NOTES FROM PRESERVATION
LIBRARY MORTUARY SCIENCE
Pugsley Adams began wearing glasses years ago, shortly after the Adams
Family went into re-runs. Age, diet and heredity (remember his cousin, It)
conspired with the straining to watch late night TV re-runs and read old
books beneath dim light, to leave him with this highly polished
appendage. He is, in a manner of speaking, pheasant-under-glass.
Pheasant-Under-Glass (P.U.G.) is a death defying species of bird which
continues to exist in its original format after death simply by remaining
encapsulated under glass. Remove the glass and the guests at the dinner
table consume the tanned chap. Lenin, embalmed in a glass capsule, is one of
the few men to have attained the everlasting life of a P.U.G.
Let's review the role P.U.G.'s play in their incarnations in archives and
libraries. If archives and libraries exist to make materials useful, the
P.U.G.'s place in these institutions is to make materials usable when their
vitality has faded. Pugsley's glasses are the first feathers of a P.U.G.
They allow his eyes to continue to provide him with information after his
vision has begun to blur. So too, an encasement allows embrittled, fragile, or
highly used valuable or rare materials to survive continued use and provide
information to generations of users. Brittle materials, for example, rather
than break, bend gently along with their encapsulations.
Archival and library materials may be encased in a number of ways.
Some of these ways, better known as methods of Preservation Enclosure,
include (phased) boxing, enveloping, etc. Lamination, another protective
measure, was designed for use with brittle materials in particular.
Lamination is the process whereby an acetate (plastic) "melt"
"permanently" seals a brittle page between two sheets of flexible lens
tissue. The process, which is difficult and expensive to reverse or remove, is
considered damaging because the acetate melt deteriorates and the lens
tissue often yellows.
Encapsulation, yet another protective measure, is the process whereby a
flat sheet, embrittled or otherwise, is encased between two sheets of clear
continued on next page *
polyester (a.k.a., Mylar@). Polyester is a strong, stable material which
lends strength to the sheet it encases. At the University of Florida
Libraries, the polyester is ultrasonically welded around the sheet such
that it is not permanently attached or in any way sealed to the sheet
itself. As with Lenin, a conservator could remove the corpus delicti if one
wanted or needed to. Jeremy Bentham, the encased British scientist/
philosopher, for example, was temporarily removed some years ago from
the glass case in which he was enthroned because his head fell off and
needed to be replaced. Archival and library materials are removed for
less gruesome reasons such as simple mending or deacidification which
should have been but were not done for various reasons upon the initial
Pugsley Adams is not a full-fledged P.U.G. just because he wears glasses
or has occasionally fought. Bentham will tell you that a P.U.G. is fully
encapsulated or encased. Lenin will agree, adding that the best P.U.G.'s
have also been embalmed. "Embalming" archival and library materials
is more a form of mortuary, rather than library, science. The body of
materials to be encapsulated is first cleaned either by dry cleaning with
erasers, or aqueous bath, or both. Materials are then deacidified,
assuming this process doesn't alter colored materials, and mended if
necessary. Deacidification will remove or neutralize many of the acids
which would otherwise contribute to continued embrittlement of the
materials even after encapsulation. Finally, they are dressed with
what, to the library patron, will appear to be the Emperor's new clothes,
i.e., the clear polyester, which is then welded together like the
matching metal halves of the zipper on Pugsley's leather jacket.
Unlike the phoenix materials described in last month's Newsletter,
P.U.G.'s may be counted among the living dead rather than among the
reborn. Archival and library materials are truly dead when they become
too brittle, fragile, valuable or rare to be used. Encasement allows such
"dead" materials to be used even while they would be utterly destroyed
by use otherwise, without the encasement. Here is how some such
materials are being prepared for use in the University of Florida
"Acid-free envelopes are used in the Rare Books Collection to
preserve unbound pamphlets and sermons from the 18th and early
Clam-shell, folding boxes are used throughout the Libraries for the
protection of rare books and special materials.
Portfolios are used throughout the Libraries for less valuable but
Preservation Enclosures protect materials from dust and other particu-
lates (i.e., abrasive or acidic particles in the air), light, smoke damage,
mold infestation, and damage during shelving. Boxes also provide
additional protection from fire.
This method is not used by the Libraries for reasons stated above.
In the Map Library, these are used to protect valuable pre-1850 maps,
some colored, some printed on fragile or brittle paper. In the past,
damage associated with the use of maps has included tears, folds and
marks which reduce value.
In Special Collections, these are used to preserve manuscripts of
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' short stories, usually on highly acidic,
brittle paper. Encapsulation allows the pages of each story to be gatheredN
and bound as a book, ensuring against theft or loss of individual pages.
Increasing popularity of Rawlings' work would otherwise place these
materials at risk of damage or loss.
In creation of preservation photocopies, these are used to retain brittle
and often fragile originals which because of limitations in photocopy
technology do not reproduce well. To date, encapsulations, bound with
preservation photocopies, have allowed the retention of colored maps and
scientific drawings in the Marston Science Library.-