what we do

Bogart, or, Protecting Cultural Heritage

Once upon a time, in the 1980s, when I was an art student undergrad living in an apartment complex full of same, I went to a party.  One of my neighbors had an unusual pet, and brought said pet to the party.  This pet, name of Bogart, was a very young panther.  I have no idea what happened to Bogart once he grew up, and really don’t want to think about an adult panther living in a two bedroom apartment in Austin.  That is not the point of this story.

The point is that a bored Bogart gathered up everyone’s purses, piled them in a corner of the room, and stood guard.  No one was allowed to have their purse until the neighbor tempted the cat away with some meat.

Some of you may know that Bogart can also be a verb meaning to keep something to oneself.  From the urban dictionary:  “To keep something all for oneself, thus depriving anyone else of having any. A slang term derived from the last name of famous actor Humphrey Bogart because he often kept a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, seemingly never actually drawing on it or smoking it.”  As in “heeeey, man…don’t bogart that…”

How does this relate to preservation and conservation?  Glad you asked.  I feel like Bogart sometimes.  There are times that I want to gather all the stuff into a corner and not let anyone at it.  You want to look at it, but you find my request to not drink coffee over it inconvenient?  You want to squash that book onto the photocopier when I’m not looking – who cares if you break the spine off?  You want to know if we’ve got some extra archival material that you can take home?  No! Mine!  Stay back!  Grrrrr [bares teeth].

One the other paw, I know, I know – what good is having the stuff if no one gets to play with it.  We’ve got plenty that will make it into the next century or two, and sharing will help gather support for ensuring that the institution continues.  We’ve made great strides in the past year in terms of creating better environmental conditions, gaining intellectual and physical control over the collections, and stirring up interest.  People DO seem to take preservation and access issues more seriously, and I am VERY excited about our progress and the support of the higher ups.  It’s all good.

I just feel a bit attached, is all.  Someone’s got to bar the door, so call me Katy and  I’ll be the one to try to slow processes down.  I’ll ask annoying questions about de-accessioning policies and responsibility for cultural heritage.  I’ll make people examine their plans and actions and their potential consequences.  I’ll be the bad guy and say no until someone higher up says yes with full knowledge of the whys and hows.

So, this is all just to say that I am embracing my inner Bogart.  And..I’m not sure distracting me with a large hunk of meat will work, but you can try.

what we do

Becoming a Film-Friendly Archivist by Snowden Becker

Yea!  We’re sponsoring a workshop!   Should be pretty interesting.  Hope you can make it!

Friday, August 22, 2008

9am to 4pm

$50 per person (lunch on your own in Golden)

RSVP: Beth Heller, Preservation Librarian, 303.384.0112

library at americanalpineclub dot org

This workshop furnishes the practicing archivist with skills to identify, assess, and preserve history caught on film.

Upon completion of this workshop participants will be able to:

  • Perform basic identification of film materials and evaluate their condition and contents;

  • Set preservation priorities for film materials and get accurate estimates for preservation work;

  • Identify sources of preservation funding and discuss methods for integrating motion picture materials into access, exhibition, and outreach efforts;

  • Begin thinking about film as an essential and approachable part of your collection, as well as the historical and cultural record archivists work to preserve;

  • Regard future acquisitions of film with confidence and a positive attitude.

Who should attend? Anyone who wants introductory experience with and knowledge of film materials.

Snowden Becker is a co-founder of the Center for Home Movies and the international Home Movie Day event. Along with her colleague Katie Trainor, she leads the “Becoming a Film-Friendly Archivist” workshop for the Society of American Archivists. Her doctoral studies at UT’s School of Information are generously supported by fellowships from IMLS and the Donald and Sibyl Harrington Foundation. Ms. Becker will be in Colorado to assess and preserve the 16mm film collection at the American Alpine Club.

This project has been generously supported by AAC Board Member Travis Spitzer and by Robert David of The Cinema Lab, Englewood, CO.

what we do

Something from “my” collection is heading for space!

First-off, let me just say that the decision-making on this all happened before my arrival at the AAC.  But, let’s just wander around in the possibles, shall we?

Here we have a  Zeiss Maximar B 4×5 camera, used by Bradford Washburn, the man our museum is named after, on his historic 1st ascent of Mt. Lucania, 1937.  John Grunsfeld, climber and astronaut, is scheduled to fly on the October 2008 Hubble mission.  The camera was “restored” by a local camera repair place, and Grunsfeld plans to take the camera with him, and attempt a photograph of earth with the camera.  Camera and film will be returned to the AAC archives at the end of the mission.  Theoretically.

Where to start?  The coolness factor is a fairly immense argument in favor of tinkering with an artifact and then sending it VERY far from the archive.  What kind of loan agreement is necessary for this sort of thing?  As for insuring this travelling exhibit, I suppose we just trust that NASA has larger issues on its mind and would like to return the people involved, and the camera will come along as well.  And fixing the camera?  The argument is that it’s a tool foremost, and a tool should work, and you do what you can to make it work. Which is of more historical value – that it be preserved as it was, on a shelf in the archive, or that it continue its life of adventure, documenting as it goes?  The climbing culture in which this artifact is embedded is not that tolerant of sitting on the shelf in any way.  I sincerely hope the end of this story does not included the line “lost in space”, but it sure makes for an interesting story!

what we do

Things that cross my desk

Okay – I’m going to start posting more, I promise.  Starting with some photos of the things I get to see in my daily work:

Axes:  This month featured an 1894 axe that I never got to see.  I was asked to make a mount for it so that it could be displayed securely in a log cabin in the Tetons.  Luckily, I found a great mount-maker at Field Art Services here in Denver.  I gave him a surrogate axe, he made the mounts, and then we shipped them off to Wyoming with a special snake-eye screw that most climbers don’t have on their leatherman tools.  I sure hope they fit!

Next up: 16mm film.  Turns out we have some, scattered in boxes across the various storage rooms.  Possibly 100 reels of people climbing various mountains, or flying over mountains, or talking about mountains.  So, we got an enthusiatic donor, and in August we get Snowden Becker to come survey and rehouse!  That is going to be really interesting – you can expect updates on this project, for certain.

And then, lantern slides.  Lots and lots of un-labeled, un-catalogued glass slides of …you got it…mountains.

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!


Yoga again

Well, I’ve found so far that one difference between doing paper conservation and doing library preservation is that I sit in front of the computer more now. And it’s not ergonomic, so I contort myself to find ways to keep my knees from banging the desk and still be able to see the monitor and keep an eye on people who might be trying to leave with the valuable books in our open stacks.

Another difference is what I spend my time lifting. In paper conservation, it’s mostly big vats of water. In the library and archives, it’s dusty boxes. I’ve been doing a bit of nesting – opening boxes, drawers, closets – moving things from here to there – throwing away ancient and inappropriate book repair tapes and glues. It’s been fun, and there are treasures: Antlers! Rare board games! Paintings!

I’ll post some photos of the stuff soonish, but for now I’m busy getting ready for the AIC Angels, sorting through the generous donations from Hollinger, Metal Edge, and Talas. I’m also planning a Friends of the Library talk on our publisher’s bindings, which I’ve already posted about here; creating a digitization policy and procedures manual; setting up our Flickr page; developing a basic book repair program; attempting a preservation budget; and daydreaming about a conservation lab in one of the store-rooms – and running the day to day of the library, fielding reference questions, checking out books, and reading about famous mountains and climbers. I’m having a ball.

Now to the point of this post – no time for yoga class. BUT – I found the Yoga Journal’s practice podcasts! I did the one on sidebends this morning and it was really really good. Everybody do it!

what we do


One of the things I love most about any job I’ve ever had is the opportunity to make things up as I go, make do with what I’ve got, and come up with something new.

F’rinstance, here’s a photo of Lisa Simpson demonstrating a prototype of a collapsible sewing frame I was trying to invent when I was at BACC, a place with everything you’d ever need for paper conservation, and not much for books:

collapsible sewing frame prototype

And here’s one of a sewing frame made of a wire shelf:

wire rack sewing frame

Now, what I want from you? Photos and/or descriptions of the preservation or conservation doodads you’ve come up with under duress. Send me a link or send me a file and I’ll post them all later.

Is this fun or what? Yeah, I’m some sort of geek. First one who sends me something steampunked wins a Tape Is Evil magnet.

what we do

Tag – We Are Not It

I’ve been searching for other paper conservation blogs. I’ve Googled and Asked. I’ve looked on Technorati, Digg, Del.icio.us. I’ve varied my search terms. I’ve decided…Houston, we have a problem.

“Paper conservation” brings us mostly to discussions about saving trees, and a very interesting blog about a conservation experience in the Antarctic. “Paper conservator” might get you here, and to a nicely-done British book conservator blog-he tells me he is now at the Huntington- Broken Books, or Mr. Paper’s look into the paper industry in it’s many permutations, including a bunch of stuff on paper dresses, and to a blog by a newly hired paper conservator in Australia. “Art conservation” – not much except conservator’s private practice websites, training programs, the Distlist and other publications, and vendors – no blogs that I’ve yet found. “Preservation” is mostly buildings, unless you add the word “Library”. “Book conservation” brings you to the ubiquitous Future of the Book. Frustratingly, many feed search results provide articles about political conservatives instead of conservators. “Art restoration” is mostly articles written by non-conservators.

Bottom line is that any combination of search terms only yields a handful of relevant results, and anyone looking for a blog talking about our profession has to rummage like the most persistent flea-market hound. We’ve got to do better than this.

So, shall we revisit the ever-evolving conversation about what is that we should be called? What search terms, keywords and tags should we be promoting? How can we make sure that we get found?

My question to you: how do you describe your profession to a stranger, when you have about 5 seconds to get it across? Do you say “I’m a conservator”? The response to that, it seems, is “…like you save the environment?” I tend to say “I fix art and historic documents”, and leave the word “conservator for later in the conversation. That don’t seem right, PR-wise, but it communicates the essentials quickly. It does leave something to be desired in expressing the intricacy, extensive training and education, the professionalism required.

Ideas, anyone?

Tape is Evil

Unbelievably cool!

My blog stats tell me that Tape is Evil has been blogged on a Japanese conservation site! Check it out at


And a Library Preservation Blog in Michigan:


And, last but not least, a blog for Kilgarlinites:


Thanks everybody!