Shelf Prep I

This class album needs protection!

Through our work at Special Collections & Archives, we student workers have become sensitive to the cause of preserving historical objects.  All of us handle fragile objects nearly every shift, and through handling these objects we see firsthand the effects of afflictions such as “red rot” (where the leather binding of a book begins to rot and leave chestnut smudges everywhere), which can damage our collection and undermine our work.

These volumes will be safe from harm as long as we continue to treat them well

Our library already has a department that specializes in restoring damaged books, namely the Preservation department.  At Special Collections & Archives however, we focus on enclosing and protecting books in their current state.  Each year, a small team of student workers attempts to protect as many objects as possible.  This past year, three seniors—Anna Katten ’11, Jessica Levin ’11, and myself, Julius Berman ’11—have been charged with this task.

We call ourselves “Shelf Prep” and we take our work very seriously.  After the jump, follow me down the hidden spiral staircase into the basement workroom where I will show you how this important Special Collections work gets done.

Our collection seems to contain an infinite number of volumes and objects that require special treatment in order to be prepared for a life on the shelf: old class albums with cracked and flaky binding need heavy duty blue e-flute boxes, fragile volumes and those with unusual dimensions need tag board boxes, and those books with paper dust jackets need protective mylar covers.  Our supervisor in this project, Rebecca McCallum, locates these objects and brings them to the Shelf Prep shelf whereupon we student workers then process them.

The tools of the trade

Ms. McCallum is also responsible for teaching us each how to do our respective tasks.  This past semester I focused on making blue e-flute boxes, while Jess made tag board boxes and Anna made mylar dust jacket covers.  Each task involves its own set of skills and instruments that must be mastered.

In the next blog post, I will describe each process in more detail.

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