Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Not the End of the Track

August 29th, 2016

Summer is a time for both large and small projects for the students and staff in Conservation Services. Summer 2016 was certainly no exception, as our crew tackled a somewhat daunting and very dirty re-housing venture. This was an amazing group effort, with lots of help and good advice coming from many corners of the KU Libraries.

In the early nineties, the Spencer Research Library took possession of a massive set of technical drawings of the Kansas City Terminal Railway track system. The drawings date from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth  century, and are reproduced in a number of media including cyanotypes (aka blueprints), Photostat copies, and hand-drawn images. They range in size from smaller than a piece of notebook paper to rolls over thirty feet in length. There are just under five hundred sets of drawings varying in amount from one to more than twenty-five drawings per set.

Housing railway drawings at Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

A sample drawer from the metal cabinets. Click image to enlarge.

The drawings arrived at Spencer Research in their original storage cabinets. The cabinets were metal, painted dark green, and came in four different depths, the largest of which could not be accommodated in the building. The drawers of the largest cabinet were thus removed and stored with boards separating each layer. Some of the drawers containing the drawings were lined with kraft paper, while others were not. Many of the drawings had been tightly rolled and secured with rubber bands. The rubber bands had become brittle with age and had also adhered themselves to the drawings. Because the cabinets had been stored in the train station, there was a great accumulation of grime and dust on cabinetry and drawings alike.

Housing railway drawings at Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Previous storage of the track drawings. Click image to enlarge.

Six student employees and I began the project by talking through various options for staging and cleaning the drawings, setting up the new storage area, and housing the drawing sets. Meetings were also held with Sherry Williams (Curator of the Kansas Collection), Meredith Huff (Operations Manager for Spencer Research Library), and Whitney Baker (Head of Conservation Services) to discuss the logistics of the project.

It was quite the puzzle to work out where and how to stage the drawings, since the incoming storage unit needed to be assembled where the old cabinetry had stood. The drawing sets in their drawers were eventually staged in four separate locations and the old cabinets were removed.

Housing railway drawings at Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Moving the cabinets required a lifting device. Click image to enlarge.

Using existing shelving hardware, the team put together a framework of upright brackets and placed shelves at strategic locations to give strength and support to the soon-to-be-constructed honeycomb of tubes. A total of five-hundred and thirty mailing tubes were assembled to house the drawings. Each tube was lined with a heavy-weight, acid-free piece of cardstock, and then placed into the shelving unit.

Housing railway drawings at Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries Housing railway drawings at Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Modified shelving units empty (left) and with cardstock-lined tubes inserted (right). Click images to enlarge.

At the same time, the student staff began removing the desiccated rubber bands from the drawings and gently cleaning each roll with a soft brush. It was a grungy task that took more than two months to complete. As throughout, the students handled this portion of the project with a great deal of aplomb and good-natured ribbing, and only a couple of grossed-out moments involving truly disgusting rubber bands.

Special Collections Conservator Angela Andres was instrumental in helping solve the issue of how to corral the drawing sets in the tubes, making retrieval and return go smoothly. Through her research, she found a medical supply company that was able to provide us with a continuous virgin Tyvek sheath that could be cut to the correct length for each set.

Housing railway drawings at Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Tyvek sheath securing a set of drawings together inside the cardboard tube. Click image to enlarge.

After cleaning, the drawings were slipped into the Tyvek sheath, secured with cotton tying tape, and loaded into the honeycomb.

Housing railway drawings at Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Honeycomb structure. Click image to enlarge.

As each bay was filled, labels were created that correspond with the set numbers and adhered to lids, and the tubes were capped.

Housing railway drawings at Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Caps and labels attached to the tubes. The final product! Click image to enlarge.

This project was a tremendous group effort, involving the cooperation and assistance of many library staff, including those mentioned above and also the Annex team, Michelle Curttright, Doug Hatton, and Ryan Swartz, and the Libraries procurement officer, Kristin Vickers. Most importantly though, was Conservation Services student staff: Brecken Liebl, Valery Herman, Sara Neel, Rebecca Younker, Monica Funk, and Jocelyn Wilkinson. Their hard work was graciously recognized by others in the KU Libraries, as the team won the Jayhawks of the Quarter award for the third quarter of the year.

Roberta Woodrick
General Collections Conservator

Throwback Thursday: Puppy Dog Edition

August 25th, 2016

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 28,000 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

We hope this week’s photo helps inspire you to celebrate National Dog Day tomorrow!

Photograph of Dr. James Naismith with two puppies during a trip to Canada, undated

Dr. James Naismith with two puppies during a trip to Canada, undated.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 66/22 James Naismith:
Athletic Department: Coaches and Staff (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Perfect Stranger

August 22nd, 2016

Recently, I have been working with Sherry Williams, Curator of Collections and Curator of the Kansas Collection, to survey and treat priority materials from the Kansas Collection. Many of these items had notes in the finding aids about conservation treatment needs.

One particular item was accompanied by a note—dated 1968, the year Spencer Library opened—indicating that the item should not be used until treatment could be secured. The item, which was received in a mailing tube, had been dutifully filed away. We were happy to find it and finally be able to address its needs. Inside was a rolled paper item with a linen backing. It was a plat map of the town of Stranger, KS, surveyed by A.D. Searl and dated June 11, 1867. The item was caked in mud, extremely stained, and very fragile.

Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library

Rolled item as it appeared when removed from the tube. Call number RH Map R560. Click image to enlarge.

Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library

Detail of the mud along top edge, also showing linen backing below. Call number RH Map R560. Click image to enlarge.

I removed as much dirt and mud as possible with a tool called a microspatula (shown in the above image), lightly dry-cleaned the item with vinyl eraser crumbs to remove additional surface dirt, and removed the linen backing, which peeled right off. The map was placed in a bath to wash away as much of the water-soluble degradation products as possible, then placed in an alkaline bath to add a buffer as the paper ages. Next, it was lined on the back with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste to provide more support to the fragile item. Areas of loss were filled in with toned Japanese paper.

Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library     Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library

Map of Stranger, KS, before and after treatment. Call number RH Map R560. Click images to enlarge.

Once the treatment was completed and I could safely view the map, I had to learn more about this town with the “strange” name. From the History of Leavenworth County Kansas by Jesse A. Hall and Leroy T. Hand (Topeka: 1921), I discovered that the town was originally named “Journey-Cake” after a nickname given to a Delaware chief who lived nearby. When the town was platted in 1867 (the date of the map), the name was changed to Stranger after the Big Stranger Creek that flowed through the town. However, another nearby town had the same name, so in 1877 the name was again changed to Linwood, in honor of the linden trees in the area.

As you can see from the map, Stranger was situated along both the Big Stranger Creek and the Kansas River. In May and June of 1903, excessive flooding wreaked havoc in the town. On the evening of May 29, 1903, Hall and Hand note, “Many frame houses were swept away in the newly made channel of the Kaw. Some were upturned and were not swept away. Water in places was 20 feet deep over what had been Linwood. The postoffice was completely submerged” (324). The townspeople eventually decided to move their town of Linwood a mile north, where it remains today.

Kaw River flood, 1903? Call number RH Ph P 1055_2, Spencer Research Library

Photo print of flood, possibly 1903. Call number RH PH 1055.2.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

 

Throwback Thursday: Move-In Edition

August 18th, 2016

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 28,000 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Welcome (back) to KU, new and returning Jayhawks! Today is Move-In Day and – while we’re not entirely sure what these fellows are doing or where they’re going – we think this week’s picture captures the spirit of returning to campus for a new school year.

Photograph of a packed student car, 1910-1919

A packed student car, 1910-1919. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0 1910s Negatives: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

In the Thick of It: Part 2 in a series on the treatment of Summerfield D544

August 15th, 2016

Back in February, I wrote about undertaking the treatment of the 1683 volume Kazania na niedziele calego roku [Sermons for Sundays of the Whole Year] by Pawel Kaczyński (call number: Summerfield D544). At the time of that writing, I’d gotten as far as disbinding, cleaning, and mending the folios before it was necessary to put the treatment aside for a while to focus on other things. This summer I’ve brought the book out again to tackle the next phase of its treatment, preparation for rebinding.

I had already mended most of the folios along the inner spine folds, but they still needed reinforcement, or guarding, along the outer spine folds in order to be strong enough for sewing. Because there are exactly 100 single-folio sections in this volume, I chose a tissue for the guards that was as thin as possible to minimize added bulk while also providing the needed strength to the folds.

Conservation treatment of Summerfield D544, Spencer Research Library

Guarding of folios in progress. Note the smooth spine folds on the guarded folios, left, and the more ragged edges of the unguarded folios on the right. Click image to enlarge.

Conservation treatment of Summerfield D544, Spencer Research Library

The text block with guarding completed.

The amount of damage to this volume was so significant that for the sake of efficiency it was necessary to keep the mending fairly minimal, adding stabilizing mends with very thin tissue where it was most needed, rather than filling in every loss with color-matched tissue. However, there was a very large loss to the lower portion of the title page, so I chose to fill in that area; the page was physically stable, but a fill greatly improves it aesthetically. I selected a Japanese paper of about the same weight as the text paper and toned it with diluted watercolors to achieve a color that is sympathetic to the color of the text paper.

Conservation treatment of Summerfield D544, Spencer Research Library

Title page of Summerfield D544 with toned Japanese paper compensation along lower edge.

With the mending and guarding completed, the next step is sewing. The text block was originally sewn two-on, which means that two gatherings are sewn on at once with a single pass of thread, rather than sewing the gatherings one at a time. This method of sewing reduces the swell of the spine that occurs when thread is introduced; with 100 gatherings in this text block, it makes sense that the original binder chose to sew it this way, and I decided to re-sew it in the same manner. To further reduce bulking (in addition to sewing two-on), I chose a thinner thread than I’d normally use. The last step before sewing was to select endpapers for the volume; I opted for Nideggen, a paper whose tan color and subtle texture go very well with that particular warm, grimy tone of old paper. Once the endpapers were cut, I lined up the text block on the sewing frame to mark the positions of the cords, strung the cords onto the frame, and at long last, started sewing.

Conservation treatment of Summerfield D544, Spencer Research Library

Stringing up the cords on the sewing frame.

Conservation treatment of Summerfield D544, Spencer Research Library

Beginning to sew – three sections down and only 97 to go!

Conservation treatment of Summerfield D544, Spencer Research Library

About one-quarter of the way through sewing.

Conservation treatment of Summerfield D544, Spencer Research Library

Detail of double cords and kettle stitch at tail end of text block.

Sewing multiple gatherings at a time can be a little awkward at the outset, but now that I’ve found a rhythm to it, the sewing is progressing at a nice pace. Soon all that will be left to do will be to put the book into a new paper case. I look forward to presenting the finished volume in one last installment of this series later this fall!

Angela Andres
Special Collections Conservator
Conservation Services