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Conservation Intern Works with Civil War Materials

jeannefeltsThe University of Virginia Library offered a six-week conservation exhibition internship this summer to help with preparation for the Special Collections exhibit about the Civil War due to go up this October.

Jeanne Goodman was selected for the internship and working under the supervision of our library book conservator, Eliza Gilligan, performed conservation treatments and exhibit prep on items selected for the show.

Jeanne says:  This summer I had the opportunity to work within the University of Virginia’s Special Collection Library to help prepare an upcoming exhibit on the Civil War. Over a hundred items were selected by five different curators and … Read the whole story and see pictures of her work.

Preservation Services Lab Open House



Tuesday, April 29 to Thursday, May 1: 10 a.m.-noon

Did you ever wonder what happened to that book you checked out with the cracked binding? What about the 19th century volume with broken sewing? Come check out what happens to books that need a little TLC before returning to the shelves for use.


Tuesday, April 29, Wednesday, April 30 and Friday, May 2 2-4 p.m.

When was the last time you saw an audio cassette player? Or a turntable? If you wonder how the University Library is preserving our legacy audio formats, come visit the audio reformatting lab.

(Enter from middle of building and turn right)
Tuesday, April 29 to Thursday, May 1: 10 a.m.-noon

Where else in the Library can you see a fume trunk, an oversized sink to wash books in, and a hot air pencil?

Summer Internship in Conservation

architectural stackThe University of Virginia Library is pleased to offer once again a six-week internship for the summer of 2014 in the Preservation Services Department working with the Book Conservator for the University Library Collections. The purpose of the internship is to perform conservation treatment on a collection of architectural drawings from the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. The architectural drawings are a mixture of blue prints and original tracings from the archive of Edmund Schureman Campbell, who was a professor of architecture at the University of Virginia from 1929-1950. The drawings will be assessed by the intern and prioritized according to complexity of treatment and available time within the schedule of the internship. The intern will write a treatment plan for each selected drawing and maintain the written documentation throughout the treatment process.

The Campbell drawings display a variety of damage consistent with age and frequent handling that can have a high impact on the physical state of working architectural drawings. Likely treatments include dry cleaning, adhesive and pressure sensitive tape removal, paper mending, humidification and flattening, and use of an ultrasonic welder to encapsulate selected drawings. Pre-treatment photo documentation will be performed by the library’s Digital Services Department prior to the intern’s arrival. It is expected that the intern will participate in the after-treatment photo-doc at the end of the six week internship.  The intern will be required to give a presentation to library staff at the end of the internship, describing the project overall and highlighting a few specific details from the treatments.

Treatment will be performed in the UVa Library Conservation Lab, a small but well-equipped facility with a 4 foot x 6 foot treatment sink, de-ionized water system, fume trunk, suction platen, and the usual tools. The treatment will be performed under the supervision of the Book Conservator for Library Collections and in consultation with the Library Curator for the University Archives.

The Library is offering a $4000 stipend to support the internship, generously supported by Brad and Margery Lee. The internship can be scheduled for any consecutive six-week period between June 16, 2014 and September 1, 2014. We will be accepting applications until the position is filled. The ideal candidate will have prior treatment experience with architectural drawings.

Applicants should send a resume, letter of interest, and contact information for three professional references via email to:

Eliza Gilligan
Book Conservator for University Library Collections

Applicants must be a US citizen.


The Preservation Services Department has selected Barbie S. Dailey for the 2014 summer conservation internship. Barbie is an American citizen who has lived in Pondicherry, India for more than 40 years and has worked at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram as a book and paper conservator in their Archives and Research Library. Barbie has participated in several visiting consultancies throughout the world in order to broaden her training and bring skills back to her colleagues at the Ashram Archives. Her particular interest in the project at the University of Virginia Library arose from a similar project she and her colleagues are mounting in their archive. The architectural drawings from the Edmund Campbell archive are from the same time period and encompass the same printing processes as those associated with Golconde, a dormitory building in the Ashram that was built in the early 1940’s. The treatment techniques that Barbie learns in her time at UVa will be of great value to her home institution.

When Marginalia and Ephemera are Part of the Story

s book1Kara says: This book came across my workflow the other day with a strange note, “See box cover for explanation.” Intrigued, I turned the box over to read what would cause this book to get special treatment. It turns out that this book is not like most others. There is a story, Ship of Theseus, but that is only the beginning—because this work is really about the interactions of two readers who read the same copy of Ship of Theseus. They leave behind writing in the margins, postcards and photographs, and notes written on napkins! So my challenge was how to preserve the whole work as a book that was going to be circulated. With items deliberately stuffed in between pages—items essential for the story—how did I keep them from getting lost? Find out how (more pictures after the jump).

s book2

The Pechas Project


The University of Virginia Library holds one of the most complete Tibetan Collections in the world. A significant portion of the collection includes about 3,300 pechas or prayer scrolls. Preservation Services had to find a way to house them safely to prevent damage and allow them to be used by library patrons. Learn how we did it!


Mystery Solved!

Tip InKara says:  This piece of paper sat on my truck of mysteries for several months. It was given to me by the circulation staff—who perhaps found it lost and lonely in the stacks or in a pile of books. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to track down the book I thought it might have come from—we had two copies of the book and it’s quite popular and often not on the shelf. Not wanting to interrupt patron use of the item, I bided my time. Several months ago, I determined it did not come from the other copy of the book. That copy was intact and complete, but this copy has only recently returned to the shelves. I am happy to report that the missing page and its book are now reunited again! We will tip the missing page back into the book and it will be as good as new.

WSLS-TV News Film Collection Launches Online

Roanoke children receive their Salk polio vaccine shots, 4/25/1955.

A still from the news film collection: Roanoke children receive their Salk polio vaccine shots, 4/25/1955.

Leigh says:  The WSLS-TV news film collection has been part of the life of Preservation Services for so long that the public access launch of its clips and scripts on August 5 seems anticlimactic. Of course, the release of the collection online is the whole reason why we’ve been working so hard over the past five years. It’s really a time of exuberance and satisfaction for everyone who worked on the project.

The approximately 13,000 clips and 18,000 pages of anchorperson scripts from WSLS-TV in Roanoke, Va., from 1951 to 1971 will be presented online in batches over the next few months. The first 3,400 or so are browsable at the collection’s Virgo homepage at or searchable by keyword in the larger Virgo catalog. Or check out an online exhibit about the collection.

The WSLS collection has been so important in my work life, it’s as if I’m sending my baby out into the world. I feel personally responsible for any mistakes in the description of the clips, any substandard viewing experience of the videos, any means of confusion with access to the collection online, and any disappointment in the collection’s intellectual content. Silly but true.

I sincerely hope that the collection will become a valuable asset to students and scholars, as well as the general public. At any rate, I like it. It’s my own moving image time capsule.

Preservation Outreach: Hanging out with the students from Murray Elementary

Kara says:  Last week I had the opportunity to talk preservation with fifth graders from Murray Elementary School. There were 42 students, broken into two groups. These kids were curious, engaged, and asked terrific questions. They easily figured out what we did in Preservation Services; this is something that I find myself explaining to adults all the time. We talked about  what to do with damaged books, how the type of paper impacts how and whether we can repair it, and the ways that we use a blast freezer (for drying out wet books and handling bug infestations, NOT for keeping ice cream cold!) They were fantastic learners and it was a joy to talk with them about what we do here in Preservation Services. I just wish they had had more time to spend with us.

If any of these kids end up coming to U.Va. in six or seven years, I hope they will stop by and apply for a job, because I would love to have them work for us.  Thanks fifth graders, for being as excited about what we do as I am!

Alderman Exhibit Features Preservation Tools

In the Stettinius Gallery hallway on the second floor of Alderman Library, Preservation Services presents  an exhibition of preservation/conservation tools to celebrate Preservation Week, which begins on April 21, 2013. Please also visit the online version of the exhibit. Department member Leigh Rockey gathered materials and information for the display, and she came across a few morsels of preservation and conservation info that she would like to share.

twitter account

Leigh says:  It’s difficult to decide which tools, materials, and equipment to feature in the hallway display because there are so many of them! And, of course, they’re all fascinating in some way. Let’s look at the Twitter profile pic for @UvaLibPreserve, at left. It contains many of the basics—embroidery scissors, linen thread, a bamboo hake brush, a tacking iron, methyl cellulose paste, wheat starch paste, a ruler, an eraser, an awl, a spatula, a scalpel, and a brick weight—and that’s a just a few of the tools used in the care of library items!

Please note that there are two kinds of paste shown in this picture.

In the clear Tupperware container is methyl cellulose, which may sound intimidating, but it’s just plant fiber that’s been processed with caustic soda. Preservation and conservation labs use methyl cellulose mainly as an adhesive, to secure papers and boards. It’s also used to loosen and then clean off old glue from spines and book cover boards.

Interestingly, we’ve all eaten methyl cellulose. It’s in a lot of fast food shakes, processed cheese, puddings, batters, sports drinks, some soups and sauces, processed meat, peanut butter, candy, etc., chiefly as a thickening agent. It just also happens to be a stable adhesive that doesn’t stain or discolor paper.

The large white pill bottle contains wheat starch paste. A bit stronger than methyl cellulose, starch adhesives are ubiquitous in preservation and conservation labs.

Methyl cellulose and starch pastes meet all the criteria for mending library materials—they do not yellow, darken, or stain paper; they retain adhesive strength for a long time; the adhesion is reversible (you can undo repairs, even after a long period of time, without damage to the original library item); and they do not contain preservatives or chemicals harmful to paper, boards, leather, etc.

AV Conservator Steven Villereal Savors the Steenbeck

Steven Says:  As Preservation Service’s point person for obsolete media materials, I frequently find myself on the hunt for the equipment needed to interact with old audiovisual formats. Working with “legacy” formats (i.e. the media production technologies of yesteryear), I require equipment that is often not the newest and shiniest. Sometimes the gear I need is used … or even disused!

Back in May 2012, I received word that New York University’s film and television production school was ridding itself of 19 Steenbeck flatbed film editors. Current motion picture technologies favor digital resources over film, so student demand for Steenbecks at NYU is increasingly minimal. And they were giving them away free, provided their new homes would be non-profit institutions.


Steenbeck expert Dwight Cody refurbishes and cleans U.Va. Library’s Steenbeck film editing machine.

Steenbecks were an essential tool of film editors for well over 50 years. The desk-sized, flatbed film editing machine was a German innovation from the 1930s, an alternative to the American upright Moviola, that allowed you to review film footage quickly. Using a rotating prism rather than gate and shutter like a film projector, the Steenbeck lets you roll through your footage safely and slowly (forward and backward, including freezing on a frame).

The same features that make these machines appealing to editors make them ideal for archivists and researchers who work with fragile film materials. In contrast to running film through a projector—a dangerous process for at-risk material—looking at film on a Steenbeck is safe (when practiced alongside prior material inspection, condition assessment, and repair).

After driving a minivan up to New York to claim a Steenbeck, I made plans to have the machine refurbished. As the Library intended to use the machine as a viewer for archival film materials, it was obviously essential that the Steenbeck be in excellent working order. Through archival film contacts, I knew of Dwight Cody, who services Steenbecks for many universities as well as the Library of Congress in nearby Culpeper. In November, I managed to schedule a service visit with Dwight, who spent a full day refurbishing the machine, with an eye towards making it safe for archival film.

The sign on the Steenbeck's own room in Clemons Library.

The sign on the Steenbeck’s own room in Clemons Library.

I also met with my colleagues in Clemons Library, who were generous enough to make room for this machine so that students of filmmaker and instructor Kevin Everson could review the 16mm film they shoot as part of his courses in the U.Va. Studio Art program. The Steenbeck now lives in a dedicated room that students can access after receiving individual training.

I am very excited, as someone with a strong interest in the history of media production technologies, that students will be able to use a Steenbeck for their film-related projects. The tactile experience of physically handling, cutting, and reassembling film has real value, and it offers U.Va. students experience with a methodological alternative to digital processes.