Tag Archives: Archives

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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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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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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The Exhibit Series: Put a Label on It

When organizing an exhibit, creating the labels may not be the most exciting item on the to-do list. The labels are often used to relay essential information about the item on display, such as the title, description, artist, creator, date, age, or where it’s from. Sometimes labels provide information on how the item was used, what it was for, or who is depicted in the image.

Labels are often skimmed over by the viewer.

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Photo Credit: Brint Design, Periodic Table of Typefaces

How can exhibit labels be more interesting? What would make the viewer want to read the label?

  1. Less is more. A viewer does not want to spend ten minutes reading and thinking about the information in a label. The label should be short. In fact, the shorter the better (20 – 70 words). If the label has closer to 70 words, break the paragraph up into two smaller paragraphs to create the illusion of a shorter label.
  2. An easy read. Don’t use technical vocabulary that would not get across the information to the general public. The exhibit is meant to inform the general public, not stump them. It is best to use simple vocabulary and short sentences, with strong adjectives and verbs. By doing this, you are making the information accessible to a wider audience. It is also important that the label is easy on the eyes. The text should either be dark on a light background or light on a dark background, with a 70% difference in contrast between the two colours.
  3. Available in large print. The font size should be no smaller than size 12. The typeface should be sans serif or simple serif (e.g. Screen Shot 2016-10-13 at 2.18.09 PM.png or Screen Shot 2016-10-13 at 2.19.09 PM.png) and there should be no more than two fonts in the label. Proper punctuation and capitalization should be used unless it is purposefully being manipulated to get across certain information. The Smithsonian has published an online article, Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Exhibition Design, aimed to provide recommendations on designing an exhibit that better relays information to all audiences.
  4. Make it worth their time. Why is the label worth reading? Engage the viewer with an interesting fact or the label could have a narrative. It may also help if the text is written with an active voice instead of passive. It could also be interesting to feature a ‘curator’s choice’ item for the exhibit.
  5. Provide an activity. It is recommended to include an activity within some of the labels in an exhibit. These labels could pose a question or encourage the viewer to look more closely at the item.
  6. Just a little bit higher. Make sure that the label is located near the item. It should be at a comfortable height so that the viewer does not need to look up or bend down to read it. The centre of the label should be approximately 57 inches from the floor. If the label is positioned high or low ensure that it is correctly angled to accommodate the viewer.
  7. Don’t make it a beacon. The label should be matte or very low gloss. The viewer should not have to change angles to read the label. Ensure that labels going within an exhibit case are examined for glare prior to the final installation.

Fun fact: The American Alliance of Museums’ Curators Committee in partnership with the Museology Graduate Program at the University of Washington, Seattle, and in cooperation with the National Association for Museum Exhibition and the AAM Educational Committee holds a yearly exhibit label competition. The competition, entitled Excellence in Exhibit Writing Competition, accepts international entries.

http://aam-us.org/about-us/grants-awards-and-competitions/excellence-in-label-writing

 

References:

Brint Design. Periodic Table of Typefaces. Accessed 2016, Oct 13. http://www.brintdesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/tabla-periodica-tipografica_gio-01.jpg

Hammons, Carlyn. Training for Texas Museums. 2011, Oct 18. Five Tips for Great Exhibit Labels.mp4. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSnnR-7dQBI.

Majewski, Janice. Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Exhibit Design. Smithsonian Accessibility Program. Accessed 2016, Oct 13. https://www.si.edu/Accessibility/SGAED#page_21.

Parks Canada Access Series: Design Guidelines for Media Accessibility. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services, 1993.

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Coming to Alberta – Archives Week Launch

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Photo Credit: Meeting of the Societe Jean-Batiste of Alberta, Provincial Archives of Alberta, Cropped Image.

Every year, during the first week of October, the Archives Society of Alberta celebrates Archives Week. Each year Archives Week has a different theme, the same theme in which the ASA calendar is based on. The ASA is excited to announce the theme, ‘Coming to Alberta’, which focuses on those who immigrated to Alberta to start their new home. People from all over the world have moved to Alberta over the last 150 years making Alberta the culturally rich and diverse province that it is.

Acting Executive Director and Archives Advisor, Meribeth Plenert, the ASA Board of Directors, and the ASA Communications Committee worked hard to organize the successful launch event held on October 1st at the Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre. Despite the heavy rainfall that evening, the event had a great turnout welcoming MLA Chris Neilson and Robert Gaetz from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. The event featured performances of dramatic readings of letters and oral histories from archives across Alberta. The letters and oral histories were by people who immigrated to Alberta from allover the world, which provides brief, though accurate, first hand accounts of their experiences traveling to Canada, entering Alberta, and beginning their new lives. There were six performances demonstrating varied stories, from one person who left the USA in 1909, who, with two others, built the first road between Amber Valley and Lac La Biche, to a war bride from England who travelled with 42 000 other war brides by ship from Britain to Canada after WW2. It was also fascinating to hear the story of a man and his friends starting up a successful restaurant business in Medicine Hat.

Due to generous funding by the City of Edmonton Archives, the live readings were filmed and will be made available on the ASA YouTube page. The Flood Team found the series of readings highly entertaining including shockingly humourous accounts and stories of perseverance.
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The Exhibit Series: Boxing it Up

When developing a new exhibit space, or updating an existing exhibit space, it can be tough to find the right selection of exhibit cases and mounts. Archives staff may be looking to enhance an exhibit space with new cases that both better suit the collection and that are chemically and physically stable long-term. Sometimes it is not possible to order new cases, as it can often be less expensive to update existing cases rather than replace. Whether buying new or making changes, what are you options when displaying original archival material?

  1. Where can you buy archival grade exhibit cases?

Zone Display Cases is a Canadian company that designs and manufactures custom-made conservation grade display cases. They are made of powder-coated steel and glass and are closely inspected prior to shipping. They offer a promise that all display cases shipped are without defect. Some of their most recent projects have included creating cases for Parliament of Canada, Harvard University, The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, and Yale University.

Goppion: The Art of Case Design began as a glass making company in Milan. Over the years they began creating custom display cases to meet clients’ special needs. Their work can be seen in museums across Europe.

Glausbau Hahn is a German company that produces their glass and coated metal cases within country using resource efficient methods and materials. Their cases can be viewed throughout Europe, and, closer to home, can be seen at the Royal Ontario Museum.

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Photo Credit: Modular Cases, Products, Zone Display Cases. Accessed September 2016.

  1. How can non-archival grade exhibit cases be updated?

Often unmodified exhibit cases are adopted for use because they are what is available and on-hand. These exhibit cases are sometimes painted or lacquered wood, particle board, or even mixed materials, including cork. These materials are generally not archival grade unless steps are taken to stabilize them. They will off-gas and negatively affect the items housed inside by causing embrittlement and yellowing to the paper. Completely replacing the case may not be within the budget, so what can be done?

  • If the case is lacquered wood it is recommended to place acid-free barriers like mat board or panes of glass along the shelves or platform. This is to ensure the collection items are not in direct contact with the wood.
  • If the case is coated metal and areas of the coating has worn off, it is recommended to apply a fresh coating of enamel paint to reduce the possibility of corrosion in areas with exposed metal. Allow paint to cure for two weeks before use.
  • If the case is made of particleboard, plywood or MDF it is recommended to coat it with enamel paint, and set aside to cure for two weeks before use. It is recommended to coat these types of wood products because they off gas due to adhesives within the material.
  • Cork is often used as a base material on shelves and platforms, frequently found in cases produced for schools and libraries. Cork is not archival grade and is not chemically stable. It is recommended to cover the cork board with buffered mat board, with an additional sheet of unbuffered acid-free mat board overtop. The underside of the buffered mat board should be routinely checked for discolouration. Once it begins to discolour, replace with another sheet of buffered mat board. It is recommended to put unbuffered mat board overtop of the buffered one because some archival materials react poorly to change in pH. Unbuffered mat board is inert and so is preferable if placing archival materials directly on it.

Microclimate equipment can also be installed in new or repurposed exhibit cases. Canadian company, Keepsafe Microclimate Systems, offers a variety of temperature, humidity, and oxygen moderating equipment that can be installed in cases to better protect collection material from the environment and pests.

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Tracking Acidity in Your Collection

A-D Strips are used to identify the presence of vinegar syndrome in a collection containing cellulose acetate, predominantly in reel format, though they can be used to identify negatives with vinegar syndrome.

What are they? They are made of dye-coated paper that changes colour when exposed to low pH. A-D Strips detect the presence of acetic acid, the culprit behind vinegar syndrome. Acetic acid vapour is released from degrading cellulose acetate. As the released vapour comes into contact with the A-D Strips, the strips change colour. The colour change is dependent on the concentration of acetic acid detected. Unaffected strips begin as the colour blue, and slowly migrate to blue-green, green, green-yellow, and finally to bright yellow upon exposure.

How should they be used? A-D strips can be placed in film or audio canisters, boxes, or bags. For negatives housed in boxes, it can be easier to monitor acetic acid vapours by suspending the A-D Strips along the top of the box, rather than the placing them at the bottom.
You will need: linen tape, two-sided tape, cotton string, and A-D Strips

  1. Use linen tape to adhere cotton string across an open box containing cellulose acetate negatives.
  2. Use two-sided tape to adhere A-D Strips to the string, dye-coated side facing down towards the negatives.
  3. Put the lid back on the box, and return in one week to monitor the colour change of the A-D Strips.
A-D Strips - Negatives

Image Credit: Emily Turgeon-Brunet

 

Please visit the Image Permanence Institute’s webpage on A-D Strips for more information: https://www.imagepermanenceinstitute.org/imaging/ad-strips

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Cover All the Bases: Collections Insurance

It is quite common to organize insurance coverage for facilities, facility contents, staff healthy and safety, and vehicles, but unfortunately, it is less often purchased for collections of archival records. Archival collections may include items of high historical and monetary value and it is important to organize insurance coverage for these items in the event of an emergency or disaster.

Collections insurance is often not purchased for the following reasons:

  1. Too difficult to find an insurance company that will insure an archival collection
  2. Too difficult to determine the monetary value of original items
  3. Unable to secure funds to have a National Archival Appraisal Board (NAAB) certified professional appraise the collection
  4. Unsure how collections insurance can be used

Why is it important?

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    Photo Credit: shakespearesmonkey

    It is recommended to insure items going on loan to other institutions in the event of the items being damaged or lost during transport, set-up or exhibition.

  2. It is also useful to have insurance for items that are frequently requested by researchers, handled by volunteers, or worked with by contractors.
  3. While insurance cannot replace original records, insurance can cover the costs of conservation treatment, rehousing, and digitization so that the records are once again accessible to staff and researchers.*

It is recommended to find an insurance broker that has worked with art, culture, and heritage institutions in the past as they may offer coverage for collections. If changing insurance brokers is not a feasible option, one may also inquire to their current insurance broker about ‘Valuable Papers Insurance’ to see if it is a good fit for their vital records or collection. This type of insurance coverage will reimburse the policyholder for the monetary value of papers if they are lost. These papers commonly include wills, trusts, or corporate charters. In order to be eligible to file a claim under this coverage, it must be proven that the papers were securely, and correctly housed (Valuable Papers Insurance, Investopedia).

*It is important to seek professional assistance to complete conservation treatment and digitization because mishandling the records may cause harm. Also, if the collection is insured the insurance company may require confirmation that the contractor hired to complete the work is a trained professional.

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