Handle with Care | Preservation Strategies for Pan Am’s Digital Archive

Conservator Duvy Argandoña prepares a document in the Conservation Lab on the first floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.

By Cory Czajkowski

Repair and conserve: a phrase that drives a vast and complex component of University of Miami Libraries’ (UML) mission. Primary source materials and books are handled over years, decades, and even centuries; room conditions fluctuate, humidity falls and rises, and critters occasionally find their way to them for a snack. For the specialists that manage UML’s Preservation Strategies Department, “repair and conserve” holds a significance akin to a “search and rescue” operation—only rather than a search for people, it’s about the search for and provision of aid to materials that are in distress or imminent danger. As items become damaged and too fragile to handle, they require treatment and special care in order to ensure they can remain accessible by students and researchers in the future.

The grant from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission has allowed UML to sustain such specialized preservation efforts as the digitization of materials from the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records collection continues. This ongoing project is now at a stage where a second group of images from the renowned aviation collection are in the process of being made accessible by keyword search. These brochures, timetables, directories, and other items require special treatment prior to any scans or photographs to ensure that the text in them can be recognized, or that they can even be handled for image capturing purposes.

Argandoña uses the hot spatula and tweezers to repair small tears in a Pan Am brochure.

Duvy Argandoña is the conservator at the Otto G. Richter Library. She spends a good portion of her workdays in the Conservation Lab repairing Pan Am materials before they can be scanned. The Lab, a brightly-lit, state-of-the-art equipped facility, is an infirmary for the collection’s torn or creased materials, where Argandoña uses specialized machines and tools to reconcile any damage that might interfere with digitization.

“The meticulous work done by Duvy is so important to the process, because it’s essentially our means of loss control—vetting and repairing the materials in a way that ensures we are able to capture the best scans possible,” says Gabriella Williams, who works closely with Argandoña and is managing this digitization project. Williams prepares and triages the materials before they are sent to the Lab. She flags each box, folder-by-folder, and creates a detailed, object-level spreadsheet of the items that require attention.

The humidification dome releases a mist of deionized water to relax a map’s paper fibers.

Argandoña then uses both basic and more complex techniques, depending on the level of damage, to repair the selected materials. “For mending small tears in brochures and timetables, I use the hot spatula tool and heat-set tissue paper,” says Argandoña. She first cuts the tissue paper into five millimeter strips and then uses tweezers to line up the strips with the seams of the torn documents. Carefully holding the tissue paper in place with tweezers, she applies soft pressure with the hot spatula until the paper adheres.

If a large map or fold-out is wrinkled or bent, Argandoña places it in a humidification dome for up to 15 minutes before any further repairs are made. “The dome uses a deionized water vapor mist to help the paper fibers relax, then the item is arranged between blotter paper sheets in the oversized book press for 24 hours, or until all the creases are gone,” says Argandoña.

Martha Horan, head of Preservation Strategies.

On October 17, UML welcomed new Head of Preservation Strategies Martha Horan, who is enthusiastic about working with the Pan Am materials under the NHPRC grant.

“Too often one does not consider the highly skilled, artisan-like techniques that go on behind-the-scenes in a library to stabilize and treat materials as part of preservation and digitization,” says Horan. “It’s an impressive operation here, with an even more impressive team behind it. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the Libraries.”

Digital images of these materials from the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records—which date from the company’s inception in 1927 until it ceased operations in 1991—are now available to the public for browsing and research purposes on the University of Miami Libraries’ Digital Collections web site.

Photos by Brittney Bomnin



Join Us for Mindfulness at Richter on November 28 and December 12

Mindfulness_header2

November 28 + December 12
4–4:30 p.m.

Otto G. Richter Library
3rd Floor Conference Room
1300 Memorial Drive | Coral Gables, FL 33146

Co-presented by the UM School of Law

Join us for a practice session in mindfulness led by Scott Rogers, Lecturer in Law and Director of the Mindfulness in Law Program. This 30-minute session will introduce the fundamentals in mindfulness with five minutes of gathering and readying for practice, a 15-minute lightly-guided practice, and five-minute period of quiet discussion.

This free program is open to UM faculty, staff, students, and friends. Register here.

 


UM is a smoke-free campus. Parking is available at the Pavia Garage near Stanford Drive.

 





“Black Hair Magic” student photography exhibit, event

You are cordially invited to

Black Hair Magic

October 26, 2017 | 6 p.m.
Otto G. Richter Library, 3rd Floor Conference Room
University of Miami | 1300 Memorial Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146

Join us for a talk and reception with UM student photographer, Alexis McDonald. McDonald’s photographs aim to demonstrate the beauty of Black culture and showcase the diversity of Black hair. She began the collection in 2015 and continues to expand it, hoping these photographs will serve as a constant reminder of the uniqueness of Black culture.

Light refreshments will be served following the presentation.

Black Hair Magic is on view in the Richter Library first floor Digital Media Lab through December 2017.

Questions? Please send an email to richterevents@miami.edu or call 305-284-4026.


UM is a smoke-free campus. Parking is available at the Pavia Garage near Stanford Drive.



Fact Books (1972 – 2016) Are Now Accessible Online!

By Koichi Tasa, University Archivist

The fact books provide the most reliable benchmark data about the University.

We are pleased to announce the completion of a digitization project of another invaluable publication of the University of Miami, the entire run of the “Fact Books,” produced by the University of Miami Office of Planning, Institutional Research, and Assessment (PIRA).

The fact books provide the most reliable benchmark data about the University, such as student enrollments, retention and graduation rates, degrees granted, class sizes, library statistics, tuition and expenses, research funding, financial highlights, and endowment statistics. They are also an excellent source of information about the University’s history, administration and facilities, student life, and athletics.

The best way to research the collection is to browse the volumes one by one. Please click the icon “Browse All in this collection” at the landing page (link below) to access the digitized fact books. Once you have selected the volume you need, click the “Download” icon on the upper right corner of the screen, and select “All (PDF)” to save the file on your computer.

For further information about the PIRA, please visit their website at the link below.

The digitization project of the Fact Books was made possible by an interdepartmental collaboration among the University Archives, Digital Production, Metadata & Discovery Services, and Web & Application Development at the Otto G. Richter Library.



Learning Commons: Update 01

During the 2017 fall semester, construction of the new Learning Commons Consultation Zone on the first floor of Richter Library occurs:

  • Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The goal of this schedule is to alleviate disruption at the days and times when the library is most popular.

Construction is scheduled to be completed prior to the start of the 2018 Spring semester.

Disposable earplugs are available by request at Access Services at the entrance of Richter Library.

Please direct any questions about the construction to Sabino Iodice at siodice@miami.edu.



Kislak Center: Update 01

The University is renovating an area behind the Starbucks concession at the Richter Library to create a multifunctional space that will serve two important purposes. First, the new space will provide an attractive and accessible home for Special Collections and University Archives, which have outgrown their current home on the eighth floor of Richter. Second, the space will support intellectual and creative public programs planned by the Libraries, Center for the Humanities, as well as faculty-initiated programming at all the schools and colleges on the Coral Gables campus.

The Kislak Center will serve as a reading room for Special Collections and University Archives during the day and an event space for lectures, symposia, and performances during the evenings and weekends. An ancillary gallery, classroom, and curatorial spaces will be located on the adjacent mezzanine level.

Construction on phase one is underway. The new reading room for Special Collections and University Archives will open in January 2018 and construction on this first phase is underway. The mezzanine level is phase two of the project, and and its completion is anticipated in late 2018.