Wrapping Up the Flood Advisory Programme

The Flood Advisory Programme launched in September 2014 when the Lead Team, consisting of the Lead Conservator, Emily Turgeon-Brunet, and the Lead Archivist, Amanda Oliver, began their site assessments across the province. In response to the site assessments, the Lead Team began developing custom work plans for all of ASA’s institutional members to assist with flood remediation, disaster preparedness, and preventive conservation.

The program started out as an idea that came to fruition all because of the Flood Advisory Committee, consisting of Rene Georgopalis, Leslie Latta, Alison Freake, and Michael Gourlie. Alberta Culture and Tourism provided funding to the Flood Advisory Committee to develop a 2.5 year program that would assist Alberta’s archives after the June 2013 floods.

The program evolved from site assessments and custom work plans to include hiring on-site contractors, offering professional development opportunities, speaking at conferences, and creating education resources. A couple of examples are the instructional how-to videos available on the ASA website, and the Disaster Preparedness Workshop that was offered in September 2016.

The Flood Advisory Programme has left forty-one ASA institutional members better prepared for future emergencies and disasters. The end of March 2017 marks the end of the Flood Advisory Programme, though the educational resources will remain accessible through its webpage.

This will also be the final blog post by the Lead Team.

Thank you for all of your support!

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Launch of the Loan Program

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Photo credit: Emily Turgeon-Brunet

The Flood Advisory Programme has just launched the much-anticipated Loan Program. The Loan Program is a project that was developed by the Lead Team consisting of environmental monitors, photographic documentation supplies, reference books, a wet-dry HEPA vacuum, a high-resolution scanner, and encapsulation equipment. The supplies are available to all ASA institutional members in good standing to borrow for free. Items are available for pick up at one of two locations: Provincial Archives of Alberta and Milo Library Archives. The items must be requested through the ASA Executive Director and a full list of items and guidelines for accessing this program can be found on the ASA website.

 

 

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How to Write a (Basic) Condition Report

Most often conservators, preservation specialists, collection managers, and art couriers are the staff members who write condition reports for collection materials. The practice of writing a condition report is valuable because it collects information on the state of an item at a certain time, which provides a reference for future degradation or damage. Some condition reports are more extensive than others, though it is useful to have a basic condition report on file for items that are frequently circulated.

Many staff members in the heritage field write short reports on the appearance and condition of objects to record in the database. This may be done upon acquisition, prior to exhibition or loan, or when preparing an item for the vault.

What information is needed on the item to write a basic condition report (for a paper item)?

Description

Title

Artist/Author

Printer/Publisher

Date of Execution

Dimensions (cm)

Media (ink, graphite, etc)

Design

Support/Substrate

Formation (smooth or rough)

Colour

Thickness

Surface (matte or glossy)

Watermarks/Stamps

Labels/Inscriptions

 

Condition

Warping

Handling Dents/Creases

Tears

Cuts

Abrasions

Losses

Holes

Fingerprints

Overall Staining

Local Staining

Adhesive

Fading

 

It is also recommended to take photographs of the items at the time that they are assessed, as additional proof of their condition. Photographs should be taken with a DSLR camera and under good lighting. Use a colour target placed next to the item to provide a colour reference that ensures the colouration and brightness of the photograph is acceptable. This colour target can be used to colour correct the digital file using a Photoshop program if needed.

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What’s In the Mud?

During the June 2013 flooding of the High River region, the Museum of the Highwood’s archival collection was immersed in water for eleven days. After eleven days the archival collection was salvaged and moved into freezers for two years, prior to undergoing conservation treatment through the Flood Advisory Programme. The items underwent conservation treatment, which was performed by Emily Turgeon-Brunet, Lisa Isley, and Jayme Vallieres. The archival collection had been covered in frost, mud, and mould and required cleaning, stabilization, and rehousing.

Since the entire region of High River had been underwater, it left a lot of questions about what exactly the conservators had been cleaning off of the archival collection. What was in the mud?

A sample of High River mud that was removed from the flood damaged collection material was sent to Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Herbert Gus Shurvell, at Queen’s University Department of Art Conservation to undergo FTIR and XRF testing.

FTIR:

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy is most commonly used to collect information on surface properties and functional groups present in organic and polymeric substances. Dr. Shurvell provided a spectrum that compares the mud sample and the references natural sienna and terra cotta.

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FTIR Spectra, Credit: Dr. Herbert Shurvell

XRF:

X-Ray Fluorescence Analysis is used to collect information on the elemental composition, and provide the relative concentration of elements in comparison to one another.

Results:

The FTIR spectra showed peaks typical for the presence of silica-alumina clays. The XRF results showed the strong presence of iron and calcium, with addition to silicon, potassium, titanium, manganese, zinc, rubidium, strontium, and zirconium. Some of these are toxic when encountered at high concentrations, though they are all found naturally in rocks and soil. Radioactive isotopes of some these elements are found naturally in nature, while others are the byproducts of industrial processes.

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Reflectance Transformation Imaging

Conservators, archaeologists, and conservation scientists use many pieces of equipment and methods of investigation to perform analysis of records, artifacts, and historical buildings. Analysis is performed to research materials, collect historical information, and determine how they can be preserved.

Outdoor sculptures, historic buildings, and even gravestones are severely affected over time due to the harsh environmental conditions that they must withstand. In order to work towards the preservation and documentation of these historical resources, researchers sometimes collect data on their surface, shape, and colour using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), also called Polynomial Texture Mapping. This type of analysis uses a computational photographic method that collects information on the surface through the use of light and camera positioning. It has proved particularly beneficial when decoding worn gravestones, friezes, hieroglyphics, and even faded manuscripts.

How does it work?

  • Multiple photos are taken of an object with a stationary camera, under various angles of light. The angles of light are knowns, and are required to collect the necessary images that will be used to create the final image.
  • Data produced by each image is interpreted by the RTI viewing software, then a mathematical model of the surface is created, which allows users of the software to manipulate an illumination feature to view the surface under various light angles.

 A similar method of photographic capture that is used for RTI can also be used for 3-D scanning. 3-D scanning is a popular method of collecting data of an object prior to creating reproductions or creating a digital manifestation.

 

References

Cultural Heritage Imaging. Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). Retrieved from http://culturalheritageimaging.org/Technologies/RTI/.

Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute. Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). Retrieved from http://si.edu/MCIImagingStudio/RTI.

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New Year’s Resolutions: Public Outreach

Exhibits are an important part of sharing information with the public and making historical items accessible. They also provide an opportunity to educate visitors on specific topics and showcase items of importance to the community. Public outreach events are another way to involve the public with the archives. Below are a few public outreach event examples to inspire your archives to offer events this year; some of the events below have been offered by Albertan institutions in the past with success.

  1. Create a Time Capsule

Involve community members by encouraging them to donate a small item, such as a photo or letter, for a time capsule project. The time capsule can be put into the vault to be used in the future for an exhibit. This project could take place over a particular holiday, which would provide content for an exhibit for a future holiday.

  1. Rehouse Prized Collections

A 2-3 hour hands-on workshop on proper housing and handling techniques can be taught to comic book and sports card collectors. Archival grade folders, binders, encapsulation materials, and labels can be sold as part of the workshop kit.

  1. Make a Portfolio or Window Mat Folder

A hands-on half-day workshop can be hosted where registrants have an opportunity to create a portfolio or a window mat folder to house an art print. A supply kit for the workshop could be sold upon registration. This workshop would appeal to artisans, art collectors, or art students.

  1. Make Long Lasting Memories

A presentation on choosing papers and glues to safely display photographs and memorabilia can be offered to the scrapbooking community. An additional workshop could be offered to the calligraphic community on choosing lightfast inks and watercolour paints. It is recommended to have samples available to show registrants.

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Home for the Holidays? Security Precautions for Archives

Many institutions and organizations close or have shorter hours over the December and January holidays. With fewer staff around, the facilities can be at higher risk for security issues including break-ins and vandalism. While it is important to maintain security features all year round, the approaching holidays is a great reminder to perform any required updates to security.

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Photo credit: Sticky Bandits, Harry and Marv, Home Alone, 20th Century Fox

Holiday Security Checklist:

☐ Updated list of everyone who has access to the facility

☐ Updated list of everyone who has access to the vaults

☐ Digital padlocks are working and metal bolts and locks are not loosened

☐ A copy of the disaster plan is located off-site

☐ Weather stripping fits flush between the doors and the doorframe

☐ Fire alarms and water sensors are working

☐ Battery powered alarm sensors and cameras are working

☐ Security company is aware of holiday hours

☐ Security staff is aware of public hours

☐ Lights in the office space are set on a timer

☐ Timer for lights is staggered at different times throughout the week

☐ All windows are locked

☐ Lower level windows have bars or an additional pane of glass

☐ All curtains are drawn

☐ Doors to vaults are locked and inconspicuous

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Photo credit: Home Alone, 20th Century Fox

If you’re interested in reading about minimizing the risk of water damage in your facility over the holidays, read our blog ‘Ice Rain, Blizzards, and Hail… Oh My!’.

Happy Holidays!

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Setting Up a Paper Conservation Lab

It can be quite difficult to furnish a conservation lab that is being put into an unmodified facility. Most often conservation labs are an after thought during the construction of a heritage facility, or they are put into an existing space well after the facility has been constructed. This blog will discuss the basic requirements, including substantial equipment and furniture, to set up a small lab space in an unmodified room intended for the conservation of paper objects. This blog will not discuss materials, small equipment, tools, or solvents and chemical compounds required for conservation treatments.

Choosing a space:

When choosing a space within a facility ensure you choose somewhere that is above ground, has natural lighting available, ideally north facing windows, and has hard flooring. This is because it is safer for records and objects to be housed above ground in the event of a flood, good lighting is required to perform conservation treatments, and carpeting is not recommended in a lab space where chemicals are used. In the event of a chemical spill carpeting cannot be sufficiently or safely cleaned. It is also important that there is piping available for sinks, and numerous outlets for the equipment. The lab should be located in a secure space within the facility with locked doors.

The Office

An office space will be required for the appointed conservation staff member to write reports and work on other research. The office space should include a desk, a chair, a computer, a printer and scanner, a filing cabinet, and a bookshelf.

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Photo credit: Paper Conservation Lab, Cliff

 

The Photo Studio

Photo documentation will be performed on all items undergoing treatment or preservation. A space will be required to perform photography. It is recommended that this space be near the office space as both should be off limits to the solvents and other materials used in the lab. The space should have the ability to be sealed off from all light to allow suitable photos to be taken. Hanging blackout curtains around the perimetre of the photo studio will help block out light.

Note: Supplies that are necessary are labeled ‘N’; supplies that are recommended are labeled ‘R’.

Photo Studio Shopping List:

Blackout Curtains (N) 2 UV Lamps (R)
Digital SLR Camera (N) 2 Tungsten Lamps (R)
Standard Lens (N) Light Table (R)
Macro Lens (R) AIC PhD Targets (N)
Tripod (N) Large Black and Grey Mat Boards (N)
Horizontal Camera Mount (N) Light Table (R)


The Lab

The Lab will require sufficient space so that the conservation staff member may work on more than one project at a time. There should be a minimum of three large lab workbenches. There should be a chemical storage cabinet that has a locking mechanism to house the solvents and chemical compounds required for treatment. In addition to this cabinet, there must be a fridge, as some chemicals require cold storage. The lab environment must be controlled and monitored through the use of an HVAC system or equivalent, and a HOBO data logger or ELSEC monitor. UV filters should be placed on all overhead light tubes and windows to reduce light damage caused by items undergoing treatment. Adjustable desk lamps with magnification capabilities should be attached to one of the lab workbenches to assist with detailed work. If within the budget, it is strongly recommended to also have a stereomicroscope at a workbench, which will assist with research and analysis of objects.

Work with the maintenance or facility department to have a fume hood installed. For safety reasons, and to minimize negative affects on undergoing projects in the fume hood, the fume hood should not be located near the door(s) or the window(s). If having a fume hood installed is not possible, portable fume hoods can be purchased. Ensure that a customizable portable fume hood is chosen. The portable fume hood should contain the required filters for both chemicals and biohazards that may be present in an object or treatment process.

Distilled and deionized water are both required for conservation treatments. Work with your maintenance or facility department to have portable filtration systems installed. Large sinks (at least 4 ft wide) with drainage at one end must be installed below the filtration systems. A drying rack should be located near the sink; this area will be used to complete aqueous treatment procedures.

A suction table with a dome attachment should be set-up by the maintenance or facilities staff, and installed next to a lab workbench. Suction tables are used for certain treatment procedures as well as for humidifying items.

The Lab Shopping List:

3 Lab Workbenches (N) UV Filters (N)
Chemical Storage Cabinet (N) Fume Hood (N)
Fridge (N) Portable DI Water Filter System (R)
HVAC System (R) Distillation Tank (N)
HOBO Data Logger/ELSEC Monitor (N) 4 ft or Larger Sink(s) (N)
Desk Lamp with Magnification Capabilities (N) Suction Table with Dome (R)
Stereomicroscope (R) Drying Rack (N)

It is recommended to work with the conservation staff member and request their assistance for choosing equipment and furniture. This brief guide is meant to provide basic information on required furniture and large equipment for a small paper conservation lab.

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Identifying the Digital Print

On October 25th the Lead Conservator took part in the three-day Digital Print Preservation workshop offered by the Image Permanence Institute in Rochester, NY. This workshop was aimed to teach and inform a group of professionals in the heritage field about identifying digitally printed materials. Once digital prints can be identified it is possible to determine how they should be handled, stored, and exhibited. Also, as some digital prints are more susceptible to water damage than others, it is important to identify the printing processes in the collection to prioritize those for evacuation and treatment.

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Digital Print Preservation Workshop, Photo Credit: Marta Garcia Celma, NACCA

The Big Three

  • Dye Sublimation Print
  • Electrophotographic Print
  • Inkjet Print

Dye Sublimation Prints rely on the digital print process most commonly used to produce instant photos at Wal-Mart and Shoppers Drug Mart. How can they be identified?

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Close up of Dye Sublimation Print, Photo Credit: DP3 Project

  1. Sometimes one or two edges are serrated from where the tear-off tabs were removed.
  2. Photos of this process are most often 4” x 6”.
  3. If looked at under a microscope or loupe it should not be possible to focus on a particular dot of ink.
  4. This method is still used to transfer dyes to textiles.

Electrophotographic Prints are created by laser printers and photocopiers and produced with toners not inks. Either dry toner or pigment suspended in liquid may be used. How can they be identified?

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Close up of an EP Print, Liquid Toner, Photo Credit: DP3 Project

  1. If looked at under a microscope or loupe, amplitude modulation (AM) screening can be seen. This is when the centre of each dot of toner is equidistant from one another, but the size of each dot changes in order to create tonality within the image.
  2. If liquid toner is used, the edge of the image will not have a clean line. This is because liquid toner cannot produce half dots. If dry toner is used, half dots can be created and the edge of the image will be clean lined.
  3. Liquid toner produces a more distinct dot than dry toner.
  4. EP prints often have “satellites” which are random tiny specks of toner that can be found throughout the print.
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Close up of an EP Print, Dry Toner, Photo Credit: DP3 Project

InkJet Prints are the most commonly produced prints , which can be found on every type of paper including office paper, fine art papers, photo paper, and even canvas. How can they be identified?

  1. Inkjet prints can be either AM screening or frequency modulated (FM) screening, but are most often FM screen printed. FM screening is when ink dots are applied more densely in areas to create tonality within the image. The dots appear to be randomly placed.
  2. The ink used to produce these prints can be either dye or pigment based.
  3. Dye based inks are more easily absorbed into the paper whereas pigment based inks sit closer to the surface of the paper which can make them appear more vibrant.
  4. Aqueous dye inkjet prints are extremely water soluble and fade quickly, though sometimes a topcoat has been applied over the image to help slow down the rate of discolouration.
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Close up of an InkJet Print, Photo Credit: DP3 Project

Please visit the wonderfully educational Digital Print Preservation Portal to learn about handling and caring for digital prints.

The Lead Conservator extends her thanks to the staff at the Image Permanence Institute for offering such an informative and fascinating workshop, and to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for making the workshop possible.

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History of Halloween in Canada

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Photo credit: Jack-O-Lantern, Jeff Kramer

Halloween was first practiced in Canada in the Maritimes and eastern port cities where Irish and Scottish settlers arrived in Canada around 1840. Many of the settlers arrived to build the canal or to escape the potato famine. They brought with them the Pagan tradition of celebrating October 31st known as All Hallow’s Eve, which is now called Halloween or Allhalloween. All Hallow’s Eve is the day before old Samhain, which marks the first day of winter (also known as All Saint’s Day, All Souls Day, and the Day of the Dead). In the 19th century some Pagan traditions associated with All Hallow’s Eve were still practiced in Canada, such as bobbing for apples, snap-apple, bonfires (fire with animal bones), collecting treats door to door, and divining the future. There are records of communities on the east coast gathering in farmhouses to practice their traditions.[i] CBC has some very interesting recordings in their online Digital Archives on the practice of Halloween in Canada.

The practice of costumed people going door to door for treats developed from a combination of two old traditions:

  1. The belief that the souls of the dead and demons walked among people on Halloween and wearing a costume, or guising, would confuse them, which would act as a form of protection.
  2. The belief that souls of the dead would knock on doors to receive food, and if not given any food they would haunt or curse the home. It became customary for people to hand out treats to all who knocked at the door.[ii]

Irish and Scottish settlers in the eastern USA also practiced All Hallow’s Eve traditions, causing the practice and celebration to increase in popularity and spread across North America in the following years.

The apostrophe: The apostrophe in the word Hallowe’en does not regularly make an appearance and sometimes it is dropped. You can take it or leave it, as using the apostrophe historically comes in and out of favour. In the 1960s marketing for the holiday dropped the apostrophe and it has maintained this spelling since; however, according to proper English grammar, it is recommended to use the apostrophe as it infers the word ‘eve’ after ‘hallow’.[iii]

Canada’s contributions to the holiday (Yep, we recorded it first):

A newspaper article from 1911 printed in Kingston, Ontario offers the first printed evidence of people putting on costumes and disguising or guising themselves, going door to door asking for treats on Hallowe’en.

Another newspaper article from 1927 printed in Blackie, Alberta offers the first printed evidence of costumed youths going door to door to “trick or treat” on Hallowe’en.[iv]

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[i] Barrett, Maria and Bill McNeil. (1961, October 31). CBC Assignment: Halloween Originates with Samhain, Lord of the Dead.

Retrieved 2016, October 18 from http://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/halloween-originates-with-samhain-lord-of-the-dead

[ii] “The Origins of Halloween in Canada.” Today in Canadian History. 2 November, 2015. http://www.canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php/Halloween. Accessed 18, October 2016.

[iii] Barrie, Andy. Guest referenced: Nick Rogers. (2002, October 21). CBC Metro Morning: The Evolution of Halloween.

Retrieved 2016, October 18 from http://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/the-evolution-of-halloween

[iv] “The Origins of Halloween in Canada.” Today in Canadian History. 2 November, 2015. http://www.canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php/Halloween. Accessed 18, October 2016.

Additional Reference:

MacInnis, Lloyd. (1957, October 31). CBC Assignment: Halloween, Maritime Witches.

Retrieved 2016, October 18 from http://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/the-witches-of-nova-scotia.

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