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Posts Tagged ‘housing’

Though our conservation lab at TSLAC focuses primarily on books and paper, we also care for the non-paper-based archival items found in our collections.  This month, we created a housing for an undated photographic glass plate negative from the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, TX.

A glass plate negative consists of photographic emulsion cast on a glass plate.  The negative image on the plate is later developed into a photographic print.  Glass makes these negatives very fragile.  When they break, their fractured edges begin to abrade one other, causing more damage to the glass and the media.

Broken glass plate negative in modified sink mat.

Broken glass plate negative in modified sink mat.

Our housing is based on a design from the National Archives.  The broken negative is stored in a covered sink mat for protection.  Small spacers separate the broken pieces to minimize abrasion.  The mat is stored flat in a box with a warning label regarding careful handling.

Detail of spacers separating broken fragments.

Detail of spacers separating broken fragments.

The outer mat edges are hinged, allowing the item to be removed from its housing as needed.  However, future removal should be rare, since the image was scanned before treatment.

Scanned image from glass plate negative.

Scanned image from glass plate negative.

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The phase box is a standard conservation housing that provides physical and environmental protection. In June, TSLAC Conservation modified a phase box to approximate an original protective structure.

House Documents v.112, 58th Congress, 2nd Session, 1903-04 is a collection of soil maps published by the US Government Printing Office (GPO.) Rather than bind the maps into an atlas structure, GPO chose instead to box them as loose, folded leaves. Unique care was then taken to make the box look like a book:

House Documents v 112, 58th Congress, 2nd Session, 1903-1904

The box’s outer wrapper was covered in brown sheep leather. Spine labels are consistent with the look of GPO bindings.

House Documents v 112, 58th Congress, 2nd Session, 1903-1904

The box’s inner wrapper featured textile hinges and a printed map list.

It seems likely that this unusual structure originally protected the folded maps on its top and bottom, but these components are now missing. The back, covered board is missing, as well.

These maps receive relatively light patron use, so it was acceptable to leave them folded and boxed rather than flattened in a folder. Though the quickest treatment would be simply creating a new box, a bit of extra planning and time allowed preservation of the original housing’s careful aesthetic design.

First, a new inner wrapper was constructed of lightweight cardstock. The list of maps was lifted from the original inner wrapper and adhered in the same position in the new structure. Then, an outer phase box was constructed and the covering boards adhered. A new back board was made and covered in toned Japanese tissue.

House Documents v 112, 58th Congress, 2nd Session, 1903-1904

Existing and new boards are adhered to the flattened phase box. Here, the replacement board has not yet been toned to match the leather.

The result is a more robustly protective structure that retains the look and labeling of the original. This box better protects the maps inside and retains its unusual, carefully-designed appearance.

House Documents v 112, 58th Congress, 2nd Session, 1903-1904

New phase box with covering boards.

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TSLAC Conservation has recently worked on several panoramic photographs. Popular for documenting sweeping landscapes or large groups of people, panoramic photos are created with specialty equipment and large-format developing processes. Many images date to the early part of the 20th century and measure 10 – 12” tall by four, five, or even six feet long.

Panoramic photos are commonly found rolled, as seen in this item awaiting treatment:

Tightly-rolled panoramic photograph.

Tightly-rolled panoramic photograph.

Rolling is a common non-archival storage method due to the typical size of these items. Rolling can also happen naturally, due to the differing ways humidity impacts the photograph’s paper backing and image layer. Once rolled, these photos strongly resist being forced flat. Doing so often results in disfiguring cracks, as seen in this recent donation:

This sharp crack is typical of those caused by forcing a rolled panoramic photo flat.

This sharp crack is typical of forcing a rolled panoramic photo flat.

To avoid this damage, conservators humidify panoramic photos, open them very slowly, and then allow them to dry under weight. Once flattened, these items are at new risk for rough handling due to their unusual size. Proper housing can minimize handling damage and curling.

There is no single, standard housing for panoramic photos. Our design features a support of 40-pt box board with a cover sheet of archival plastic. The plastic sheet folds over the support board at top and bottom. The bottom fold is secured to the back of the board, while the top fold remains unsecured.

Housed panoramic photo depicts a group of people at the Texas State Capitol, possibly WWI-era.  Archivists can work to identify this image now that access is improved.

Housed panoramic photo depicts a group of people at the Texas State Capitol, possibly WWI-era. Archivists can work to identify this image now that access is improved.

The housing keeps the item flat, supported, and easily viewable. If needed, the photo can be removed from the housing without scratching by lifting the cover sheet. Future housings may use a micro-corrugated support board for improved rigidity and reduced weight.

To learn more about TSLAC’s photography collection, stay tuned for our exhibit of 19th century photography opening in late September 2014.

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A unique item came to the lab for treatment in April: The Journal of the First Session of the Senate of the United States of America, 1789.   Though federal documents are not uncommon in our collection, this book stands out for its age and historical significance.  The Senate’s first item of business is of special note:

Senate Journal 1789

“Whereby it appears, that GEORGE WASHINGTON, ESQ. Was unanimously elected PRESIDENT, – And JOHN ADAMS, ESQ. Was duly elected VICE PRESIDENT, OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”

This book had a common condition problem.  Its hinges were broken where they had been repeatedly flexed with use.  Rather than apply repair tissue over the top of the hinge, as is a common, quick working method, a more delicate approach was chosen.  The leather that covered the spine and boards was carefully lifted and repair tissue was adhered underneath.  This created a mend that was less visually intrusive.  A drop-spine box was also created.  This type of box is typical of special collections materials and helps signify the item’s stature to users.

Since much of TSLAC’s conservation work focuses on 19th century Texas materials, this early American item was a surprise and a treat.

Senate Journal 1789

The Senate Journal of 1789 and its drop-spine box, after treatment.

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In November, I built a custom housing for an object in our collections known as the Journeay Violin.  The violin was made by Henry Journeay while he was imprisoned in Mexico during the 1842 Mier Expedition.  Journeay was a skilled woodworker, and is thought to have later made the instrument’s wood and glass case.

Journeay Violin

Journeay Violin

Drop-spine book box

My housing, modeled roughly on the common drop-spine book box, aims to protect the instrument and its case during storage and to allow for easy access for periodic display.  My basic design comprises a textile-covered, paper lined tray and a large, textile-covered box lid.  The lid rests on a small ledge inside the tray when closed.  The instrument case need not be fully removed from the box for viewing; it can stay in the tray except when needed for exhibit.

As often happens with custom housings, design demands reveal themselves during the construction process.  Here, I initially built a flat-bottomed tray, only to find that this would unduly challenge staff members trying to pick up the item, inviting them to slide one end of the case precariously off the table to establish a grip.  I then built feet for the tray from laminate, textile-covered binder’s board.  I mounted the feet underneath the instrument case’s feet to support its weight.  This created a safer, more user-friendly design with finger room under the tray.

Textile-covered tray corner with foot

Textile-covered tray corner with foot

One of the efficient features of a drop-spine box is that its attractive covering material also adds strength by reinforcing its cardboard joints.  Unfortunately, the violin’s box lid couldn’t share this efficiency, because I couldn’t cut a large enough piece of textile to cover the box in the continuous, traditional style.  Instead, I reinforced all the lid joints inside and out with gummed linen tape before covering with textile panels for aesthetics only.

Lid joints were reinforced with linen tape.

Lid joints were reinforced with linen tape.

One further similarity between this box and a drop-spine box is how air suction is created upon opening.  Because this box is more enclosed than a typical drop-spine box, it actually creates a much stronger vacuum.  (Trust me, it was rather alarming the first time I tried to open it.)  In order to open this box, it is first necessary to break its air seal by gently depressing its long, flexible walls.  After this, opening is quite easy.  Instructions have been attached.

Box label

Box label

This exercise highlights some of the overall challenges of building custom housings.  The goal is to balance the needs of the object against the needs of those using the object, while hopefully avoiding completely reinventing the wheel.  While I briefly considered a version of this housing with break-away walls, I decided such a design would be too complex for hurried reference staff to operate with confidence.  As always, housing projects are problems with many solutions – perhaps you have one!

Completed custom housing for violin and case

Completed custom housing for violin and case

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