The Paper Itself, More Than What is On It

18 02 2012

Mostly, I spend more time looking at and appreciating the paper of an artifact than I do the information on it.  I can’t deny that I love the artwork, the history, the stories that people bring to me to fix, but once I commence to working, it’s the paper fibers themselves that fascinate me.  If there is paint or ink, it’s the ways those media are entangled in the fibers that absorbs my attention.

And so I adore that Tim Barrett was given a Fulbright grant and a MacArthur Fellowship to make paper, and that his work is getting the support and interest it deserves.  Here is a NY Times article.

I love this part: ““I describe the paper [Barrett-made paper] to the students,” Galvin says, “and I talk about the care, knowledge and aesthetic wisdom that went into making it. Then I tell them to go home and write something on it that makes it more interesting than it is when it’s blank.”



Interview With A Conservator

5 02 2012

Jill Whitten, of Whitten and Proctor Fine Art Conservation gives a wonderful description of the what it is that we do as conservators and how the practice of conservation continues to evolve.

UCLA’s Jacob Nadal talks about preservation administration

27 04 2011

Recommended reading for insight into what it is that we do:  Jacob Nadal, UCLA’s Preservation Officer, just put up a great post about balancing responsibilities in his role.   A couple of sections really resonate with me about the things and places in our care – as he describes “the incredible gravity that a library exerts, and the fascinating things that are pulled into our orbits.”

“My goal as a preservation administrator is not to fix all the broken things, but to make sure that the library becomes the kind of place that can and does fix things.”  And ” If the specific collections or items of concern never get tended to, that’s not great preservation, but if they get tended to while the roof starts to leak and the library starts to collect beyond its means, that’s not great preservation, either.” And “… by spending time to develop processes first and holding projects off, I think we’ll be able to do better work for a long time into the future.”

What I’ll Be Doing For Preservation Week

16 04 2011

I’ll be examining books, documents and works of art on paper at two Preservation Week events in Denver.  Should be fun!

April 26th I’ll be with the Society of Rocky Mountain Archivists (SRMA) at the Denver Public Library from 10:30-12:30.

In celebration of Preservation Week, Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy and the Society of Rocky Mountain Archivists are providing short preservation consultations for your family treasures with conservation experts on Monday April 25th at the Denver Public Library.
Staff from the Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy Department will be on hand digitizing your artifacts for inclusion in the new WHG website “Creating Your Community,” to launch in the Fall. If you would like a copy of your image to take home with you immediately, bring a thumb drive or disk and we’ll give you a TIF of your image.
Monday, April 25, 10:30a – 3p
Gates Meeting Room, Level 5
Denver Public Library
10 W. 14th Ave. Parkway
Denver, Colorado 80204
To guarantee a session with a conservator, make a reservation through or call 303-275-2214.
Walk-ins welcome as time allows.
* experts in the conservation of books, paper, photographs, textiles, paintings and objects will be available
Due to logistical constraints, objects larger than 36”
cannot be accommodated.

UPDATE: EVENT CANCELED: May 1, 12-4  is the DUArt! Conservation Roadshow.  This is a fundraiser for DUArt!, an organization that provides scholarships to art students at the University of Denver.

Join a group of art professionals:
conservators specializing in paper, paintings, and objects, an appraiser, a frame specialist, a gemologist, and a collections management professional, to learn about the preservation of your collections and heirlooms!
Consultations with the specialists will help you to assess:

 Condition
 Options for Treatment
 Value Characteristics
 Archival Framing Options
 Preventive Measures
 Optimum Environment
 Management of a Collection
Participants are invited to bring an object from their own collection for examination. Concurrent sessions will culminate in a discussion of interesting objects and preservation issues.
RSVP early; space is limited.  Registration Form
Admission: $50.00 ($65 non-members) for all participants bringing objects
or for those only observing: $25.00 DU ART! members
$35.00 for non-members

On Collaboration

31 03 2011

Friend and Smithsonian Conservator Nora Lockshin wrote a lovely post on The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and The Smithsonian about her research on artist Adelia Gates in response to my question on a watercolor I treated.  At the end of her post she wrote about the serendipity of finding mention of a flower in Gates’s writings, and of that flower being present in the painting I worked on.  Another layer of serendipity unfolded for me upon reading this – Adelia Gates found that flower by rock-climbing in Colorado.  As the director of the American Alpine Club Library, which is the world’s largest resource on mountaineering and climbing, that full-circle pleases me no end.

Blue Shield Statement on Egypt

3 02 2011

I am simply republishing this statement from Blue Shield in its entirety to help raise awareness of this issue and the organization itself. For more information, please visit the links embedded in the statement.


Following the recent events in Egypt, the Blue Shield expresses its great concern about the safeguarding of the country’s invaluable cultural heritage amid the existing turmoil.

Starting last Friday evening, a number of important museums and sites in Egypt have fallen prey to looters. Thankfully, in certain cases, it has been reported that members of civil society stood to protect museums and heritage sites all over the country. This demonstrates not only the attachment of the local population for their cultural heritage and their determination to protect it, but also the vulnerability of cultural institutions, sites and monuments during times of great conflict.

It is universally recognised that Egypt has an incomparable history and heritage which has had a profound and lasting influence on peoples throughout the world. Any loss of Egyptian cultural property would seriously impoverish the collective memory of mankind. Egypt has an exceptionally rich cultural heritage and it is imperative that every precaution necessary be taken by all sides involved in this strife to avoid destruction or damage to archives, libraries, monuments and sites, and museums.

Blue Shield urges all sectors of Egyptian society to do everything in their power to curb or prevent all actions that could result in the damage or destruction of their cultural heritage. The Blue Shield also praises the courageous citizens of Cairo and the rest of Egypt who spontaneously mobilized to protect the Egyptian Museum and other cultural institutions. We call on all Egyptians to continue giving the fullest support to all efforts to prevent damage to heritage sites and institutions throughout the country.

The Blue Shield Mission is “to work to protect the world’s cultural heritage threatened by armed conflict, natural and man‐made disasters”. For this reason, it places the expertise and network of its member organisations at the disposal of their Egyptian colleagues to support their work in protecting the country’s heritage, in assessing the damage that has occurred, and for subsequent recovery, restoration and repair measures.

The member organisations of the Blue Shield are currently liaising with Egyptian colleagues to obtain further information on both the situation and on the possible needs and types of help required so as to mobilise their networks accordingly.

A more complete report on damages, needs and actions will be published subsequently, in order to facilitate coordination.

The Blue Shield

The Blue Shield is the protective emblem of the 1954 Hague Convention which is the basic international treaty formulating rules to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts. The Blue Shield network consists of organisations dealing with museums, archives, audiovisual supports, libraries, monuments and sites.

The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS), founded in 1996, comprises representatives of the five Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in this field:

National Blue Shield Committees have been founded in a number of countries (18 established and 18 under construction). The Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS), founded in December 2008, will coordinate and strengthen international efforts to protect cultural property at risk of destruction in armed conflicts or natural disasters. The ANCBS has its headquarters in The Hague.

Contact Information:‐

The actions of the Blue Shield can also be followed on

List all IFLA news


When Hats Collide

11 01 2011

First woman jury, Los Angeles (LOC)

Originally uploaded by The Library of Congress

As the lone full-time staffer of a tiny library with big ambitions and significant collections, I wear a large number of hats. Sometimes they war with each other. It’s hard to tell which hat is the Top.

Take this week, for instance. In the archives is a tattered Alaskan flag which was brought to the summit of Mt. Vinson, Antarctic for the first ascent in 1966. The flag was subsequently lost, and then retrieved by another expedition, and by a circuitous route involving much research and several countries returned to a member of the original summit party, who then donated it to the institution for which I work. Another mountaineer asked to bring the flag back with him on a reunion mission to the same peak this week. I carefully packed it up and wrote “fragile” all over it and handed it over, never thinking he meant to actually carry it back to the summit and unfurl it. Yesterday I read that that was the plan. The hats immediately started hopping about as if there were rabbits under each.

My conservator hat anxiously says the flag should never leave its foam bed in the archives so that it can last several hundred more years. My curator hat says that it’s a great story and an interesting kind of living history exhibit, vastly improved by its new associations.

My pragmatist hat says it’s an interesting thing, but only a thing and if the human carrying it is safe then it will be safe, and if neither is safe then we’ve got bigger problems. My flat out curmudgeon hat says “mine mine mine do what I say!” My library marketeer hat (similar to a mouseketeer hat?) says that we can get a lot of publicity mileage of it and none of that is bad.

My teacher hat says do what I say not what I do, because if everybody sent their archives into space or to high altitude, our cultural heritage would be in shreds. My renegade hat (or maybe beret?) says screw it, it’s really cool and things are made to be used not hidden. My preservationist hat says I’m entrusted with these things and need to keep them home and safe no matter how compelling the argument. My registrar hat says it’s just a very unusual type of temporary exhibit loan.

That’s a lot of hats talking. And the fact of the matter is that the flag went to the Ice and will come back no worse for the wear from its big adventure, enriched by a greater history – and if not, well, I made a mistake. I’m curious – what would you do, those of you who are not curtailed by traditional collection management policies? Next time someone wants to carry a one-of-a-kind item on a meaningful quest, should I send it?

UPDATE (1/13/11): I just read this post on Dan Cull’s blog that illuminates, I think, some of the rabbits under my hats.  These two thoughtful people are always worth reading, and I am very glad to see that Kevin Drieger is blogging again!

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