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Once again, we’d like to make a final request that those who enjoy our blog, and have bookmarked it, to redirect themselves to our new location:


Water, water everywhere

Well, the water was not literally “everywhere” but it was in the Kinsey Library.  The Lab received a call for assistance yesterday (July 7) afternoon informing us that there had been a water problem over the long holiday weekend and asking for our assistance.  Doug and Elise gathered some supplies and went to do an initial survey of the problem.  There were 300 +/- books that were involved.  Some (those in the photo) were just damp and can be air dried using one of the large fans we own for that purpose but most have been placed in one of our walk-in freezers and will be transitioned into the Wei T’o freeze-dryer over the coming days and weeks.  Thankfully, we do not experience this type of problem often but the staff here have again shown their willingness to pitch in to address an unplanned event and deal with it in a timely fashion.


Kinsey - edge wet

Fun Finds from the Lab



Part of what I enjoy about our work in the lab are the stories told or imagined through the items we treat. Most days I’ll run across an item that will bring a smile to my face, set me off daydreaming, or say, “huh?” and send me to the internet.

This is a short entry to share some of the gems I’ve run across while working on the Wylie house letters. You can read more about the actual treatment process in other entries.

This letter is dated February 27, 1893, right around the time the Sunday funnies were first published.


For a period of time, we noticed letters containing ‘kisses’, some of which were quantified like in this example, six kisses represented like this: oooooo (perhaps by mistake, using o’s instead of x’s), which were to be divided equally between the letter recipient and baby. This got us wondering about the origins of xo. A quick google search (thanks Wikipedia and Washington Post) suggests that x originated from Christianity, representing Christ’s qualities of faith and fidelity. It was used in place of signatures in early documents. The WP piece looks at the historical usage of xo and includes musings on its current usage in the digital communication.


Don’t have the exact date for this one but it is from around the turn of the century, like the other letters in this entry. It captures well the shock of going from small town to big city and encountering new technology. “POLICE, MURDER, FIRE!”


Lastly, is this letterhead from the Spelling Reform Association used on a letter from 1880. The association included Melvil Dewey of decimal system fame and advocated the following changes to English spelling:

  1. Omit a from the digraf ea when pronounst as e-short, as in hed, helth, etc.
  2. Omit silent e after a short vowel, as in hav, giv, liv, definit, infinit, forbad, etc.
  3. Write f for ph in such words as alfabet, fantom, camfor, filosofy, telegraf, etc.
  4. When a word ends with a doubl letter, omit the last, as in shal, wil, clif, eg, etc.
  5. Change ed to final to t where it has the sound of t as in lasht, imprest, fixt, etc.

An example of the spelling reforms in action:


-Arini Esarey


Paper Conservation and Blooming Where You Are Planted

Today’s guest blog post is by Madeline Zook, who has been completing a 90 hour practicum in the Paper lab this summer.

Hi, my name is Madeline Zook and I have spent the past six weeks interning at the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab at the ALF, with Doug Sanders, Paper Conservator.  I sought out this internship because it is my hope to someday go on to a graduate program in conservation. As an undergraduate pursuing a future career in conservation most of my time out side of my school work is spent in internships, searching for internships, applying for internships, or writing about my internships. Thus, I have worked now at three of the Indiana University labs, under Margaret Contompasis at the IUAM, with Judith Sylvester for the Mathers Museum and now am completing my time with Doug Sanders and Arini Esarey at the E. Lingle Craig Lab at the ALF. I am so lucky to have all the resources open to me at IU, and can now say that I have experience working in conservation labs with paintings, objects, textiles, and paper.

This summer working with Doug I have aided with two ongoing projects. The first was the cleaning and mending of a collection of letters from the Wylie House collection. In total the collection had over 5,000 letters, correspondences to the President and his family dating from the mid-1800s to the 1930s. Once that project was complete I helped finish the cleaning and mending of a schoolroom chart dating from the mid 1890s. During both projects Doug and Arini were gracious enough to teach me techniques for surface cleaning, and then mending with wheat paste and Japanese paper.

Working in these very different labs though has also provided a lesson outside of proper handling techniques and managing acidic paper. Each semester I get to see a little flavor of the lab I am working in. Here at the ALF, Doug runs a methodically detail-oriented ship, he thoroughly thinks through his choices and much research is done before any steps are made. He is if nothing else meticulous, fitting for a paper conservator.

Time in Judith’s lab is the polar opposite of this environment. My time with her was spent more focused on the collections management side of conservation, as I housed and rehoused, documented, and photographed textiles during my time there. Even though it was not the most glamourous work I look back at time in her lab very fondly. The Mathers collections storage area is like a giant curio cabinet, Inuit pipes are two rows over from African masks, which are just across the way from Native American canoes, only a few steps from a beautiful collection of Wanamaker photographs, all surrounded by guns ranging from the 1700s to 1950s, with textiles hanging from floor to ceiling. Perfectly fitting for an objects conservator.

The road to conservation is stressful, but maybe that is because I am at the beginning. I see the countless hours that must be put into finishing degrees in both Chemistry and Studio Art, studying abroad, finding internships, applying for graduate schools, studying for the GRE, along with balancing all the changes that come with being a 20 something. But slowly I am realizing that maybe there is a reason that so many working lab hours are required to become a conservator. I have learned much about techniques of cleaning, storage, handling, climate control and preservation; but I also see that conservation is special in that every day and every year is different, you will never be totally prepared for any project, but learning to ask questions, put in the time and enjoy the surroundings will take you far, and make the hours seem short.

I am truly thankful to all of the conservators who have made space for me and my questions in their lab. I have been given so many opportunities and hours of training, not to mention the wells of advice and mentorship that each has offered me, without hesitation.

Change of Address

In order to comply with some recent style changes to Indiana University Libraries’ webpages and blogs, we’ve moved this blog’s content to a new location: . There are some differences with the new template being used, but otherwise it will be the same content, from the same people!  You’ll also be able to access other IU Library blogs more easily from the new location. If you’ve subscribed to an RSS feed, please be sure to update the address. 

We’ll continue to run both blogs parallel, but in a few months’ time will make the permanent switch and no longer update things at this address. There will be no automatic redirect.



Out, Damned Mold! Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive Visits the Preservation Lab


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The E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab is located in the Ruth Lilly Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF), neighboring the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive (IULMIA or “illumia”). And, like all good neighbors, the Preservation Lab came to IULMIA’s aid when we needed them.  We wish it was for something as charming as a cup of sugar, but sadly IULMIA’s mission was far more unappealing:  mold removal.

IULMIA is home to over 70,000 films spanning nearly 80 years of film production, and the majority of these items are acetate-based.  In addition to chemical decomposition from vinegar syndrome, acetate based films are susceptible to mold growth if stored at inappropriate temperatures or humidity.  Polyester films are also susceptible to mold growth, though thankfully not vinegar syndrome.  IULMIA is fortunate enough to be stationed in the state-of-the-art ALF, which maintains a consistent temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit and a stable relative humidity of 30 percent. Within this environment, the unique treasures of the collections can be preserved for hundreds of years, and this temperature and humidity can slow down and even halt entirely the growth of mold on film.  While processing a new collection of 2,000 films that arrived at the ALF in early 2014  IULMIA staff encountered a small number of films with evidence of slight mold growth.  Among these items were 16mm prints of David Wolper’s, The Making of the President 1960, Francis Thompson’s 1957 N.Y. N.Y. and the 1978 Will Vinton documentary, Claymation. Mold can be dangerous if inhaled, and so we were faced with outsourcing the cleaning of the films to ensure staff and patron safety, or to discard the infected items.

We decided to take advantage of working next door to one of the most impressive preservation labs in the country and consulted with Paper Conservator Doug Sanders.  With Doug’s expertise, we clarified that the mold was “dead” (that is, it would not fruit any more while stored in proper archival conditions) and able to be treated safely in the Lab.  Not only did Doug give us a great primer in best practice techniques for handling moldy archival items, but he also offered us the Preservation Lab to treat and clean the films. This consisted of dislodging the mold growth from the tightly-wound film reels with small paintbrushes, vacuuming the dislocated growth from the reels under a fume hood, and cleaning the remaining “infected” area with 99.9% isopropyl alcohol.  IULMIA staff were hugely interested in the techniques of conservation, which are a mix of craftsmanship (whittling wooden applicators and applying cotton to create incredibly precise Q-tips), science (Doug and his team discussed the chemical properties of metal, gelatin, and ink during our training), and good old fashioned resourcefulness (the vacuum used by the Lab was not originally for preservation of paper, but rather a medical supply for removing mucus from human patients). This creativity reminded us of the film archive world, where machines and supplies are often dwindling or repurposed due to the status of film as an “obsolete” medium.

Due to the Lab’s skillful training, we safely and efficiently completed cleaning the mold from a cartload of films in one morning.  This short but fruitful collaboration with the Lab was an important step in maintaining our materials for patrons and researchers visiting the IULMIA in the future.

film folks small film inspection

Guest Bloggers: Asia Harman, Josephine McRobbie, and Seth Mitter

Preservation Week 2014


Here are some pictures of our Preservation Week 2014 events as promised in my earlier blog. Hope you enjoy them!

Preservation exhibition “Tools of the Trade” in the west display case of the Wells Library.

“Pass It On – Caring for Your Family Treasures” Event at the Monroe County History Center on May 3rd 2014.

Submitted by Anitta Salkola-White

There and back again

Happy May Day!

This entry will be somewhat different from those that others in the Craig Lab have written. I am not going to talk about treatments or enclosures or any of the hands-on activities which the staff here are so capable of doing and describing. Rather I am going to highlight some of the programs and practices that I was introduced to during a sabbatical I was granted and which I took during the Fall 2013 semester.

It has been a number of years since the last planning document was written for the Craig Lab. In 1999, Paul Conway, then Head of the Preservation Department at Yale, came to IU to conduct a review of the IU Libraries preservation program. A few years later, in 2003, Jake Nadal, then acting Head of the Craig Lab, wrote a follow-up to Conway’s recommendations and discussed changes that had been made in the interim and what still needed to be worked on. For the next decade, much of the work within the preservation lab has gone on smoothly and has been largely driven by immediate needs. It was my belief that with some anticipated upcoming staffing changes, the addition of a second module to our remote storage facility, and changes in collection management and technology, that the Lab might profit from seeing first-hand what our Midwestern peers were doing. Unlike most of my colleagues, I do not come from a decade’s long tenure working in conservation/preservation and I have not seen many other ARL preservation labs in operation so my base level of knowledge is limited.

When I learned that my sabbatical proposal had been accepted, I contacted several of my CIC colleagues to see if they would be willing to host a my visit and discuss what they were doing that they felt was interesting and perhaps different from what each of our Labs normally do. All those I contacted were gracious enough to say yes and to carve out a “day in the life of” their operation. For the sabbatical I visited the following:

Wes Boomgaarden, The Ohio State University

Sue Kellerman, Pennsylvania State University

Shannon Zachary, University of Michigan

Jennifer Teper, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Nancy Kraft, University of Iowa

I had previously been to the University of Wisconsin while working on another project and had met with Andrea Rolich and her staff briefly during that visit.

Each visit was structured in a similar fashion with an initial meeting with the head of the preservation department, a general tour of the operation then meetings with various staff members selected by the head of the department. In general, the head of the department had identified those areas/departments within his/her unit whom they felt were doing non-routine preservation related tasks. These differed from one institution to another and what I found was that nearly every institution was doing something fairly unique and interesting but none were doing everything. Almost all handled the treatment of materials from the general circulating collection in a similar fashion although several are beginning to rethink this role. The differences in approaches lie not in routine work being done but rather in the approach and priorities that each institution has placed non-routine services.

One of the trends I saw during my visits, and the one that I believe will become a higher priority for preservation and collection management at IUL is a move to focus more of preservation’s resources and staff on the special/unique parts of the collection rather than the general collection. The feeling of several of those I met with seems to be that it is the special parts of each University Library’s collection that will set it apart in the future and that those items that “everyone” owns will be of less importance to the preservation lab. This is a sentiment that was echoed by some of those I spoke to within the IU Libraries. Using OSU as an example Boomgaarden has begun to shift his staffing levels away from those working on the general collection and hiring more staff, and at presumably higher levels of expertise, who can deal with the needs of the more unique items. At UIUC they are in the early stages of trying to develop a model for deciding which of the general collection items that are sent to preservation are rare enough to warrant an expenditure of time and materials to repair.

At the Craig Lab we have had an on-going question of how preservation can best meet the needs of not only the general collection but also how it can support the various special collections and materials located throughout the IU Library system. Shortly after returning from my sabbatical Elise Calvi, Head of General Collections Preservation, presented a proposal to the IU Collection Management Committee which they approved that is the initial stage of what may become a more formal program of review prior to an item receiving treatment by the preservation lab staff. Currently these are a relatively small number of items that are unrepairable often because of their brittleness, severity of the damage, mold or other significant factor. When these types of items arrive in the Lab, we now search to see how many other copies may be available in the IU system or nearby, and to determine if there are equivalent replacements available for purchase. The appropriate collection manager is contacted and options are given and they are then involved in the decision as to the fate of the item.

Binding is an area that has experienced significant changes at Indiana University – primarily decreases in overall importance but this area is still highly valued for the service it provides. In 2002, the Library spent $296,144 on binding. This amount had fallen in $65,233 by 2013. Much of this is undoubtedly due to the shift to electronic resources and especially the large packages of ejournals which the libraries subscribe to and the subsequent decrease in print subscriptions. On the other hand, some of our peer institutions are seeing an uptick in binding expenses as they shift some of the work that had been done in-house to external vendors. For example, Shannon Zachary at Michigan has mentioned that the preservation lab at Michigan is focusing on two types of care to be done in-house for general collection materials: those things that can be done very quickly and inexpensively or those that are very complicated and time-consuming. Items that fall in the middle may be able to be done by a vendor at a cost efficient level and in a timely enough fashion to warrant sending those off-campus. During this sabbatical I visited the HF Group, the company we work with for our binding, and it seems like they have the capability to do some of the low or medium skilled jobs. At the present time, we use hourly staff to do this and I believe keeping these in-house allows the staff at the Craig Lab to do an overall better job at a reasonable cost. However, should the cost of hiring hourly staff change much this might be an area worth exploring. With the retirement of the long-time Head of Bindery Preparation at the end of December, we began to evolve that unit to have a broader scope of responsibility including some very basic preservation services that can be performed in Wells rather than shipping materials to and from the Preservation Lab when that is not necessary. So far this change has resulted in quicker turn-around and a better use of the staff.

Preservation replacement, i.e., production-level digital conversion of brittle books, is not a service that is provided by the Craig Lab. The IU Library has done, and continues to do, a large amount of scanning of its collections through the Google Book initiative or Hathi Trust. In addition, the Digital Collections Services unit of the Library IT department does a significant amount scanning on demand (719,888 individual scans or over 10GB of data in 2012/13 alone). However with the construction of the Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF) and the use of the Kasemake box-making machine in the Preservation Lab, the brittle books initiative that was raised during Conway’s visit has been less critical. Paper based items stored in the ALF have roughly the same “life expectancy” as do similar items that have been deacidified. While the cost of constructing the ALF and maintaining it indefinitely is significant, expanding the Wells Library is not a viable option.

From a pragmatic point-of-view and based on what I saw during my visits a critical first step for the future of preservation within the IU libraries is to determine what area to focus on beyond the general services that have traditionally taken the bulk of the resources and personnel. While there are opportunities that can come through the preservation of the content of the collections via digitizing items I believe that the Library would be better served through an expansion of the staff of the Lab into higher levels of book conservation. I believe that the special collections, e.g., area studies, the Lilly Library, Folklore, the Tibetan, African and other area studies materials and the rare or unique titles scattered throughout the collections, plus the rare materials that will be purchased or received as gifts going forward, will distinguish the IU Library collections. In addition, the “branch” library at the Wiley House has a collection of about 900 monographs, many of which need the care of a book conservator. Although more than 50% the library’s acquisitions budget is spent for electronic resources during the past three years the library has added an average of over 137,000 print volumes each year to the collections. Paper based materials do not seem to be going away any time soon and the need for the expertise to care for and preserve this legacy will continue to manifest itself.

The preservation lab at IU has two operations that are relatively unique among our peer institutions. One is the paper conservation unit. Several of those visited who knew of this service and expressed a desire to have such capability within their own department although it was obvious from their recent hiring decisions that other priorities were also important and that the paper conservation position was less critical to their current needs. Having the paper conservation positions have allowed us to work with posters, maps, newspapers, letters and other “flat” paper items within the collections that were in desperate need of attention. One example of the differences in approach to handling these types of items came during my visit to Pennsylvania. The Penn State Library preservation lab had recently completed a scanning project of a number of posters which the Library owned that dated from World War I and II plus other posters from around that time period. The posters were in various physical conditions from relatively complete with little damage to those showing significant signs to physical stress and damage. The PSU preservation staff were able to scan the posters and make the scanned images available online. However it does not appear that they did any repair work to any of the originals. The Lilly Library at IU also has a collection of posters from this same time range (many are presumably duplicates of those from PSU). These were sent to the paper conservator and he and his staff did physical repairs of all of the posters, cleaned them as necessary and then encapsulated those posters prior to returning them to the Lilly. Since they have been repaired and encapsulated it is likely that they will withstand handling for a significant period of time especially if they are kept either at the Lilly and are under their watchful eye. However, the Preservation Lab did not scan any of the posters prior to encapsulating them. If it is decided to make them available electronically in the future either they will need to be removed from the encapsulating material for scanning and then have that replaced, or the scanning operation will have to take into account the possible reflective quality of the encapsulating material. An obvious better way of doing business would seem to be a combination of the two approaches. The paper lab staff could do the basic clean and repair work to the posters. The posters could then have be scanned by the digitization staff in Wells at the quality level desired, add the metadata necessary to find the relevant poster, and put the image online. The posters could then be returned to the Lab for encapsulation before being sent back to the Lilly.

Coordinating the various steps to make the above a reality is one of the challenges to be addressed. I believe the IU Libraries should consider creating a planning committee composed of representatives from preservation, digital collections services, collection management and technical services whose role would be to solicit proposals from collection managers for preservation/digital projects and then prioritize those projects to maximize the resources which the Library can devote to them. Penn State does an excellent job at this and would be a model well worth examining. The staff members on the Penn State committee are able to evaluate proposals from the collection managers, determine what steps need to be taken and in what order so that items are in processing for the least amount of time and that all steps are done in a way that ensures that the materials will be available digitally when needed. President McRobbie, in an IU Presidential Update sent to the IU community dated October 16, 2013, noted that “one of the great and central missions of universities over the 25 centuries they have existed – the preservation of knowledge”. He called for there to be prepared a “Digitization Master Plan that would describe a road map for the systematic digitization and preservation of all scholarly and research collections at IU.” Forming the planning committee as described and building on the work that has been done at Penn State would be one way that IUL could support this idea as set out by IU’s president.

The second area which IU has and no other CIC library, nor indeed, many other institutions anywhere have, is the Kasemake box-making machine and an excellent Kasemake operator. To date, the Kasemake has been used to construct in excess of 100,000 enclosures. Had we had to purchase these from a commercial vendor we would have spent between $1.25-$2 million. The Kasemake, salary for the operator and supplies have cost IU about 30% of that amount so this looks like it was a very good investment. In experiments I have done using discarded books I have found that books that have been placed in a Kasemake enclosure fare considerably better if exposed to water as happens, for example, when a sprinkler system malfunctions or during a fire. The same is undoubtedly true of other possible hazards that a book might face at some point. One of my recommendations was for all medium-rare or rare items in the collections be identified (a dedicated book conservator could have this as part of his or her charge) and have an enclosure made for those items. These should be housed in the ALF when possible. In association with this recommendation is the need for there to be some common agreement within the Library as to what a rare or medium-rare item is and how such items should be handled. The reason to move as many rare and medium-rare items to the ALF is fairly simple and is something that preservation librarians have known and spoken/written about for decades. As noted in a 1991 Technical Report published by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (Andover, Massachusetts) and funded by a grant from the NEH, “the best way to preserve library and historical collections is to control light, temperature, relative humidity, and air quality; to provide routine housekeeping; and to use good storage and handling techniques. Protection from fire, water, and theft is also important at this level.” In addition to the excellent temperature and humidity levels of the ALF, the facility if free of potentially harmful insects and provides significantly better security than any of the libraries on campus with the possible exception of the Lilly Library.

Preservation at Indiana University has not been called on to do much with preserving IU’s digital heritage but at several of the Universities that were visited, digital was an integral part of the work being done. Of particular interest to me is the creation of a digital forensics position at two of the institutions. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently hired someone in this role and the University of Michigan is moving to fill a similar position in Ann Arbor. In conversations I have had with some of the staff in the University Archives and in the Library IT department, I have come to feel that this would be worth exploring at IU as well. What I believe we will see on an increasing scale is for faculty to bring their research record to the archives as they retire and that these records will be on different types of print plus digital storage ranging from floppy drives of various sizes to hard drives from different operating systems. Determining what is on those drive that is of value to the archives and what format those files is in is the job of a digital forensics specialist equipped with the appropriate software and hardware. If this service is created it should include enough support staff to offer a complete set of digital archive services and not be limited to providing just a report of the types of files that are on the drives. At UIUC the person who does this work provides detailed reports of the types of files (e.g., document, JPEG, PDF…) that are on the drive but only rarely does she have the time to look for the correct software to read the file.

The preservation department at the University of Iowa implemented a wonderful approach that I think of as “crowd sourcing” some of its operations. The example I saw at Iowa was with their collection of pioneer letters and papers. These were scanned in preservation and basic metadata was provided. However since the letters were not OCR ready the text was not searchable. Much like the 1940 U.S. Census was open to the general public who were encouraged to enter the appropriate text onto a form that became searchable, the pioneer letters are open to the public. Individuals can use the basic metadata to search for relevant (to them) letters and then type onto a blank form the text of the letter. That then becomes searchable. In addition, the library works with the English department which has some of their courses studying changes in writing. Students in selected classes are assigned the task of “translating” a number of letters and entering the data into the library’s database. The students then analyze the writing style as part of their English class. When I mentioned this to Doug Sanders he remarked that a similar process could be done at IU using the Archives course that Phil Bantin teaches where students would find it useful to learn how to read letters from the 1800s. If a class like Phil Bantin’s were involved this could be expanded to teach the students how metadata is applied in a real world situation. If not Phil’s class, other faculty might be interested in partnering with the Library. I expect there are other collections in the University Archives, the Wiley House or elsewhere on campus that would also be strong candidates for this type of project.

Finally, an idea that was raised by Dean Barbara Dewey of Penn State was looking for an opportunity to do a cooperative project from several of the collections of the CIC libraries. I mentioned this to Shannon Zachary at the University of Michigan and said that I thought that a project that was focused on transportation and western expansion might be something worth pursuing. For instance, in the Lilly Library has over 260,000 items related to the Howard Ship Yards and Dock Company. Michigan probably has a significant collection of materials related to the auto industry while Penn State may have items from the railways. Other universities within the CIC are likely to have similar special collections. A few years ago, the CIC Preservation Officers discussed the possibility of seeking funds to do a large preservation project of materials related to this type of material but the timing for obtaining funds was off. However, it might be time to try this again and if nothing else, do a proof of concept project that would demonstrate how several of the campuses could combine their expertise and collections to preserve and provide better access to this rich resource.


Preservation Week 2014

Finally it looks like springtime after such an unusually cold winter here in Bloomington! And we all know what spring means, at least here at the Preservation Lab: we are getting ready for the Annual Preservation Week which runs from April 27th to May 3rd this year. Preservation week was originally started by the American Library Association in 2010 so that our cultural heritage will be preserved for the future generations. Here is a link to ALA’s Preservation Week resources ( Check it out. There you can find many ideas how you or your institution can embrace Preservation Week 2014.


“Pass It On – Caring for Your Family Treasures” is the title for an event at the Monroe County History Center on May 3rd at 2-4.30pm. It will be held in the Education Room, 202 E. 6th St. Bloomington, Indiana. RSVP at This event was brainstormed by Elise Calvi, the Head of General Collections Conservation and Preservation Services, and Doug Sanders, the Paper Conservator here in our lab. They are joined by the Monroe County History Center to host the event for the public, who can bring in their family treasures (documents, photographs, books, textiles, and other objects) for a free consultation on how to make sure these priceless items can be preserved in the best possible way. The event will start with a talk covering the basic concepts of preservation given by Doug Sanders and followed with consultations by local conservators and curators. Limited space is available, so make sure to reserve a spot in time for yourself. This is a first of its kind event here in Bloomington!


We are also putting up a preservation exhibition in the west display case of the Wells Library for the month of May, which will present different tools and techniques used for conservation work in both the past and present. I hope you will have a chance to participate in these exciting events. In any case, I’m hoping to post some pictures when they become available.

So make sure you get a chance to take a look at them and hopefully by that time we will have some summery temperatures.

Submitted by Anitta Salkola-White

Dogs and Research Follies

A sad, dog chewed book leads down a research rabbit-hole

Last fall, we received a copy of The Wind on the Moon, a children’s book by Eric Linklater published in 1944.  The book had been chewed by a dog.Title Page for The Wind on the Moon by Eric LinklaterAfter it was all fixed up with a brand new cover, I took this scan of the old cover to give an idea of the damage.

Dog-chewed book cover

Dog-chewed book cover

Sad, dog-chewed book

I actually found it rather cute that the book included this illustration of a great number of dogs:

Dogs!   Illustration by Nicholas Bently from The Wind on the Moon

Illustration by Nicholas Bently from The Wind on the Moon

What really got my curiosity going, though, was this printed seal, found on the copyright page of the book:

"A Wartime Book" seal

The caption reads “A Wartime Book: This complete edition is produced in full compliance with the government’s regulations for conserving paper and other essential materials.”

World War II Rationing

It made a lot of sense that there would have been paper shortages and paper rationing during World War II, but I had never heard anything about it so I decided to do a little research to see what the rationing involved and how it affected US publishing during the war.  Well, there is no such thing as “a little research” on any aspect of WWII.

A preliminary Google search for “WWII paper rationing” brought up a great deal of fascinating information about food rationing and ration books.  Rationing of food and non-food items was in effect in the U.S. from 1942 – 1946 and was overseen primarily by the Office of Price Administration and the Office of War Information.  

The Ames Historical Society website has some great pages with basic information on this rationing, along with a lot of terrific images. The Salem Press website also has a nice article accompanying a book about the 1940s.

But all of the food rationing didn’t explain this “Wartime Book” seal.  Sadly,  I was unable to easily dig up much about paper rationing specifically.  A number of websites and articles mention that paper was rationed in the U.S. during WWII, and stated that this rationing had impacts for both book and newspaper publishing, but I found few useful details.

After spending some delightful time down the endless rabbit-hole of the online National Archives, it appears that I would actually need to travel to Maryland to get my hands on much of the primary source material for this topic.  Secondary sources abound, however.  There are abundant articles and books written about publishing during WWII and the how the availability of cheap paperbacks changed the face of modern publishing.  One such is this article from

I started to feel that I might drown in information, and none of it was what I really wanted to know, which was what,  exactly were the government’s regulations for conserving paper and other essential materials?  And what other essential materials were they talking about?  Ink?  Trees? Metal for printing presses? I realized that I could keep on looking for months and neglect my hands-on preservation duties at the lab.   So, since this is just a blog post and not a PhD dissertation, here are just a very few interesting tidbits and links that I came up with using only a few quick web searches and far too much reliance on Wikipedia.

“Books are Weapons in the War of Ideas”

Looking at the eagle in the bookplate seal sent me in the direction of WWII propaganda. The eagle’s banner reads “Books are weapons in the war of ideas.”  This was the motto of the Council on Books in Wartime and became an important bit of US propaganda in response to Nazi book burnings.

World War II US propaganda poster

Reprints of this poster are still available for purchase today.

Another function of the Council on Books in Wartime was to help facilitate publishing the Armed Services Editions, which were inexpensive paperbacks published to send to US soldiers.

Paper Recycling

There were paper recycling drives  – paper was collected to be used for packing materials and presumably it was also pulped to print books for the US soldiers.  There were also used book drives to collect books to send overseas.

George Orwell weighs in …

Wikipedia states that in the UK, paper rationing went into effect in 1939,  and apparently George Orwell had strong feelings about how this was affecting publishing and authors:

“In Mr. Stanley Unwin’s recent pamphlet Publishing in Peace and War, some interesting facts are given about the quantities of paper allotted by the Government for various purposes. Here are the present figures:-

Newspapers 250,000 tons
H. M. Stationery Office 200,000 tons
Periodicals (nearly) 50,000 tons
Books 22,000 tons

A particularly interesting detail is that out of the 100,000 tons allotted to the Stationery Office, the War Office gets no less than 25,000 tons, or more than the whole of the book trade put together.  …  At the same time paper for books is so short that even the most hackneyed ‘classic’ is liable to be out of print, many schools are short of textbooks, new writers get no chance to start and even established writers have to expect a gap of a year or two years between finishing a book and seeing it published.”

George Orwell, As I Please, Tribune, 20 October 1944


And finally, a wartime cookbook

By far, my favorite rationing-related discovery is the Wartime Edition of the American Women’s Cookbook.   In fact, I ordered a copy for myself.

Cookbook front cover

Except for the aspic recipes, I find it completely delightful.

photo of tomato aspic and cold vegetable lunchAnd I love it that even though there was a war on, someone in my grandmother’s generation had time to make these:

petits fours

 submitted by Lara Tokarski