April 24th, 2015

Today I am working on a document that came to me in four pieces (well, really more than four, but they were the largest!) Here is what it looked like after I gave it a gentle bath. There were small shards of paper that needed to be matched back up and secured back together.


Here is what it looks like now that it has many tissue mends and pieces returned to their proper place! Still a few more mends to make but it’s getting close to being finished.


In the lower corner of this diploma, it has the words “Please Hang this up.” :) I guess they didn’t want the recipient to just shove it in a drawer – but maybe they would never guess that it would be receiving such care and being pieced back together after many years.


April 10th, 2015

So it’s been a while since I’ve blogged – Christmas came and went and life got crazy with a move and some much needed time off! During this time I also have been continuing my volunteering at the Texas State Archives and learning a lot to apply to my work at Southwestern. Today I am applying several things from that learning!

My work with the Geography volumes has been ongoing. This has involved a lot of repair of foldout maps I’ve spoken about in several previous posts. To flaten these maps, I had been spritzing the maps with distilled water. It worked very well and the maps were nice and flat BUT I noticed some tide lines. Tide lines occur when contaminants in the water (and possible residue of dirt or inks etc on the paper itself) are wicked along the fibers of the paper – leaving a wavy line where the water finally evaporates. This is especially likely to happen when putting water directly onto paper. At the State Archives, we have a fabric called GorTex – you may have heard of this when buying a nice raincoat at REI or other outdoor stores. GorTex is a fabric membrane that water in it’s liquid state cannot penetrate it, but vapor can easily move through it. At the State Archives, I use a small strip of GorTex and a damp piece of blotter placed over a small amount of glue I want to soften, and it will humidify that very small area without putting water directly on the paper. GorTex is very expensive – almost $200 a yard! Click here to see it at University Products.

Southwestern doesn’t have any GorTex yet, so I needed to figure out a way to NOT put water directly on these foldouts but make a small humidity chamber about the area I want to flatten. I placed a small Sterilite container over the area to flatten and then left a receptical of distilled water in with it. Since this is my first trial, I am not sure there is enough water inside to do the trick, but I’ll let you know how it works out.

December 5th

When I arrived at the lab at Southwestern, a book was waiting on the counter to have a new box made for it. It looked so interesting I had to check it out. Here is the title page and beginning:



In addition to looking a bit at the book above, I spent some time flipping through the first volume of the Universal Geography books I’ve been working on. I look for mends that need to be made and then mark them with acid free paper. This way I have many small mends to do when I make up a batch of wheat paste.

When I reached the back of the book, I came across the section of the book that shows the binder where to include the various maps and foldouts. I thought this was an interesting insight into how books were put together long ago.


I received word that I might be starting to volunteer in the spring at the Harry Ransom Center books lab, in addition to my volunteer work here at Southwestern. I am so excited about this! My hope is to learn more about conservation and apply it to Southwestern’s collections. And if I had questions, I most certainly would have someone very experienced to ask!

Hope everyone is having a happy winter season – and ready to hopefully enjoy some time off!


November 21st

Today I am working on the foldout from the geography book I mentioned in my previous post. As you can see in the following picture, the page I am mending is separated in half (the crack near the olives).


Here is a detail of the heading and the lovely rich color of the pigment on this foldout.


I had placed small tissue “dots” on the reverse side of the break to hold the two in place while I placed the larger tissue pieces. This is a good method – however, the pages seldom match back up perfectly. This can be due to the paper crumbling away at the edges of the break. Here is the reverse side of the page with the completed mend.


Last but not least, an interesting website I’ve found thanks to friends at HRC:

The Deliberatly Concealed Garments Project

November 14th

I’m back from my travels, visiting my sister, and from helping my dad with Texas Clay Festival. I had a good bit of fun!

Today I worked on the very thin foldout in a facsimile of “Original Narratives of Texas History and Adventure: Texas”. The foldout is in the first few pages of the book, and it is very difficult to unfurl the map without it tearing. I made a decision to extend the what looks to be the weakest part. The picture below shows this extension. I am not certain this mend will be the best solution, but luckily I can try it and see if it will help. This is made possible by adhering to the rule that everything a conservator (or in my case, a volunteer student of conservation!) does must do no damage and be reversible.

Onion skin map

I also am working on a foldout in the Geography books I have been working on for many months – a page torn in half this time. I have taken small bits of Japanese tissue and placed it along the mend first. This allows me to line things up exactly how I want them – and then I’ll go back and do a longer strip of tissue for the final mend.

Temporary tissue mends

That’s it for today!

August 29th

Today I am again working on the Laura Dewey Bridgman book. So far I have reattached the shards that had broken off, and now I am reattaching the other half of the page. I had to do the mend in two parts because the page was broken off very close to the margin, and as a result, it wouldn’t lay down flat enough to do the mend. I ended up putting small weights on one half, and mending the other. Here is a picture of the book as we wait for the wheat paste to dry.

There are many weights that could be used for any given project – here is a picture of a few:

The weights beginning from top left and continuing clockwise are:

  • Fabric covered flat weights – covered in non-treated muslin, and used to put light weight to keep the pages of small books, pamphlets, brochures etc.
  • Glass weights – used in the reading room to hold book pages open so the patron doesn’t use fingers or hand to put pressure on fragile paper. Can also be used to put under another weight, to distribute weight across a larger area, as seen in first picture.
  • String weights – a string of small, cylindrical weights in woven nylon. Used for even lighter pressure than the fabric covered weights. Can be used in small places and can assume different shapes as needed.
  • Lead weights – covered in felt and very heavy and are used mostly to weight mends or to put a significant amount of pressure on things being glued together or pressed. Lead is no longer used to make these weights – they are now made of brass or other flat, cast-iron weights are used.

I just took the weights off of the Bridgman page and here is a closeup of the results.

I’ve also begun a new mend – this one being a severely deteriorated edge of a tear with the rest of the page missing. This is how it looks from the back before I attempt to reinforce it with tissue.

I want to thank the student who came in to have a look at what I was doing – I forgot to ask a name! Remember that I’m there in the preservation lab almost every Friday afternoon, so anyone should feel free to pop in and say hi and see what I’m doing. I enjoy the company and love to talk about my projects!

August 8th

Today I am working on a book published in 1899 titled Life and Education of Laura Dewey Bridgman, The Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Girl by Mary Swift Lamson. Laura Bridgman’s story is similar to Helen Keller’s, although Laura predates her. Below are pictures of the title page and facing page with Laura’s picture.



If you want to know more about Laura Dewey Bridgman, come by SU’s Special Collections and browse through it – it really is facinating! Also, here is a collection at the Perkins School for the Blind Archive, which has many personal artifacts including letters she wrote, things she made etc. Click here to see a collection of photos of those artifacts.

The mend I’m doing is on a brittle page the was weakened by a foldout that was included in the binding of the book. Below you can see that due to the pressure of the folded paper, the previous page has crumbled.


One challenge of this mend is that when the page crumbled, many small pieces broke off and matching them back up is a task!


I’m working slowly on the tiny shards, and it’s coming along nicely.


July 17th

Today has been a lot of fun – a student, Madeline, came by and I talked her ear off about paper mending, grain, wheat paste and PVA etc. It is so nice to share what I know about these things, especially to someone who shares my enthusiasm for “old stuff”. :)

Today I also unveiled a mend that had an issue. It can be tricky to

July 10th

Today I am trying to “relax” a panoramic 1939 class photo. It has been in a rolled state for probably many years and is very brittle. Here is what it looks like before any treatment.


It’s treatment will be successive humidity chamber sessions and I’ll post them as I go.

You also might notice the lighter colored spots on the outside of the picture – this is insect damage. The picture below is a closer look at the insect damage so many aging papers fall prey to. Cockroaches and silverfish are a few of the insects that munch on paper, and I suspect they got their fill with this one. Click here for a very thorough article from the Harry Ransom Center with more information about books, bugs, and how to deal with them.
I also did more work on the Megaphone. I employed a technique that I learned about while talking briefly to someone at the Harry Ransom Center book lab – I used small bits of tissue to anchor the paper to keep it in place while I did the actual mend. It can be a challenge to make a long, straight-ish mend and all the while keep the paper aligned, so this was a welcome stratagy. Here is a bit of the tear before mending with the temporary tissue in place.

June 13th

Today I am mending a medium sized tear in a poster. It’s a sweet poster promoting libraries and books, printed and distributed by Library Binding Institue.

As you can see by the glare on the poster, this has a coating on it – maybe a clay coating – that dislikes water. But this poster came to me in a roll, and needed to be relaxed. I put it in a humidity chamber to relax it, and then pressed it dry. If you don’t know what the process is to humidify something, the following is a brief description of what I did. I had on hand two plastic trashcans – one much larger than the other. I nested the smaller trashcan into the larger, and then put room temperature water in the larger trashcan surrounding the smaller one. This smaller trashcan creates the space where any given item can go and be completely protected from the water. I then covered the whole thing with a few trash bags to make it mostly air tight, and secured it. I left the whole thing for the duration of my time here, which is usually around 3 hours. I repeated this process on two occasions, because it was still suspended in a rolled up position after I removed it from it’s first humidity chamber treatment, albeit a looser roll. After each humidity treatment, I pressed it to dry between blotting paper and spun polyester. It’s nice and flat now!

The tear (and now mend) is on the upper proper right, and the poster is very thick. I used a very thick Japanese tissue to mend it. It is important to use mending paper that is complimentary in weight to the paper you’re mending – too light a paper will just rip again, and too heavy a paper can cause the document to tear around the mend.

The second thing I am working on today is one of the Geography books with foldout maps. This particular one had an entire edge that was crumbling, so I made a mend of the entire side. Here’s what it looks like after it has dried.

The next step is to trim away some of the excess paper. And as you can see, other mends need to be made on this page – for instance the bottom of the page needs a similar treatment and then the cracks running along the places where the paper was folded.

Until next time!