In Her Own Words: HBCU Summer Intern 2018


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From June through July, the Gates Conservation Lab hosted an undergraduate intern as part of a pilot program to expose students from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities to careers in libraries, in particular those in conservation and preservation. We enjoyed sharing what we do with our intern, Erin Matthews.  Her enthusiasm and energy reminded all of us of why we chose to work in library conservation. Erin kept a journal during her 8 weeks at Yale.  Erin and I worked together on planning a more effective strategy for our department’s social media presence. As part of that exploration, Erin wrote a post about her experiences at the Yale Library.  Thank you, Erin.  It was a pleasure to get to know you and be a part of your educational and career journey!

Intern using a tacking iron to mend brittle paper.

Erin mends a brittle broadside and map.

My name is Erin A. Matthews. I was born in Laurel, Maryland on September 6th, 1999. I currently live in Raleigh, North Carolina with my parents and sisters. Growing up in a household where I was the middle child, I always understood the importance of setting a better example for my younger sister and to learn from my older sister. My motivation to study Liberal Arts developed from wanting to make this world a better place for everyone. I knew excelling inside the classroom was not the only way I could contribute to the lives around me. I knew I had to challenge myself with information I’ve never seen before. In fact, I grew a deeper interest in the physical health, natural sciences and arts to develop a strong idea of how I could continue to build onto my future, as well as being observant about other careers I may not know about. Even though I am only a rising sophomore, I manage to myself with learning new things and gain new experiences and that’s what made this internship at Yale University’s Library Preservation interesting to me. I’ve never heard of preservation in a library and I was curious to find out more about it. At Hampton University I work in the main library shelving books. The library’s director encouraged me to apply to the summer preservation internship program and I was placed at Yale. In June I arrived in New Haven to begin working in the Stephen F. Gates Conservation Laboratory in the Yale University Library.

My experience working in the Gates lab has been eye-opening, from working with each staff member every day, my mind was overloaded with new information. It was almost overwhelming for me, especially when I only had a couple of weeks experience in the preservation lab at Hampton. However, I managed to overcome it. The work area was expansive and very peaceful. Everyone kept to themselves and worked in a focused way. Every staff member had their own specialties and expertise and that’s what made them all unique.

Some of the projects I worked on included making historical inks and pigments, creating mylboards for photographs, measuring books for  boxes, making book models, identifying parchment and leather , paper mending . It is impossible for me to decide which project was my favorite – I just can’t do it. I enjoyed working with different staff members and learning new things every day. Inks and pigments had more of a visual part to it. I was entertained by all the different types of pigment colors formed. With this project I had to be consistent with each step in the process or the recipe might not work. Mylboards were exciting. They are used for placing any material that you want to be flatten out or needs to be protected when viewed. Photographs are often placed in a mylboard.

The building that I was working in had a large computerized box making machine.  The staff they called her “Kasey”. I learned how to put the measurements into a computer program, that was connected to the machine. The machine cuts and score a piece of cardboard according to the design and measurements that I entered into the program. This project was efficient and fast; however, I will not have this amazing box making machine back at Hampton, so I also learned how to make boxes without the machine. The steps were straightforward, but I found that it was always good not to rush and to make sure my measurements were right.  The library at Yale uses boxes to protect damaged books. Very brittle books were difficult for me to handle and measure. I didn’t want to damage the book more.

Before I came to the Gates Lab, I had some experience with book binding, which involves organizing stacks of paper or pages into a codex and creating a cover. When I was at my school’s library I replaced the spine back on a book. The books that I was working on in the Gates lab needed a new cover and spine, so I replaced them both at the same time. This treatment was called a recase new cover.

During the medieval period animal skin was commonly used for making parchment. The animal skins typically used were sheep, calves and goats. I looked at different types of animal skin under a microscope. I found it interesting to try and identify which animal I was looking at. I found it easier to identify a goat’s skin than calf because goat  skin was wrinkly and had many more hair particles.

In paper mending, I worked on two different maps that were in many small pieces. I used a tool called a tacking iron to put the pieces back together like a jigsaw puzzle.. The heat of the tacking iron activated the adhesive on thin Japanese tissue used to hold the pieces together. The before and after photographs of the map were mind blowing. When I started the project I found it hard to work with the very brittle paper pieces but when I finished, I was able to pick up the whole map at one time. I have truly enjoyed my time working in the Gates lab. I learned so much about preservation and conservation and I mastered the Yale shuttle system to get around campus. It wasn’t easy at first but after a while I got use to it. As I return to my school’s library, I plan to take advantage of the techniques and information I learned during my internship at Yale.  I plan to incorporate what I learned to help the collections at my school’s library. This experience was a remarkable opportunity that I will never forget. I wish to give a special thanks to those who have contributed to making my internship at Yale University possible and such a special experience – The HBCU Library Alliance and the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, Christine McCarthy, Daniel Dollar, Werner Haun, Karen Jutzi, Ansley Joe, Paula Zyats, Marie-France Lemay, Laura O-Brien- Miller, Frances Osugi, Kerri Sancomb, Sarah Davis, and Tara Kennedy.


ConservationSpace in Chicago: Software Unveiled at AIC Annual Meeting 2017

Got this?

Check out this!


After years of development, conservators will be able to see ConservationSpace, a Mellon-funded project to create an open source software solution to creating, managing and searching conservation documentation records and data.  Stop by for a live demo at the ConservationSpace booth in the exhibitors hall at the American Institute for Conservation’s Annual Meeting in Chicago.  The AIC conference opens Sunday, May 28th in the Windy City.

A Celebration of the Bookplate: Yale Senior Project Exhibition Opens at Sterling Memorial Library


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On Monday evening a crowd of students, staff, and members of the New Haven community attended the opening reception and exhibit lecture for the 2017 Senior Exhibit curated by Olivia Armandroff ’17. Olivia is the second Yale senior to curate a senior exhibit in the Sterling Memorial Library exhibition corridor.  Her project was chosen by the SML Exhibits Committee from an exceptionally strong pool of applications.  Olivia’s enthusiasm for her topic was obvious and infectious.  She fielded questions like a seasoned curator.  After graduation, Olivia is headed to the National Gallery in Washington DC.  We wish her the best of luck, but we know she won’t need it.


Constructing a Pictorial Identity: Bookplate in the Golden Age of Collecting runs through October 6th in the Sterling Memorial Library Exhibition Corridor.

Take Notice: Nota Bene Turns 30

The Yale Library is happy to announce the Spring/Summer issue of Nota Bene: News from the Yale Library. This year also marks the thirtieth anniversary of Nota Bene, which was launched in the spring of 1987!

Be sure to check out “Gradual Reveal: Documenting the “Life” of a Manuscript,” which describes the technical examination of a manuscript fragment by Paper/Photo Conservator, Marie-France Lemay, and Music Department graduate student, Zachary Stewart.  And look closely at the photograph accompanying, “Rare album of William Hogarth prints donated to Yale” and you will see Book and Manuscript Conservator, Laura O’Brien-Miller.  Miller is currently working in the Gates Conservation Lab on phase 2 of the treatment plan for the album.

Conservation & Exhibition Services is happy to be part of Nota Bene’s 30th birthday issue!

Way Back Wednesday: Before and After, Then and Now, Beinecke Library MS 4

As we work through organizing old documentation records, we come across contact sheets and prints that show the old conservation studio and the people who worked there.  On Way Back Wednesdays, we will post a few.  Today’s post highlights Beinecke MS 4 (Antoninus, Saint. Confessionale).  Here is the manuscript as it was photographed in the Conservation Studio in the late 1970s or early 80’s. The online catalog record mentions, “Minor repairs to endleaves and headband made ca. 1976.”  It is very likely that the photographs were taken at the time of this work or just shortly after.

Image 3-20-17, 10.28.26 AM

Before, Analog


Beinecke MS 4 was photographed more recently by the Beinecke Library’s Digital Services Unit.  Unlike the early conservation records, these images represent the manuscript’s binding in color and offer a higher resolution for zooming in on details.


After, Digital

It is interesting to compare the details from both sets of images.  The blind impression on the cover boards is more visible as a pattern in some of the black and white photos than in the much higher resolution color images. But the color images allow us to more easily distinguish the various materials even though they are similar in color and value.

Beinecke MS 4 is also part of the Traveling Scriptorium’s bookbinding section.  The book model show us what the binding might have looked like when it was intact.  The model also shows the sewing structure.

Binding Model of Beinecke MS 4

This model gives us some idea of what MS 4 might have looked like when newly bound

Binding Model of Beinecke MS 4

Book model showing laced supports, sewing, and endbands



Way Back Wednesday: Women’s Work

As we work through organizing old documentation records, we come across contact sheets and prints that show the old conservation studio and the people who worked there.  On Way Back Wednesdays, we will post a few.

According to the American Institute for Conservation’s membership compensation survey published in 2009, “Women…remain in the majority across all work settings. The male-to-female ratio is most pronounced in the library/archive setting — 89% of those respondents are women, and only 10% are men.”  So it is safe to say that a day without women would be a day without the conservation of cultural heritage.



Way Back Wednesday: Jane Greenfield

As we work through organizing old documentation records, we come across contact sheets and prints that show the old conservation studio and the people who worked there.  On Way Back Wednesdays, we will post a few.  We can’t identify everyone, but Mary E. “Jane” Greenfield was easy to spot!  And it seemed fitting for images of her to be the first ones shared.  She set up the conservation studio in Sterling Memorial Library 1973.


Gates Guest Book: Our First Intern!

On January 3, 2017, the Gates Conservation Laboratory welcomed its first conservation graduate student intern, Nora Bloch from West Dean College.  As part of her course of study, Nora must complete a 6-week work placement assignment.  And lucky for us, Nora chose to spend her six weeks in New Haven with YUL’s Conservation & Exhibition Services!


We packed Nora’s schedule with as many different experiences as we could. She helped to install exhibits, assisted with a condition survey, learned techniques for humidifying and flattening parchment.  She measured levels of arsenic in silked documents using XRF, sat in on conservation reviews and curator meetings, and participated in a Traveling Scriptorium session for New Haven high school students.  Oh, and she even had some time to work on a couple of treatment projects!

Nora is no stranger to books and libraries.  She earned a MLIS from the Department of Information Studies at UCLA in 2012.  She also served as the Project Manager for the California Rare Book School (CalRBS) and taught letterpress courses.

February 10th was the last day of Nora’s internship.  We thank her for her hard work and enthusiasm for all things library and conservation.  We wish her well as she finishes her studies (and thesis) and embarks on her career as a professional conservator!

Handle with Care: Training for Reading Room and Security Staff

On Monday, Christine McCarthy and Karen Jutzi joined Tara Kennedy (YUL Preservation Services), and the Beinecke Library’s Rebecca Hatcher and Eve Neiger to present the first session of a two-part workshop on care and handling of special collections in public reading rooms.  While some information may have been review for those in attendance, this was an opportunity to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to turning pages in the reading room.  The staff who attend the session asked great questions and made excellent suggestions based on their experience.


Quick Reference Guide and common reading room tools/supports


They say that timing is everything. The workshops were planned to following closely on the heels of the reopening of the Beinecke Library’s reading room after 18 months of renovation to the building.

The workshop session on Monday was the result of several months of planning and collaboration between preservation, conservation, access services, and technical services staff. A survey was sent to all access services and security staff to better understand their comfort levels with various practices and to identify any knowledge or training gaps. Balancing reader needs and collection preservation is challenging. Staff worry about the time implications of good handling habits and readers’ service expectations. Having the management team from Access Services at the planning table from the start made it easier to turn ideal practice into implementable practice.  And based on the feedback from staff who participated, there is a strong commitment to both the use of collections and their protection.