The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 6, Number 2
Apr 1982


New Labs

Provincial Archives of Manitoba

In December 1981, Charles Brandt (Chief Conservator, Artistic and Historic Works on Paper) submitted the following description of this new lab, on request.

Our new conservation laboratory is progressing without haste yet without rest. GBR Associates, our architects, have done a tremendous job in planning the lab and designing certain pieces of equipment. Government Services is doing the renovation and installation. There have been several understandable delays.

The lab has been allotted a generous space primarily through the concern and foresight of Peter Bower, the Provincial Archivist. Of note are the large work tables in the center of the 2000-square-foot lab, each 6' x 10', one being a light table. Together they form a working surface of 120 square feet, large enough to back our largest maps. We have a sophisticated water supply system which feeds the sink in the fume hood, the large free-standing sink (7½' x 4') and the series of stainless steel book-leaf washing sinks with ordinary hot and cold tap water. In addition, a separate supply of demineralized-distilled and then calcified water (hot and cold) will enter the same sinks through separate non-metal conduits.

Next to the large fume hood is the paper vacuum table, useful for solvent application in Stain removal; it evacuates into the fume hood. The Ademco laminator is to be used for photographic dry mounting. We feel that lamination per se has little use in a conservation lab.

One corner of the lab is devoted to the bindery, which is fully equipped with a 60" board shears, presses, gold stamping machine, finishing stove, job backer, handle letters, rolls, fillets, and even a small amount of gold.

A small adjacent room will be utilized for dusting books and thinning leather and includes a vacuum mechanism that will pull dust and particles into a dust-arrester.

We have two drying racks, one designed after the one built for the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia, with sliding trays whose support is a diamond-mesh monofilament.

The 50-foot south wall is installed with CanLab furniture with three desk areas. This area will also support the Zeiss Stereomicroscope, pH meter, etc. The Polaroid Land Camera will occupy a free-standing table.

The lab will provide an ample work area for the conservator, the coming assistant conservator, and hopefully in the new year a conservation technician, as well as interns who will be working with us from time to time.

Slack Associates, Inc., 540 S. Longwood St., Baltimore, MD 21223, is designing and executing our Fumigation/ Freeze-Drying Chamber, with a capacity of 250 cubic feet. The fumigant used will be 10% ethylene oxide, 90% carbon dioxide. The control station will be isolated from the chamber and loading room. Once the chamber has been loaded, the entire cycle Can be operated remotely. The chamber will have humidity Control and forced circulation during fumigation. With the same unit we will be able to freeze-dry frozen water-damaged documents. It will operate at a pressure of 100 milliTorr and have a pumping capacity for water vapor of 20 pounds/hour. There is a provision for controlled heating during freeze-drying. The advantage of freeze-drying over vacuum drying is that there is no bleeding of inks or colors.

A final feature which we are very excited about and which also places us 20 years ahead of any other fumigation system in North America is the fumigant disposal capability. Slack will be providing us with catalytic oxidation equipment capable of mixing waste fumigation gases with air and converting the ethylene oxide to carbon dioxide and water vapor. Certainly environmentalists, as well as our Fire Marshall, will bless us, as safety and health requirements in Winnipeg are very stringent indeed.

Also in the planning stages are the new overall climate controls for the Archives stack and storage areas. We are working with Our engineers and architects to provide us with a stack temperature of 600 + 3°F and a relative humidity of 50% + 2%. This is, of course, the heart of our whole preventive conservation planning, a temperature and humidity that will best preserve our paper artifacts by slowing down the process of degradation. For films we are planning storage vaults each with a separately controlled environment, The 35°F, 35% RH vault will house color preprints. A 50°F, 40% humidity section will provide optimum storage conditions for black and white preprints.

Whaling Museum Library, Massachusetts

The New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts opened its new three-story library in June 1981, a building made necessary not only by lack of space for new acquisitions but also by the desire to provide a controlled environment and conservation facilities for the books and documents in its care. (Their experience was not unique; it is rarely possible to keep temperature and relative humidity within acceptable limits in older buildings.)

Window glass throughout the building filters out ultraviolet radiation; smoke and heat detectors are linked directly with the fire department and doors have fusible links; each room has individual controls for temperature, air conditioning and relative humidity to keep temperature at 68 and relative humidity at 50%; the roof is concrete overlaid with vulcanized rubber; and there is a 36-foot fumigator.

The Wilson Library Bulletin described the new lab in its October 1981 issue ("A Whaling Library for Massachusetts: Report from New Bedford" by John Ackerman, p. 100- 104):

Robert E. Hauser, a consultant with a private practice in conservation and graphic design and a fellow of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, was employed to help plan the new conservation laboratory. Hauser designed the laboratory and drew up a list of equipment needed.

"Our laboratory is equipped at the peak of present technology," Virginia Adams [Librarian] says. "The equipment we have installed incorporates the most current knowledge of what is necessary for the proper preservation and conservation of paper."

The new systems at the library embody the most recent research at the Library of Congress in washing and deacidifying paper. Tests of water from the New Bedford reservoirs and tests of that water as it emerges from museum taps have been completed, City water passes through a carbon filter and a deionizer with calcium added.

A preservation program is being developed with Virginia Adams, Librarian, in which priority will be given to conserving the Library's collection of over one thousand log books (1745-1925) using nonadhesive binding methods.

The Museum is really the Old Dartmouth Historical Society Whaling Museum, and it is at 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, Massachusetts 02740.

Louisiana Archives to Get Conservation Lab

According to the Summer 1981 American Archivist, the Louisiana State Archives and Records Service got a $25,000 appropriation from the Emergency Board of the Louisiana State Legislature for a conservation lab.

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