Conservation of an 1852 map of Madison, Indiana

This 1852 map of the city of Madison is the earliest map of the old river city held in the Indiana State Library’s collections. The detail is brilliant, done by the careful hand of Hoosier pioneer William C. Bramwell. It seems clear that this map is the original map used for the 1854 published map of the city, which is held in Madison. Bramwell seems to have an interesting biography, although little is known about the details of his life. Credits to his name include state legislator, surveyor, preacher, inventor and spinning wheel maker. Whatever his true calling, it is clear his attention to detail and craftsmanship has left us a beautifully rich and detailed map of one of Indiana’s oldest cities.

It is not known when the Indiana State Library acquired this map, or its history before it arrived at the library. When it was found in the collection it was in an extremely deteriorated and fragile state. The map was still adhered to its original fabric backing, which had become very dirty and deteriorated. As with many maps from this period, the front had been varnished, which resulted in even more deterioration. The front of the map had also become so dirty and discolored that most of the map could not be read. Many pieces of the map had broken off and become lost, and it was difficult to determine the difference between the paper areas and the cloth. It was in such poor condition, that even unrolling it would result in pieces falling off. Finally, as with many maps from this period, there was evidence of water damage as well in the form of staining.

The goals for this project were simple. In its current state, the map was unusable. It was so dirty that it could not be read, and it was so fragile that even unrolling it would result in more pieces falling off. The goals of this project were to clean the map as much as possible to remove the old varnish, the dirt and the staining and then line the map onto a single sheet of Japanese paper to allow for it to be stable enough to handle. While the goals were simple, the execution would prove to be complicated by the enormous quantity of loose pieces that would come loose once the original fabric was removed. In order to preserve the information in the map, all the loose pieces would need to stay in their correct spots throughout the entire treatment. Finally, the map would be encapsulated in a custom polyester film sleeve to allow for more protection. The below pictures outline the conservation process.

Before treatment of top section of City of Madison and Environs by H.G. Bramwell, city surveyor, 1852.

Before treatment of bottom section of City of Madison and Environs by H.G. Bramwell, city surveyor, 1852.

In order to remove the varnish, the map was placed faced down on blotter paper a high-power suction table and sprayed with ethanol.

The ethanol would penetrate through the fabric and paper, solubilizing the varnish, and pull it into the blotter below.

This process was repeated until all the varnish was removed. The map was routinely lifted and checked during this process.

The blotter shows all the varnish removed from the map.

The map sections were washed in modified hot water on a rigid sheet of plexiglass for support.

The map was carefully lifted on the plexiglass support and tilted. Using a small brush and a Japanese mister, the entire surface of the maps was cleaned to remove all remaining varnish and dirt. Careful attention was paid to make sure all the loose pieces of the map stayed in their correct spots throughout the entire process.

This image shows the progress of the cleaning of both sections.

This image shows the progress of the cleaning of both sections.

This image shows the progress of the cleaning of both sections.

After the map sections were cleaned, the map was placed face down on polyester film and the original fabric was carefully removed making sure none of the loose pieces moved.

This image shows the map after the fabric was removed and the thousands of small pieces of the map that are now loose.

This image shows the map after the fabric was removed and the thousands of small pieces of the map that are now loose.

The map was lined onto a large sheet of Japanese paper with wheat starch paste and dried between wool felt blankets.

The map was lined onto a large sheet of Japanese paper with wheat starch paste and dried between wool felt blankets.

The map was lined onto a large sheet of Japanese paper with wheat starch paste and dried between wool felt blankets.

The top and bottom section of the map next to each other. At this point, the bottom section has already been treated and the top section had not yet been treated.

After treatment of top section of City of Madison and Environs by H.G. Bramwell, city surveyor, 1852.

After treatment of bottom section of City of Madison and Environs by H.G. Bramwell, city surveyor, 1852.

Conservation intern Lily Duncan encapsulating the map in a polyester film sleeve with an ultrasonic polyester welder.

Click here to read more about the conservation efforts of the Indiana State Library.

This blog post was written by Seth Irwin, conservator, and Monique Howell, Indiana Collection supervisor, both of the Indiana State Library.

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.

Disaster management – water leak

Building leaks happen, especially with older buildings like the Indiana State Library. In April of this year, an air conditioning unit’s leak caused water to spill into the library. Two floors were affected by the leak. The fourth floor leak created a harmless pool of water on the floor, but the third floor leak caused damage to library printed materials.

The leak likely occurred on a Sunday, as the library’s conservator, Seth Irwin, found the water damaged material Monday morning. The water damaged several documents from the library’s federal documents collection. Library staff moved quickly to minimize damage. Tables were set up, and fans brought into the room, as the conservator and his intern worked to separate and gently dry the damaged material. The bulk of the damaged items were promotional material for the U.S. Nursing Corps. The material included books, pamphlets, photographs and a couple of large broadsides.

Treating the photographs was fairly straightforward, but one of the broadsides posed a challenge. The two broadsides were folded before they were damaged by water. The conservator was able to unfold the items, but one of the posters was rather large. Unfolded, the item barely fit in the conservation lab’s sink. The poster was treated, cleaned and re-enforced so that it can be displayed for a future exhibit.

Luckily, the damage was relatively small in scale. After the incident, new procedures to minimize the damage of a future leak were implemented. The area now has nearby tarp, which covers the tables and material when it is not in use. The two tables primarily serve as a work station for wrapping and enveloping reference material. Building leaks are scary events, especially in a library, but with previous training and an understanding of disaster procedures, the staff was able to minimize the extent of damage.

This blog post was written by Indiana State Library Federal Documents Coordinator Brent Abercrombie. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

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.

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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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

Preserving Family History

My name is Crystal Ward, and I am a librarian in the Genealogy Division. I have been asked “what does a genealogy librarian do; what is your job like”? As a genealogy librarian, I work to preserve the family history of the citizens of Indiana, and to ensure that the items we collect are preserved and protected for use by future generations.

One often overlooked factor in librarianship: preservation and conservation, environmental control; or more specifically, dusting, is one way that I help conserve the materials that we have in the collection. Yes, like housework, librarians dust the books in the collection to keep them in good shape. By cleaning books and book shelves of dust, dirt, and debris, we are creating a happy and healthy environment for the books.
Crystal&JamieJamie

This is not a simple task, and comes with certain tools. For example, when I clean my assigned section of shelves, I wear an apron, rubber gloves, and a dust mask, as in the glamorous photos above. I use a special brush with horse hair bristles, a HEPA vacuum cleaner, and I always have my iTunes playing.

I will spend up to an hour cleaning and dusting one section of books, and this task is made more enjoyable by my iTunes playlist. While cleaning a section today, I played several songs by the Beastie Boys, “Float On” by Modest Mouse, and Will Smith’s “Summertime.” I also run across some really amazing books and often keep my eye open for unusual titles. I was not disappointed in the titles I found while dusting today: “Magician Among the Spirits” by Harry Houdini, ISLM 134 H836N; “Alcohol Education for the layman” by Monroe and Stewart, ISLM 16.178 M753A; “Sorry but you’re wrong about it” by Albert Wiggam, ISLM 133.7 W655s; and “Frustration: the study of behavior without a goal” by Norman Maier, ISLM 132M217F.

drinksHoudini
wrongFrustration
This blog post was written by Crystal Ward, Genealogy Librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317)232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at
http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm

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.