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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.