Sewing, Snipping and Sticking…

Historic magazines being conserved

Historic magazines being conserved

…it sounds like a family craft event, but this blog post is all about working with the highly skilled conservator at the Hive, helping to care for old books and documents.

I had worked with Rhonda as a volunteer before starting here as a trainee. I had been cleaning quarter session paperwork with a smoke sponge. So my first visit to Rhonda as a trainee involved similar tasks, but on each visit I am learning something new.

Sewing

Sarah as a trainee conservator

Sarah as a trainee conservator

In keeping with the current theme of World War One Rhonda taught me how to replace the staples in a collection of magazines that contained photographs of battlefields during the war, and 20 years later. The paper of the magazines was in good condition but each one was held together by two rusty staples. So I carefully removed the staples using variously sized microspatulas and using pliers to pull out any bits of the staples that disintegrated on the way out. I gently brushed away any crumbs of rust, then on a bookbinder’s needle I threaded linen thread through the holes the staples left behind. A little knot tying, and snipping off the ends and they look as good as new, and ready to be stored away in the archive for posterity.

Sticking

Japanese wheat paste to stick newspaper cuttings into the scrapbook

Japanese wheat paste

Having got to grips with cleaning and sewing, the next job was much more technical. The A E Barnard collection of scrapbooks needed their Evesham-themed newspaper cuttings pasted back in. This was a lovely chance to me to read a little about my home town as I worked.

Rhonda mixed Japanese wheat paste, then carefully showed me the techniques involved with this task. I had to apply the paste to Japanese tissue paper then fix it to the piece of newspaper like a stamp hinge. This turned out to be a completely reversible process when we accidentally stuck something in the wrong place, and simply removed the paste with some water. I spent an afternoon sticking the cuttings into several scrap books then going back through to remove bits of scrap paper from within the pages when the paste had had time to dry.

I am really enjoying the opportunity to work with Rhonda as she is highly skilled and luckily a patient teacher. It is an opportunity to do something completely different and to learn what could turn out to be some useful skills.

I can’t wait to see what I might be learning next time.

Conserved scrapbook

Conserved scrapbook

Sarah Ganderton

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Treasure Hunting

I am now on the rota at the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service. This means I work alongside the other staff to assist the public with their queries. Being on the rota includes working in the office to answer emailed enquiries, conducting inductions for new customers, and working at the Explore the Past desk. I love these parts of my role: I have the opportunity to learn about what other people are researching, and to learn about all the different archives that we hold, to help customers find the treasure they are seeking.

Enjoying serving customers behind the Explore the Past Desk in The Hive, Worcester

Enjoying serving customers behind the Explore the Past Desk in The Hive, Worcester

Inductions give me an opportunity to learn about the specific needs of customers, what they are looking for and what they are researching. By listening carefully to their query I can point them towards the most useful documents. At the moment I find this tricky, as I am still learning about all the different records we hold. Just when I think I know it all someone asks about records I didn’t know we even had and I learning about something new. This week I learned that we have census records on microfilm to look up a particular address and acts of parliament from the eighteenth century. I also directed customers to parish registers, wills and newspapers on microfilm, showing them how to use the microfilm readers to view the documents.
Answering emailed enquiries is another great learning opportunity. When customers pay for a limited search I even get to do half an hour’s worth of research which is great fun. Its lovely to be able to help and it’s a great way to learn about all the records we hold by helping people to access them – with a lot of help from my very patient colleagues. It is especially nice when I am asked an easy question and I know I can answer it without having to ask anyone for help.
I also work behind the Explore the Past desk. This is the most visible part of my role. People come up to the desk with all sorts of library-related queries, and we deal with them all. We have many new users coming to use archives so I get involved in giving them inductions to help them find the documents they need, then take their order away to the strong rooms to find the box they want. This week we even helped a gentleman researching for the new Victoria County History for Gloucestershire.  Finding things in the archives is like treasure hunting – rolling the shelf units around, getting out the steps and finding the right box. It is especially fun when I deliver the box to the customer and watch their eyes light up as they search through its contents.
Sarah Ganderton

Listing and learning

Across our different collections we have a variety of children’s annuals which date from the late nineteenth century. Their colourful covers, adventure stories and arts and craft sections bring back memories of my own childhood and the excitement I felt receiving a copy of the Beano or Disney’s Year Book each Christmas. I have gladly taken on the task of listing these annuals as a small collection of their own. This grouping is on a virtual basis as I did not want to remove them from their original collections. These annuals provide an insight to the mentality of children at the turn of the twentieth century; their interests, hobbies and understanding of the world. They teach us so much about how authors manipulate their language for a younger audience and it is interesting to compare the contents with a more modern example.

Ideal Book for Girls, c.1956, Annual

Ideal Book for Girls, c.1956

Ideal Book for Boys, 1934, Annual

Ideal Book for Boys, 1934

These annuals have been added to an online catalogue so that other book enthusiasts can appreciate them in their fullest glory. This is not a quick process as many of these contain over thirty contributors and recording each of these can be time-consuming but it means that our collection is accessible to a wider audience and that we have a more accurate index for our own records too. This process has been a first step in learning how to use and make the most out of basic cataloguing software. I’m using this small project to see if I can extend the audience of the Research Collections further. This is in the hope that researchers realise what great information we hold and come and see the selection.

I was lucky enough to take time out of this project to experience what it would be like to work in a Historic Library. I spent the day with the librarian, David Morrison, and my fellow trainee, Tom, at the Cathedral to learn a little more about how they manage their vast collection. David showed me their database for managing the archives and gave me a tour of where they are stored; it is interesting to see how each place varies in their approach to collections management. I was also very grateful for the palaeography lessons he provided to teach the methods of reading seventeenth through to nineteenth-century texts. I was quite impressed with how quickly I picked it up.

Let’s see if I can put any of this new knowledge to use back at the Research Collections.

Danielle Joyce

Magnificent Manuscripts and Incredible Incunabulae

Hello, Tom here at Worcester Cathedral Library and Archive.

libwindow

The view from my window!

Like everyone else, I’ve been amazed by how fast the last few weeks have gone by! I’ve been working on a number of different projects at the same time, so no two days are quite the same. One of the first things I started with was updating our blog. The library has such a wealth of fascinating content, so I think it’s really important to try and share this with the widest possible audience. Social media seems the perfect vehicle for this – especially since access to the library can be tricky (up an 11th Century spiral staircase) and many of our objects are too fragile to handle regularly or put on long-term display.

I’ve been working closely with my supervisor, David, to learn important new skills. Unsurprisingly, book handling is one of these – and I now feel confident enough to leaf through the medieval manuscripts. However, my sense of awe that something so fragile and vulnerable could survive so long remains undiminished.

melib

Another key skill I’m getting to grips with is palaeography, or the study of old hand writing. Apparently by the end of my 15 months I should be able to sail through texts like this:

manu

Image copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)

Optimising the art store at MAG

Hi, I am Emalee, the first trainee at Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery. I’ve had plenty to do in my first month here including collections research, organizing the art store, recruiting volunteers and exhibitions planning. For my first blog post, I’d like to talk a little about the store, as it is an area that will be important throughout my traineeship.

Harry William Adams, Winter at Malvern Worcestershire, landscape, winter scene, Victorian painting

Harry William Adams, Winter at Malvern Worcestershire, © Worcester City Museums

The art store at MAG is a treasure trove, full of dramatic Victorian landscapes by artists such as Benjamin Leader and David Cox alongside Tudor portraiture, abstract oils, impressionist scenes and much more. Although it would be hard to choose a favourite, I am currently rather taken by the vast Winter at Malvern, Worcestershire by Harry William Adams (above), which is a beautiful, textured depiction of British Camp, an area important to so many Worcestershire people.

We suffer with the coupling of a lack of storage space and a collection of enormous paintings such as Winter at Malvern which is an impressive 121 x 181.5cm. But fortunately, we are planning to create a second strong room to house our more valuable porcelain and vulnerable taxidermy which currently share the art store.   This will give us a few extra square feet to play with which should make all the difference. In the meantime, I have been cloistered away tidying, sorting and planning.

art store, roller racking, collections care, museum store

Roller racking in the art store at Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery

stack if paintings, collections care, museum store, art gallery store, frames

Paintings too big for the roller racking stacked very safely and carefully

Museum budgets are always a juggling act between the demands of collections in storage and the costs of making collections accessible. I have spent far too much time perusing collections solutions websites such as www.bruynzeel.co.uk and http://www.conservation-by-design.co.uk/ fantasizing about the hermetically sealed, purpose made, all white art store of my dreams. But short of the sympathy of an extremely wealthy and benevolent benefactor, this will not be happening during my time at MAG. We have therefore had to come up with some more creative solutions.

After clearing the work spaces as much as possible, myself and Garson have recognised that some large solander boxes to fit the top of the solander trolleys will solve our issues for large works on paper. With the addition of some padding and acid-free tissue on top, we will also still be able to use these surfaces to safely lay out works we need to look at. Also, to help improve our working area, we are simply going to buy some tall drawers on casters, so things can be quickly stored away.

Although these solutions only solve some of our problems, with the added space of the porcelain store soon, we should be on our way to a tidy, user-friendly store.

Postcards, Cats & Cardboard Boxes

Hey, I am Danielle and I have been working at the Research Collections at the University of Worcester.

For the last three weeks it has been my task to update our display cabinets. I had full control over the theme and content, which initially was daunting but turned out to be a great opportunity as I was able to familiarise myself with the collection whilst adding my own personal touch to my placement.

John Marks Postcard Display

John Marks Postcard Display

For the big board, I chose to focus on our John Marks Postcard Collection as the use of illustration and colour help to make an eye-catching and interesting exhibit. The postcards are centralised around a literary theme and can be divided up into a section on prose and a section on poetry. As well as displaying the collection, I have also taken charge of cataloguing and organising them, with over 4000 to work with; this definitely is keeping me busy.

Nicola Bayley - The Patchwork Cat

Nicola Bayley – The Patchwork Cat

Continuing on the theme of illustration I designed another display on the work of Children’s illustrators from the 19th and 20th centuries. As well as publicising what the Research Collections holds, I also wanted to evoke childhood memories from those who stopped to view the display. For anyone interested in children’s illustration, or anyone who happens to love cats, I’d highly recommend coming along to the Woodbury Building on St. Johns Campus to have a look for yourself.

Over the next week I will be experiencing other collections at the Worcester Cathedral Library and The Hurd Library. I wanted to gain an insight into how other libraries and archives store and manage their collections so that I can bring different and new approaches back to my placement. Visiting and working in such established settings will prove to be an invaluable opportunity in gaining a greater understanding of the Heritage Sector.

My next mission is to unpack and organise our brand new collection of Historical Text books! We have a room full of unopened boxes which are waiting to be shelved and then used by researchers. As a History graduate, the thought of getting my hands on these old text books is quite exciting and I can’t wait to keep you posted on what I find!

So the title of this blog pretty much sums up my experience so far!

History Text Books

Unopened Boxes of History Text Books

 

If you’re interested in the Research Collections please visit our websites at:

http://worcuniresearchcolls.wordpress.com/

http://libguides.worc.ac.uk/researchcollections

Or follow us on Twitter: @UWRColl

 

Danielle Joyce