At the end of March, I finished up my three-month internship at Baker Library (Harvard Business School), where I worked with Priscilla Anderson, Lisa Clark, and Noah Sheola. Between end-of-semester projects, wedding and honeymoon planning, and other projects, though, I haven’t had a good chance to really sit down and reflect upon my experiences there. (I did write about my impressions about one month into the internship, so if you’re interested and didn’t catch that post, give it a look.) I’d like to go through some pictures from my time at Baker Library, as a form of review. Most of these have already been posted on Twitter (the quality of these is particularly low, since they were taken on an iPod Touch; apologies), but I hope that those of you who follow me there will forgive the redundancy. Onward!
The first chance I got to work on collection materials was for the surface-cleaning project, which I’ve already talked about. That said, I do have some new photos to share:
During this project, I spent a fair bit of time on documentation. Admittedly, I usually felt rushed for this step, and my photographs weren’t the best, but it was good practice for me to get used to the idea of documentation and to get used to setting up the camera and lights.
Photographs weren’t the only think I got to use my surface-cleaning skills on. Much later in my internship, I also worked up cleaning up an old blueprint. Here, instead of eraser crumbs, a vulcanized rubber sponge is used. It’s important to be careful around the edges, folds, and tears, but otherwise it’s pretty straightforward to use. (If you’re interested in learning more about surface cleaning, I highly recommend that you start with this leaflet from the NEDCC.)
The second collection item I got to work one was an old manuscript. The binding had been badly damaged over time, and the librarians/conservators had decided that this item should be disbound, foldered, and boxed. Using a scalpel, I cut apart the sewing, separating the signatures from each other. Any adhesive that remained attached to the folds was gently (manually) removed. Then each signature was housed in its own folder, and the folders were placed into a box for eventual labeling and reshelving.
Some days contained unanticipated projects and challenges. In particular, there was one day when the lab was tasked with constructing cradles for a number of books in preparation for a meeting. I had done some cradle making in my collection maintenance class last summer, but these cradles were constructed differently, and this time I had no written instructions to go by. It was a fun exercise in reverse-engineering, and in the end I think my cradles came out fairly well.
One of the common issues that preservation and conservation departments have to worry about is mold. Therefore, I’m happy (at least, as happy as one can be with regards to mold) to say that I got to work briefly on some mold vacuuming during my internship, as well.
Of all the things I worked on at Baker Library, the most long-term project was paper mending. In truth, this wasn’t so much a work project as a learning experience: I selected a book, tore it up, and mended my tears. More to the point, I worked on this throughout the entirety of my internship, and I mended with a wide range of materials and techniques, including some adhesives I had never worked with before. On any given day, I’d focus on a certain subset of repair materials, and within those constraints, I’d experiment with different variables to see what techniques yielded the best repairs. It was great experience for me, and although I am by no means suddenly an expert in paper repair, I’m definitely more skilled at it than I was before my internship. Moreover, I got at least slightly better at thinking about what kinds of mends are best for what kinds of materials. I know I still have a long way to go with regards to making those kinds of decisions, but I’ll get there.
I won’t bother showing any pictures from the book I beat up and mended for three months, but I can show off some projects I worked on subsequently, as a result of my hard work and experimentation. At the end of my internship, the lab trusted me with a few different paper-repair projects:
That’s the end of the photographic tour of my internship, but even this doesn’t completely cover my activities at Baker. I also worked quite a bit for the lab on labeling and statistics tracking, got some experience with pest management and recording light levels, and worked on some print/photograph-mounting techniques that I hadn’t learned previously. I was able to sit in on some conversations between the collection managers and the conservation department, as well as on exhibit-planning discussions. I was able to work briefly with poulticing, and, through shadowing, I learned some improved techniques for rebacking and recasing, some of which I’ve been able to apply to my work at Simmons. (Consequently, those tips have also helped me improve my bookbinding work.) In short, I got out of this internship exactly what I hoped to: a broad overview of how a preservation/conservation department operates, which I hope will make me significantly more employable than I would otherwise be—not to mention improved hand skills. Working with Priscilla, Lisa, and Noah was an excellent (and fun!) experience for me (as I noted recently in my interview on Library Preservation 2), and I’m sure their future interns will have similarly wonderful experiences.