The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 15, Number 8
Dec 1991


Everybody's Moving

Photocopying Music Scores

Four research libraries in New York State will have 381 music scores photocopied and bound in a cooperative project funded by the state preservation program. The libraries are NYU, Columbia, Juilliard, and New York Public; the work is funded at $18,564; and it will be done by BookLab in Austin, Texas. This is the second year of the project.

Kalvar Microfilm--Forgotten but not Gone

Remember Kalvar microfilm? During the period this vesicular film was on the market, 1967 to 1970, it ate its way through microfilm boxes, metal storage cabinets, and other microfilms, including any silver masters that were interfiled with use copies. It did all this by giving off hydrochloric acid (HCl), which ironically did not affect the Kalvar film itself. Now, 20 years later, it is still around and still a hazard, according to a short article by Thomas A. Bourke, Chief of the Microforms Division for the New York Public Library. Writing in the ALCTS Newsletter (v. 2 #7), he says NYPL recently received a large retrospective set of vesicular microfilm that included a great deal of Kalvar. They gave it optimal housing and storage, but only a year later it is up to its old tricks.

Mr. Bourke advises other librarians who may have fresh encounters of the worst kind, as he did, to be on the lookout for vesicular film, which can be recognized by its distinctive tints, such as green or beige, instead of the usual grey or blue color. It should be replaced or stored in a place where it cannot harm other film... or storage cabinets... or boxes. That is all that needs to be done. Some librarians have been needlessly providing separate storage for silver and nonsilver microfilm . Mr. Bourke says that all kinds (silver, vesicular and diazo) can be safely interfiled, as long as you avoid film that gives off hydrochloric acid. Modern vesicular film, usually made by Xidex, does not emit acid and can be stored anywhere you please.

Big Disaster Seminar Next October

Technology and Conservation Magazine and the MIT Museum are sponsoring an intensive two-day seminar on "Disaster Prevention, Response, and Recovery: Principles & Procedures for Protecting & Preserving Historic/Cultural Properties & Collections," in Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 24-25. The scope is comprehensive and relevant to the concerns of libraries, archives and museums, and related specialties. There will be case histories and information on commercially available disaster products and systems, in addition to papers on major aspects of disaster work. Lecturers include Barry Bauman, David Mathieson, Hugh Miller, Karen Motylewski, Barbara Roberts and Richard Smith. Fee: $250. For information contact Susan E. Schur Technology & Conservation, One Emerson Place, Boston MA 02114 (617/227-8581) or Robert Hauser, New Bedford Whaling Museum, 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford MA 02740 (508/997-0046).

Fund-Raising Focus of October NIC Meeting

The annual meeting of the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property was held in Washington, DC, on October 22 and 23, 1991. A series of presentations were devoted to the topic of fund-raising for the conservation and preservation needs of cultural institutions. With the exception of Joseph Rosenthal, director of the University of California at Berkeley Libraries, most of the speakers represented museums. Many of the strategies they described, however, as well as the sources of funding they approached, could be used by libraries.

David More, executive director of the Buffalo Arts Commission, was one of several speakers who stressed the importance of doing conservation projects within the context of a long-range institutional plan for care and maintenance.

Mr. Rosenthal similarly recognized the need for careful planning. Funding for preservation and conservation at Berkeley comes from many diverse sources, each of which has been carefully cultivated to support the gradual expansion of the program to encompass a broad range of diverse activities and treatments. Berkeley's funding is made up of several streams including funds diverted from elsewhere in the library's budget, special gifts and bequests from individual donors, an annual allocation from the state for California-related materials, federal grants for special projects, and small awards from the state library, primarily for training staff at other California repositories. [This is an excerpt from a two-page summary of the NIC meeting by Margaret Child. The entire summary can be obtained on request from the Abbey Publications office, in exchange for a SASE.]

Early-Style Paper Mill Constructed in Idaho

At 3:00 pm, 19 July 1991, a new tool for the study of early European papermaking was put into operation in the hills near Santa, Idaho. As an adjunct to the annual workshop on the technology of the medieval book which they teach, Jack Thompson and Jim Croft, assisted by Lou Flannery, Ed Gordon Sam Thompson, Brian Griswold Nickie Romanuck, Allan Thenen, Stephen Williams and Ed Clark, built a three-hammer stamp mill to produce paper pulp.

The mill, designed by Thompson, consists of a 4-foot diameter water wheel, a camshaft, and three hammers operating in a concrete tub. The power comes from a pond on Croft's land. A siphon delivers the water to the wheel which operates at approximately 20 rpm there are two cams per hammer, delivering a total of i20 blows per minute on the rags in the tub. The first set of hammers have sharp teeth to reduce the rags to thread; the second set of hammers have blunt teeth, to reduce the threads to fiber. The third, and last, set of hammers have smooth faces, to hydrate the fibers prior to sheet forming. At this time, the cotton rags, which were cooked in lye prepared on site from wood ash, have been reduced from scraps 1" x 1.5" to the consistency of oatmeal and are ready for the third and last stage of beating. To date, the beating has taken nearly 40 hours to arrive at this state.

Next March, when the pond is again full, final beating will commence, it is estimated that another eight hours of beating will be required. Also, in March, the mill site will be extended to accommodate six additional hammers and two more tubs. This will permit an increase in production because all three stages of beating will be operating at the same time.

The reason for building the mill was to explore the relationships between fiber and the machinery which has reduced fiber to pulp. Thompson has begun designing a hollander roll which will operate off of the same wheel to help define the comparative advantage of a hollander over a stamp mill. The goal this year was to bring the concept to operational status; next year quantitative studies will commence, using traditional fibers.

Columbia has Grant that Permits Repair & Rebinding

Phase II of the Foundations of Western Civilization Preservation Project, in which damaged books are receiving badly needed treatment, is now under way at the Columbia University Libraries (CUL). The four-year project, funded by a $2 million grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Preservation (recently renamed the Preservation and Access Division), is now in its second year and represents the largest grant ever awarded to CUL. The goal of the grant is to return to full usability about 25,000 books in history and philosophy published before 1950. About 9,000 books whose paper is still flexible are to be sent to a commercial binder or repaired in the Conservation Lab. Brittle books will be filmed (12,000 volumes) or replaced with reprints or microfilm (3,538 volumes).

In Phase I of the project, performed in 1990, workers cleaned, inventoried, and assessed the condition of 160,000 volumes, and identified missing titles. [This information is from the first issue of Books & Bytes newsletter of Columbia University Libraries. It only has six pages, but seven of the items in it either deal with preservation, or mention it as a priority.]

Awards are Offered


National Research & Education Network (NREN) Established

The President signed the High-Performance Computing Act, establishing the National Research and Education Network, on December 9. It is now PL 102-194. The ALA lobbied for this bill and expects that it will make library information much more widely available to people who now lack access, such as those in remote areas.

LSCA Grant for LA Performing Arts Collections

The California State Library has awarded a grant of $19,063 in LSCA funds for a cooperative project called Performing Arts in Los Angeles. The grant will be used to assess the conservation and microfilming needs of selected manuscript collections, serials and monographs in the performing arts in six area libraries. The project was developed jointly by LAPNet and PALNET (Los Angeles Preservation Network and the Performing Arts Libraries Network of Greater Los Angeles) and UCLA is administering the grant. The main goal of the project is the preparation of a report that combines the condition survey, a scholarly evaluation of the selected materials, and recommendations for conservation treatment and microfilming.

Six German Schools for Book and Paper Conservation

In the September Restauro, in the IADA pages, there is a list of six schools or programs in Germany that offer formal training or education in book and paper conservation. It gives their address, director, entrance requirements, length of program, and the name of the degree or diploma. Briefly, they are in Stuttgart (two schools; programs are headed by G. Banik and M. Kuehner), Munich (H. Bansa), Cologne (R. Fuchs), Pulheim (H. Frankenstein), and Leipzig (W. Wächter). Four of the programs seem to be full time and last for three or four years. The other two are part time, or of indeterminate length.

Photo Conservation Courses at the CPC, London

Ian and Angela Moor, who operate the Centre for Photographic Conservation in London, have announced a series of short courses for 1992, starting in April and running through July. Four take three days each, one takes five days, and one takes 10 days; fees range from £190 to £725, plus V.A.T. The courses and dates are:

Preservation & Conservation of Photographic Materials 15-17 April
Conserving Photographs, 20 April to 1 May & 7-18 Sept.
Identification of Photographic Processes, 13-15 May
Mounting Photographs for Storage & Display, 20-22 May
Fire or Flood: Dealing with the Aftermath, 27-29 May
Rediscovering Historic Photographic Processes, 6-10 July

For details write the Centre at 233 Stanstead Road Forest Hill, London SE23 1HU (Fax 081-314 1940).

Even the Best Plastics can't Always be Trusted

The safety of various plastics for storage of documents is treated in two recent newsletters. Michael McColgin describes his method of telling whether a plastic is giving off gases, in his column, "McColgin's Corner" in The Southwestern Archivist for Summer 1991. In his own words, "After chopping some of the suspect plastic into pieces, I place them in a clean glass jar, seal the top and set the jar aside. A couple of days later I remove the top and take an immediate whiff. If I smell a pungent odor, I know something is wrong.... In a few really bad cases, I have not even had to smell the sample--the inside of the jar became coated with a film, similar to that experienced by owners of new cars that have lots of interior plastic components. "

Wendy Smith has a cautionary note on the use of plastic products in the "Technical Notes" column of the AICCM Newsletter for September 1991. She warns that polypropylene and polyethylene may contain the same types of additives (plasticizers, stabilizers, lubricants, etc.) that conservators avoid in other contexts. In the National Library of Australia, they have seen polypropylene with a greasy surface, polyethylene bags that turn pale yellow when exposed to light, and polypropylene boxes that had a very strong odor. This concerns them, because the National Library is shrink-wrapping low-use material, using polypropylene boxes for unbound serial collections, and encapsulating in polyester. They are monitoring the research on shrink wrapping at the U.S. National Archives and carrying on their own research as well. They will publish as soon as practical.

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