The Wet and the Dry of Print Preservation: a Workshop Summary

Beth McGowan, PhD, MLIS, Northern Illinois University

On April 10, 2017, an overcast, blustery day, twenty-six librarians from twenty-one member CARLI institutions met in Normal, Illinois, to learn at a hands-on workshop basic preservation methods for books and other paper materials. Led by Jennifer Hunt Johnson, Conservation and Preservation Specialist at Illinois State University, with a mighty assist from Bonnie Parr, Conservator at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the day began with definitions of basic terms – conservation, preservation and restoration. From there, we learned about the wet, the dry, and several methods in-between of caring for print materials.

Like the day, we began with water. Our first hands-on lesson was on humidification, a method of moistening paper for flattening purposes without cracking the material.

Collections Care workshop image of humidification chamber
Humidification chamber

We were then taught several methods to dry clean materials, a process that refers to the basic removal of dirt and grime from print materials. We learned that to maximize the removal of dirt while minimizing damage to the object in dry cleaning, whether using dry sponges, erasers, or eraser crumbs, one should start from the middle of the page and work to the edges. In both wet and dry processes, we were instructed to test before diving in to be sure the damp or the rubbing would not damage the original.

Collections Care workshop image of dry cleaning with a sponge
Dry cleaning with a sponge

Collections Care workshop image of dry cleaning with eraser crumbs
Dry cleaning with eraser crumbs

We then learned personally about the perils of staple and paper clip removal and how to handle the materials with care as we tried to avoid rips and tears. (If this were a test, your reporter would have failed.)

Collections Care workshop image of removing a staple

Collections Care workshop image of mending a tear
Removing a staple

After we were fed and watered with a lovely lunch, we practiced methods to repair tears using heat-activated thermoplastic adhesives. But we were also taught how to use wheat-paste and Japanese tissue to repair other kinds of tears. We learned about methods and glues for hinge tightening and tip-ins (re-adhering loose pages within a book). We learned uses for blotter paper and reemay, and we were taught how to stitch a pamphlet binder.

Collections Care workshop sewing a pamphlet binding
Sewing a pamphlet binding

Attendees most appreciated the hands-on nature of the experience. They were sent home with a small package of goods, step-by-step instructions, a list of different sorts of adhesives, a list of suppliers, and a webliography for further information.