photos? Our conservators can help you with ideas about safely storing and displaying them in your home, and even how these items might be repaired to ensure they can be safely passed on to future generations.

Last year’s event was both fun and exciting, and slots were booked up fast! While the event is free, you do need to visit the Indiana Historical Society’s website to pre-book a time with an Appraiser and/or Conservator who specializes in the item you’d like to bring.

Frighteningly Delightful: Atlases from the United States Exploring Expedition

Several large-format atlases are currently waiting in the Martha E. Wright Conservation Lab for their custom-made boxes to be made. Within these atlases are hundreds of beautifully hand-painted engravings of specimens observed by the scientists aboard the naval fleet charged with surveying the Pacific Ocean on the United States Exploring Expedition. This expedition, often called the “U.S. Ex. Ex.”, sought to document everything from the charting of lands and oceans, the description and illustration of flora and fauna, and the anthropological study of peoples encountered on the journey. To read more about this highly influential expedition, we recommend giving this Smithsonian article a read.

As October is the spookiest month of all, we thought we would share some of the more “frightening” animals depicted by John Cassin, an American Ornithologist, in the United States Exploring Expedition’s  Atlas. Mammalogy and Ornithology, 1858.

Ornithology, Plate 5: Corvus ruficollis (Brown-necked raven). – The blacks used on the feathers reflect light when viewing the plate from different angles. This is a wonderful example of how important it can be to see a real item in person for the full experience.

Ornithology, Plate 5: Corvus ruficollis (Brown-necked raven). – The blacks used on the feathers reflect light when viewing the plate from different angles. This is a wonderful example of how important it can be to see a real item in person for the full experience.

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When a Book is not Just a Book

Upon first glance of the spine, this little book appears fairly nondescript and boring. The book in question, “Discipline of the Yearly Meeting of Friends, Held in New York […] 1810”, printed by Samuel Wood & Sons, New York, 1826, has been digitized and is freely available on Google Books (though it is the 1836 edition). “So why bother with conservation treatment?” one might ask.

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Conservation & Digitization of the Indiana Gazette

Gallery

This gallery contains 3 photos.

As a conservator, I have had many people ask me why conservation and preservation programs are funded “since we have digitization”. While it is a common misconception that digitization is “forever”, many people also do not realize that there are … Continue reading

Preservation Tips

Preservation for Free!

Preserving collections, whether they are your small collection of family photos and documents or a large library, can seem both daunting and potentially expensive. Yes, hiring a Conservator, purchasing ‘archival’ quality preservation housing materials (like boxes, envelopes, sleeves, and folders), and acquiring all of the equipment necessary for an on-site Conservation Lab are all major investments, but there are also small things everyone can do *for free* to prolong the life of their materials.

Handling

Improper handling of books is a very common cause for damage. Just this week, The Metropolitan Museum of Art published an article on their blog about The Fragility of Headcaps and the Safe Handling of Books. Headcap damage is very common and easily avoidable with good habits. Watch me remove this book the right way:

pullingbookoffshelf

Also, avoid stacking books too high, carrying too many at once, or attempting to lift a book that is too heavy for your ability, as a lot of damage can occur from a book falling to a floor.

Proper shelving

This is pretty self-explanatory:

leaningbooks

While you might think it looks nice or perhaps you were paging books in a hurry, leaning books cause a lot of damage. When the textblock is skewed in this way it will lose its integrity and possibly break into sections. The case (the covers and spine of the book) is also likely to incur damage at the joints, especially if the covering material is an older, fragile cloth or leather.

If you need to store a book on its side, never place the book with the fore-edge down. It is very tempting to do, because then the call number and/or title is more visible, but the weight of the textblock will eventually pull the book away from its covers and/or break or warp the textblock entirely. So even though it is more inconvenient, always store them spine-side downward (or plan to repair your book much sooner and more often).

IMG_3735

In addition to the above, always remember to:

  • Be considerate to older bindings – Don’t force open a tight binding, and make sure if a book is fragile you give it some extra support to open it safely.
  • Always handle with clean hands
  • Only write in books if necessary, and only use pencil.
  • Do not attempt “treatments” you find online – Sure, there’s a Youtube video showing you how to humidify stuff in a trash can. It looks so easy! But then there’s also this guy:


(Luckily it was a joke, but I’ve certainly seen my fair share of scary “treatments” people think are great that are actually very harmful!)

This blog post was written by Rebecca Shindel, Conservator, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3675 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm.

Planet Herschel: A fun discovery from the ISL Collections

Today’s solar eclipse over Europe brought to mind a unique atlas recently exhibited in our Exhibit Gallery here at the Indiana State Library. Elijah Burritt’s 1836 Atlas, Designed to Illustrate the Geography of the Heavens features beautiful hand-colored renderings of the celestial bodies as seen from the Northern Hemisphere at different times of the year.

atlas_edit1

It also includes a map of our known solar system, circa 1835. I stopped in my tracks, however, when I spotted a planet called “Herschel”.

solar system edit1

This interesting find turned into a brief but amusing lesson in the history of the planet Uranus. Discovered by William Herschel (1738-1822) in 1781, discussion was still ongoing about what to call the new planet when this atlas was printed. While Hershel wanted to name the planetary discovery “the Gregorium Sidus” (or, “The Georgian Planet”) after King George III, others in Europe were likely not convinced they wanted to permanently name a planet after an English king. At the time this atlas was printed, Uranus was still being referred to as “Herschel” after the man who discovered it. It was not until the 1850s that the name Uranus, after the Greek god of the heavens, came into common use.

The General Collections of the Indiana State Library feature some unique and fantastic holdings from the history of art to zoology. If you have a unique or specialized area of research, please contact the Indiana State Library at (317)232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm. You might be surprised what you’ll find!

Information about Uranus sourced at NASA’s Solar System Exploration website: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Uranus&Display=OverviewLong

This blog post was written by Rebecca Shindel, Conservator, Indiana State Library.