art, what we do

Well, Boy Howdy, It’s Been A Month

All kinds of things going on here at the AAC, so I’ve fallen down on the job of blogging and I just couldn’t get back up till now.

For those who want to know what it’s like to work in a 2-person library/archive, here you go…just imagine all of the things I’m about to mention happening simultaneously:

Snowden Becker was here for a month, working on our 8mm and 16mm film.  She re-cored and rehoused 80 reels, showed me how to do it, and taught a well-attended workshop to Colorado-based archivists.  Also, baked some great cupcakes.

Snowden worked away in the corner of the little-used mailroom that I have targeted for a stealth take-over for conservation use.  While she slaved, I tidied up to get ready for delivery of 200 framed photographic prints, which will double our collection of framed stuff.  While we initially had budgeted a reasonable amount to create a new storage system for said stuff, it has now been determined that we will make one out of fencing materials and chewing gum.  I’ve been working with the team to design one – and will post to PADG once we’ve got something useful. Thanks to all from that list who made suggestions!

I also purchased a small book press, which expands my conservation lab to include more than just a canvas bag full of bone folders and PVAc.  See above – stealth takeover of space.

Gary and I, with the help of some dedicated volunteers, moved and rearranged 4 storage areas worth of archives to prepare for construction of a new rare book room. The new room will eventually contain the 30,000 rare and scarce books donated to us by a private collector, which will start to arrive in a couple of months.  As you can see, I take a hands-on approach to our renovation projects!

In the midst of the chaos, I found some paperwork which suggests that we have some valuable artwork hiding in storage, so now seemed a good time to get an inventory, and seek appraisal and authentication.  This past week was spent moving and unpacking paintings that had been stored in horrible conditions since the library was moved from New York 15 years ago. 

Turns out, we’ve got two large Gabriel Loppe oils, one Colin Campbell Cooper in poor condition, 3 Belmore Browns, and possibly some Turners.  Who knew?  No one, apparently.  See some of them on our Flickr page.

I submitted a grant for the Connecting to Collections Bookshelf the first month I got here, and the books just arrived.  They’ve been quite handy.  I have spent quite a bit of time with A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections, as we are working on a fairly block-buster-ish maps exhibit.  We will have some incredible maps from a private collector, as well as a modern maps component supported by National Geographic.

Let’s see, what else…Oh, yeah, got the comments back on our NHPRC Basic Archives grant, and getting ready to submit that on the first of the month.  Part of the grant will address our institutional archives, which are disorganized.  I’ve been attempting to plow through them to find information about the paintings, and have found many interesting tidbits in the process.  F’rinstance, the 1916 letter inaugurating the Association of Mountaineering Clubs of North America – nice timing, since we’re having that gathering in the building in two weeks.

While one of our volunteers has been lollygagging around in Alaska, I’ve been working with the other two on a multitude of ever-expanding projects.  More images have been uploaded to Flickr, including the first of the lantern slides. The summit registers are now organized enough that we can answer research requests.  You can see one of the volunteers, Adam, has been working overtime on the issue of preventing route guides from being lost while checked out and used by our patrons:

He’s drilled a hole through one of his books (not ours!) and hooked it to his harness with a carabiner.  Hmmmm – maybe that would keep the books from plunging down mountains and being returned to us a little dinged and dusty….

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’m busy meeting with potential donors, meeting with the fundraising committee to answer the ever popular question “how can the library generate revenue” (see HERE for a nice answer), getting PastPerfect and an accessioning procedure up and running, and all the daily operations of a library.  Whew!  I wonder what’ll happen next month?  Oh… right, we’ve got climbing conferences coming up…The International Climber’s Meet, The Craggin’ Classic, and the International Editors of Climbing Journals and Websites conference – all in October, about the same time the new compact shelving arrives!  Never a dull moment in this job.

art, what we do

AIC Angels Rock the Mountains

Everyone else has blogged about it, so I better get on it: The 2008 AIC Angels Project was a roaring success. These people refused cookies, tours of the rare books room, water and bathroom breaks – they were unbelievable preservation demons, sticking to the task at hand. I want to clone them and keep the results.

You can read about it at the AAC Library Blog, High Places, or the BWAMM Blog, or see pictures as they come in, on our Flickr page


I send my undying gratitute to, in no particular order:

Diligent unfurlers of shredded peak registers, removers of candy inserts, identifiers of mortuary certificates and possible human remains in ash form:

Karen Jones, Collections Conservator, Jefferson County Public Library, CO (and author of ingenious AIC Poster on making broken ledger bindings into ledger enclosures!)

Greg Bailey, Conservation Technician, University of Connecticut Libraries

Jennifer Cruickshank, Conservator, Maryland State Archives

Vicki Lee, Senior Conservator, Maryland State Archives

Laura Bedford, UT Austin Kilgarlin Center Conservation Student

Bev Perkins, Objects Conservator

Heroic removers of horrible backings, discarders of hideous frames, Photodocumentarians extraordinaires:

Jamye Jamison, Book and Paper Conservator, Zukor Conservation, San Fran

Alicia Bjornson, Resource Interpretive Specialist, The Hancock House, NJ State Parks

Nora Lockshin, Paper Conservator, Smithsonian Center for Archives Conservation, DC

Elizabeth Williams, Preservation Specialist, The Hollinger Corporation

Jenn Cruickshank (again)

Explorers of the depths of storage and the heights of museum exhibitions (we have our own crevasse, y’know!):

Bev Perkins (again)

MJ Davis, WASHI, Vermont

Helen Alten, Northern States Conservation Center


Innovators of the art of daveyboard origami and book cradle modular construction:

Katherine Kelly, Collections Care Conservator, Iowa State University

Andrea Knowlton, Assistant Conservator for Special Collections, Wilson Library, University of N. Carolina- Chapel HIll

Susan Lunas, Book Conservator, Eugene, OR

Senders of unexpectedly enormous amounts of free supplies:

John Dunphy, University Products

Elizabeth Williams, The Hollinger Corporation

Bob Henderson, Metal Edge, Inc.

Jake Salik, Talas

Janice Comer, Archival Products

I didn’t even approach other vendors, who I sure would have contributed too, given the chance, but these folks gave SO much!

And, of course, the support of Library Director, Gary Landeck, CMC Creative Coordinator Chris Case, CMC events manager Carla Preston, and everyone else at the AAC and CMC who made this happen!

Seriously, folks, if you have the chance to participate in the AIC Angels project, either as a volunteer or as a host institution, DO IT!


Go To Dallas

Happy Conservators

Originally uploaded by tapescraper

If you find yourself in or near Texas on May 25th, you should check out Shannon Phillips’ and Tish Brewers’ Paper Works By Paper Nerds cyanotype workshop. They are both graduates of the Kilgarlin Center and they’ve set up a paper conservation studio in Dallas.  I visited the shop in March, on my de-texing tour, and it’s a happy, creative place in an up-and-coming art district.  I would check it out if I were you.  Which I’m not, and I did already.

art, art conservation, what we do

Volunteerism and AIC Angels

My mother was the queen of volunteers when I was growing up, and only lately have I started to realize some of the odd connections between what she spent her time on, and what I do now. For example, she and her women’s group helped re-establish the prison library at Attica after the riot there in 1971. I’m not sure of the details, but it was a library thing, for sure. Another example: this week marks the 20th anniversary of an award established in her honor at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College. My mother volunteered many hours in Rockwell Hall, working with the Center’s first Director, and my friend, the late Edna Lindeman. The Millicent Heller Volunteer Appreciation award is given each year to honor volunteer service. My mother’s volunteerism at the Albright Knox provided me, as a grade schooler, the opportunity to roam the galleries in off hours. I spent a lot of time crawling around in the mirrored room. She gave me an attachment to art, in many ways. I’m thrilled when I get to work on art made by artists I loved as a child. When a Burchfield watercolor came through the lab last year, I was pretty happy.

My mom also gave me an appreciation for how much work gets done by unpaid but dedicated people. This year’s American Institute for Conservation (AIC) Angel’s project is a case in point. I’m the coordinator for this year’s project, which will be hosted by the American Alpine Club and the Colorado Mountain Club. These organizations collaborated to maintain a world-class library and an newly opened museum which focus on the study of mountain environments and activities. These folks get so much done not only because of their energetic staff, but because of their enthusiastic volunteers. They are very excited at the prospect of a cluster of conservators descending upon them to do that thing that we do. Plans are in their early stages, but I know there are a century’s worth of summitting records, some written on candy wrappers, some on more official ledgers; there are canvas tents and leather-handled tools; there are lantern slides and color slides; there are giant models of Everest. There’s a mural. Rare books. Scrapbooks. Some of these things will get our attention and some will not (yet)- not sure which projects can be addressed in a day, even if we are superheroes. If you are a conservator, attending the AIC annual conference in Denver, give me a shout to sign up! There will be an announcement on the DistList soon.

We will also be seeking donations of supplies, so if you think you can help in that arena, gratitude will be yours in abundance!

Stay tuned for more details, and don’t forget to thank your volunteers!