[Ed. Note: MLIS student / preservation assistant Hillary McCreery Holley prepared some questions for me and I've tried to answer below. This is the second installment of our celebration of American Library Association's Preservation Week.]
The UCLA Library’s Preservation Department focuses its efforts in four main areas: conservation, collections care and bindery, audiovisual preservation, and preservation administration. In honor of Preservation Week, the department head, Dawn Aveline, has answered a few questions to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what happens in our department.
What happens when library materials get passed off to the Preservation Department?
Preservation receives materials from both special and circulating collections. For circulating print materials that are sent to Conservation, our conservation technician Wil Lin sorts items by difficulty of repair and directs them to student workers with appropriate skill sets. Complicated repairs on circulating materials are performed by Wil himself. Items too brittle or missing too much content or otherwise beyond repair are sent to the Preservation Review queue. We then review for replacement, scanning, and/or withdrawal. Special collections treatements are handled by our new Head of the Conservation Center, Chela Metzger. For audiovisual materials, our new AV Specialist Yasmin Dessem is shaping up our policies with regard to reading room access. Soon we’ll be able to do a lot more digitization in house as well.
Every year, libraries across the country celebrate Preservation Week as a way to educate, promote, and inspire audiences about preserving library materials. The American Library Association and its Association for Library Collections and Technical Services established Preservation Week in 2010 and partnered with other institutions, such as the Library of Congress, Institute of Library and Museum Services, American Institute for Conservation, Society of American Archivists, and Heritage Preservation, to raise awareness for this important part of library services.
Preservation Week was originally inspired by a survey conducted by the Heritage Preservation, in partnership with the Institute of Library and Museum Services, in 2004. Known as the Heritage Health Index, the survey documented the current condition and preservation needs of collections in libraries, museums, and archives all over the United States. Findings showed that approximately 1.3 billion items across all types of collections were in need of some kind of treatment. To bring attention to this issue as well as to inspire action, Preservation Week, now in its sixth year, provides an opportunity for libraries to connect with their audiences and raise awareness through events, programming, and resources.
For more information on Preservation Week and how to get involved, please visit ALA’s website:
The advertising for our Summer Internship went out to various listservs on February 24. There's still time to apply!
The UCLA Library Preservation Department is offering a pre-program internship for qualified students who are preparing to apply for Masters-level conservation programs. (Those currently inconservation programs may also be considered). This internship will provide experience inconservation decision making, treatment, documentation, and enclosures for library and archival collections. The conservation intern will work under the supervision of the head of the lab to stabilize library and archive materials for research use, exhibit, and digitization. Treatments will depend on prior experience. Relevant literature will be reviewed prior to conservation treatment, and all projects will be documented. Interns will have a chance to blog on their work, and make a historic binding model for their portfolio. Application deadline is April 17, 2015
The UCLA Library Preservation Department supports the Library’s mission to develop, organize, and preserve collections for optimal use. The Preservation Department provides stewardship for the intellectual record in the formats required by contemporary scholars and ensures the safekeeping of the artifacts that are entrusted to the UCLA Library. The Preservation Department includes the Library Conservation Center (LCC), a state-of-the-art conservation lab that providesconservation services collections in all units of the UCLA Library. The LCC is guided by the best current practices of the book and paper conservation field and the Code of Ethics of the American Institute for the Conservation of Artistic and Historic works.
These internships are 75% FTE (30 hours/week) for an eight week period, with a flexible start date from July 1 to September 16 and an hourly salary rate of $15.19 per hour.
[Editor's note: The following post is from our intrepid AV sleuth, John Kostka, UCLA MIAS '15. If you have any leads regarding El Cucaracho, let us know!]
In the age of Google, YouTube, and Wikipedia, it can be easy to forget that some information lies beyond our immediate reach. In a strange sense, it’s almost heartening (or at least humbling) to be reminded that the vast scope of human knowledge still harbors certain lacunae. Nevertheless, and particularly for the archivist or researcher, the desire to know remains difficult to ignore, and it can become hard not to take such gaps in knowledge as slights against personal pride. After all, for librarians and archivists, finding information is our line of work. It is, quite literally, our job to know, or at least to know how to find. When we're vexed at what we're supposed to do best, it can feel as though the proverbial gauntlet has been thrown.
Just such a conundrum presented itself before the UCLA Library Preservation Department several months ago and has proven the object of a good deal of wonder ever since. Hidden away, amongst a personal collection of reels housing home movies and old Laurel & Hardy shorts, was a 16mm mystery labelled simply, “Cartoon.” Upon reviewing the object on a rewind bench (two hand-cranked spindles used for moving through the print without the benefit of a projector), a close inspection revealed the cartoon to be an animated short entitled “El Cucaracho.” The print was complete, with nary a splice down its length, and in generally good physical shape, save for a worrisome whiff of pungent odor, harbinger of the dreaded “vinegar syndrome,” a process of chemical degradation in acetate-base film which leads to shrinking, warping and the eventual decomposition of the film base itself.
ED. NOTE: Stalwart AV grad assistant John Kostka has crafted the following report of highlights from his trip to the AMIA Conference in Savannah last week. John is starting his second year of the UCLA Moving Image Archive Studies program.
Over the past week (Oct. 7-11), archivists from across the nation (and indeed the globe!) turned out for the year’s annual Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) conference in Savannah, Georgia, with the UCLA Library preservation staff providing several members among their ranks. Over the course of a fun and enlightening five days, Library staff had the opportunity to make a number of new friends, sample the local cuisine and nightlife, and take in some truly exciting presentations!
Ed. Note: This is a guest post from our newest Preservation student assistant, Hilary McCreery. Hilary is about to start her second year in the UCLA MLIS program, and is actively pursuing interests in preservation and conservation topics.
As a pre-program art conservation student, the prospect of traveling across the country to be under the tutelage of Kristen St. John at the UCLA Library Conservation Center [LCC] was thrilling. Before starting any projects, I was able to have a conversation with Kristen regarding what I was hoping to achieve from this internship. My objective was to further enhance my understanding of treatments of ephemeral materials, as well as to learn basic treatments for book conservation. Outside of treatments, I also wanted to learn how to make various enclosures for future storage of objects. Kristen made sure I fulfilled my goals and so much more. Before starting treatment, I read articles, wrote condition reports, and photo-documented to get to know the object.
During my first few weeks at the LCC, Kristen introduced me to the Minasian Collection of Persian and Arabic Manuscripts that included a large number of church, government, and legal documents dating from 16th to 19th centuries. Because of my strong interests in paper and book conservation, working on Persian and Arabic documents provided me with greater understanding of the treatment process, from initial observation and writing condition reports to going over treatment options and how to choose appropriate treatments for various documents from the collection.
My work as a conservation technician for the UCLA Libraries Conservation Center exposes me to a broad range of materials from special collections. I relish the surprises that come my way and love to tell friends about what I learn from these objects. I am very pleased, then, to have the chance to share with you a book which, just in time for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, teems with macabre images of skeletons, disembodied organs, and fetuses preserved in jars.
The Thesaurus anatomicus primus [-decimus] by Frederik Ruysch is ten volumes bound as one, published between 1701 and 1716. This particular copy is also bound with Thesaurus animalium primus, 1710. Written by a Dutch physician who created an impressive cabinet of curiosities, the book is itself a trove of strange and fascinating imagery. Numerous engraved plates unfold to reveal artfully composed arrangements of anatomical specimens from his collection. The most arresting aspect of these still life arrangements is their juxtaposition of grisly elements (severed limbs, dissected organs, tufts of hair) with whimsical touches including lace, flowers, shells, and small exotic animals.
July 2013 saw me begin an eight week internship at UCLA Libraries Conservation Center, under the skilled supervision of collections conservator Kristen St. John. These past 8 weeks have sadly flown by and my time at UCLA Libraries Conservation Center (LCC) has been inspiring, challenging, rewarding and incredibly valuable to me in terms of my continued development as a conservator looking towards graduate level study.
My interest in Rare Book Conservation stems from having a strong affinity with paper based objects and the sentimental attachment I have to books as significant and beautiful objects keeping knowledge available throughout history. The conservation of these objects is challenging as we are dealing with multiple materials used in the binding and the idea that these objects must remain usable. Therefore, a rare book conservator must approach the treatment of a book almost with the eye of an engineer.
Going into this internship, I had a clear set of academic and technical objectives I wanted to develop based on my prior experience and education. Firstly; I wanted to develop my understanding and skills in reporting; before, during and after treatment. Specifically in relation to books, as a different language is required to adequately describe the condition and treatment procedures of these three-dimensional objects. Secondly, I wanted to gain experience creating the many different housing methods used in diverse library collections, as this is one of the primary and essential steps in the conservation of collections. Finally, I wanted to progress in my theoretical knowledge of bookbinding and conservation.
As Kristen is dedicated to providing an internship program that mutually benefits both the intern and the UCLA LCC, the projects I was given for this 8 week period met and exceeded my primary objectives, providing me with a very thorough education in a very short period of time.
California Rare Book School; Survey and Treatment of Mexican Pamphlets from the 18th & 19th Centuries.
My last blog post introduced some tricky video formats that could potentially store audio information in their depths. As promised, here is the continuation of that story. We left off pondering the differences between Betamax and Betacam. Betamax was released in 1975 with a horizontal resolution of approximately 250 lines. In 1983 Sony introduced BetaHi-Fi, where your Betamax tape recorded FM audio tracks with separate audio heads. There was also a VHS competitor for this known as VHS Hi-Fi. These formats were attractive as they provided noticeably higher quality audio than the popular compact cassettes. The bandwidth allocated to Betamax Hi-Fi was 500 kHz as opposed to VHS Hi-Fi’s 150 kHz. Eventually with the addition of PCM units Betamax could record full CD quality digital audio information on a video tape. There was a SuperBetamax format with approximately 300 lines of horizontal resolution and an “Extended Definition” or ED Betamax with 500 lines of horizontal resolution. Alas, their introduction came too late and JVC and its VHS tape won the format war. The last Betamax machine was manufactured in America in 1993.
Betcam came on the scene in 1982, modeled after Betamax but using component video rather than composite and with a much higher tape speed. It also had 300 lines of horizontal resolution and a much higher chrominance resolution than Betamax. With Betacam SP came 340 lines of horizontal resolution and two tape sizes: cameras used the small size and tape editing and playback decks could use either the large or the small size. Betacam SP also used a totally different magnetic tape formula than any previous iteration (Metal-formulated versus ferric oxide). A feature of Betacam SP decks is that they can play back regular Betacam tapes as well. Technically they could also potentially play back Betamax tapes, but since the newer decks travel at faster speeds, it is not recommended. Digital Betacam and Betacam SX cross over into the digital realm of recording video signals to tape—and frankly, I don’t even want to go there right now.
A weblog about preservation, conservation, and the stewardship of the UCLA Library's collections.
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