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Posts Tagged ‘oversize’

Canvas covers protect many oversize ledger bindings in TSLAC’s collection. Like modern paper covers for children’s textbooks, canvas covers were meant to safeguard government records through years of heavy use. Unlike modern paper covers, canvas covers are original to their bindings. They feature leather corners and decorative paper doublures (seen when the book opens) that match the volume.

General Index to Court of Criminal Appeals, 1919-1947 (19 3/4” x 16” x 4”) with damaged canvas cover.

General Index to Court of Criminal Appeals, 1919-1947 (19 3/4” x 16” x 4”) with damaged canvas cover.

Inside the book, the canvas cover is backed with stiff card.  Leather corners, decorative paper, and manufacturer’s labels on the cover match the original binding.

Inside the book, the canvas cover is backed with stiff card. Leather corners, decorative paper, and manufacturer’s labels on the cover match the original binding.

Today, tattered canvas covers present a conservation conundrum. Is the cover simply a disposable protective layer at the end of its useful life? Or is it an inherent part of the binding that should be preserved? Given the abundance of government ledger bindings, can full treatment be justified and time-efficient?

These questions shaped treatment of the General Index to Court of Criminal Appeals, 1919-1947. Frequent use of this 40 lb+ book had left its canvas cover frayed and torn, with large losses at its edges and all along its spine. An ideal treatment would preserve legibility of labeling on the canvas cover and the exposed book’s spine for the use of reading room staff.

A treatment was designed to retain and stabilize the canvas cover. First, losses were filled with toned muslin. In order to achieve reversibility and prevent adhesive strike-through, heat-set tissue was applied beneath the torn edges of the canvas. Shaped, toned muslin patches were then adhered with PVA to bridge canvas losses.

Inserting toned muslin fills beneath canvas backed with heat-set tissue.

Inserting toned muslin fills beneath canvas backed with heat-set tissue.

Repairs to the spine leather were completed with linen-backed toned tissue. Then, the remaining segments of canvas cover were secured to the binding using a modified reback treatment. A reback is a common spine repair method in circulating collections. Since our canvas spine cover was missing, the remaining canvas cover was rebacked to the book’s original spine covering. This involved lifting material in the book’s hinges, adhering the loose canvas on the board’s inner edge with reversible Lascaux, and reattaching the original covering material.

Preparing hinge region to “reback” the remaining canvas cover to the book’s exposed spine covering.

Preparing hinge region to “reback” the remaining canvas cover to the book’s exposed spine covering.

In creating a hybrid structure of canvas cover and original binding, this treatment acknowledges both elements as integral parts of the volume. The treatment is aesthetically tidy, stabilizes the volume for ongoing use, and remains reversible with heat and solvent. The treatment required approximately 10 hours to complete, which is not unrealistic for other, prioritized volumes with similar condition issues.

Future versions of this treatment might revisit the use of heat-set tissue, which may prove to be somewhat too reversible in this application. In place of heat-set, inconspicuous sewing could improve durability while maintaining reversibility and aesthetic compatibility. However, sewing would be complicated by the inability to turn the cover inside out. TSLAC Conservation welcomes thoughts and discussion about this treatment.

Before treatment

Before treatment

After treatment

After treatment

Before treatment

Before treatment

After treatment

After treatment

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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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Scrapbooks pose unique challenges in conservation. They often feature a wide variety of rapidly deteriorating modern materials and adhesives. Full treatment is typically difficult to justify among other priorities, so strategies of stabilization, digitization, and reformatting are often pursued.

TSLAC’s recent conservation work included an exceptional scrapbook, a 1950s-era volume that documents our own agency. This handmade book features correspondence and handouts of the era, along with special pages that highlight institutional departments and functions with photographs and whimsical construction paper cut-outs. The rubber cement used to adhere many of these attachments had failed. Fortunately, these pages had been previously stabilized in archival plastic sleeves to keep the pieces together.

This scrapbook was an unusually strong candidate for conservation for two reasons. First, a limited number of leaves involving a limited number of materials required intensive intervention. Second, the handmade item’s unique documentation of agency operations made it a rare artifact of special value to TSLAC.

During treatment, detached photographs and paper cut-outs were re-adhered with wheat starch paste. Placement was determined according to existing adhesive staining. Reconstructed pages were returned to their sleeves, and the full binding was housed in a new, oversize phase box for flat storage. Before and after photos offer a window into 1950s TSLAC operations and period design aesthetics.

Before: Legislative Reference

Before: Legislative Reference

After: Legislative Reference

After: Legislative Reference

 

Before: Reading Room

Before: Reading Room

 

After: Reading Room

After: Reading Room

 

Before: Archives

Before: Archives

After: Archives

After: Archives (note “Repair and Restoration,” lower right)

 

Before: Processing

Before: Processing

After: Processing

After: Processing

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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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I recently completed a treatment on which I’d be very interested to receive some conservation feedback. 

Here at TSLAC, we have a great many oversize ledger bindings used as account books in various functions of state government.  These bindings often feature rather sculptural spine coverings – stiff, thick board shaped into an aggressive round with very proud false bands and an abundance of gold stamping. 

The difficulty with many of these spine coverings is that they’re simply too large.  As you may be able to see in the following photo, the round of the spine covering extends far beyond the round of the text block.  This creates excessive stress in the joints when the book is opened, and as a result, I usually make these books’ acquaintance when the spine covering has detached.

Oversize Spine Covering

The stiff spine covering extends well into the hinge area.

It’s fairly straightforward to reattach the spine covering and replace lost material in the joint, but oftentimes this just gives new life to the same old problem.  In this case, I tried simple reattachment, but the book would only open about 45 degrees before the board began to collide with the stiff spine covering and impede opening.  I reversed this treatment before the book did so itself and went back to the drawing board.

Opening

The board and spine covering begin fighting Round Two; the board will likely win a second time.

In the past, I have tried trimming these spine coverings to a better fit.  But there are drawbacks to this approach – trimming requires a lot of patient hand-cutting and a wealth of blades.  Additionally, as in this case, the spine coverings are often gold-stamped out to their very edges.  I needed another way to more closely align the shoulders of the spine covering with the shoulders of the text block.

Eventually, I landed upon the idea of using a spacer to set the spine covering back from the shoulders.  To achieve this effect, I adhered a closed-cell Volara foam inside the spine covering and then attached this construction to a new hollow tube on the spine.  I then filled the joints with toned Japanese tissue coated with SC6000.

Adhering Volara

Adhering the Volara strip inside the spine covering produces a pleasing ants-on-a-log effect.

The result is a book that can safely open without damaging itself, especially when used in a cradle, as is our reading room policy for these oversize items.  The other result is a very bulky headcap.  This appearance would seem gauche, except that the original construction also appeared overbuilt, and the item’s overall design never relied much on subtlety.

Bulky headcap

Spine covering with Volara spacer and toned Japanese tissue on hollow tube.

I’m very curious to hear thoughts on this treatment.  Has anyone used Volara within a treatment rather than within a housing, as is more traditional?  Any ideas about the long-term wear of a design like this?

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