The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 10, Number 4
Aug 1986


Wei T'o Workshop

by Debra McKern

On May 26, 1986, a Post-AIC Annual Meeting-Workshop was held at Wei T'o Associates, Matteson, Illinois. Entitled "Spray Deacidifying Books and Flat Work and Using Freezers to Dry Books and Exterminate Insects," the workshop was attended by conservators, preservation administrators, archivists, and library binders.

The first part of the program, taught by Richard Smith, Wei T'o Associates, and Susan Batton, Firestone Library, Princeton University, covered the process of deacidification using the "Soft Spray" system and its use in a custom-designed large-scale spray deacidification unit. Demonstrations were given of the self-pressurized spray, the self-pressurized cleaning solution, the spray booth, exhaust mechanism, and delivery system. The spray booth and exhaust mechanism components of the system nay vary in size and can be locally constructed or purchased from Wei T'o. The model used for demonstration provided a 30" by 40" working surface, with the nonaqueous deacidification solution delivered from disposable three- to five-gallon cylinders to a spray gun attachment. Specially-designed valves in the nozzle allowed the application of solution in 4-6" swaths to documents, works of art on paper, and bound volumes. Production rate for bound volumes is estimated at 20 minutes per 150 leaves. The need to first test for solubility of dyes and inks and for sensitivity to pH was stressed.

Princeton University uses the soft spray technique in a production setting with five individual work stations/spray booths connected to a sophisticated ventilation system. The unit, designed by Robert Parliament and built in 1982 at a cost of $55,000, has a production capacity of one million pages per year. It is currently used for prospective treatment of serials prior to binding. The cost for this deacidification program is supported by acquisitions funds rather than preservation funds. Level of activity is now 150,000 to 250,000 pages per year.

The second half of the workshop addressed the issues of disaster response for both water-damaged and insect-infested library and archival materials. Instructors for this portion were Gary Frost, Columbia University School of Library Service, and Gisela Noack, Yale University Library. The presentation included an overview of disaster preparedness, response, salvage, and review; discussion of the technology of freeze-drying; a demonstration of the use of a modified commercial freezer for the salvage of wet materials; and a report on Yale's experience in the use of deep-freeze techniques to eradicate insects. Hands-on instruction in the salvage of water-damaged materials provided participants with the opportunity to learn how to properly handle dirty, sodden books, and how to prepare them for freeze-drying. Sample log sheets illustrated the documentation of treatment procedures.

The success of the workshop was due in large part to the quality of the instructors, the best in their respective fields. Because attendance was limited to 36 participants to facilitate hands-on instruction, the atmosphere of the workshop remained open and informal, with frequent questions addressed to speakers. Handouts were thorough, providing useful background information, suggested readings, and sample documents.

As an AIC Outreach Program, workshop registration included an invitation to ten non-AIC members to attend the AIC Book and Paper Group meeting held May 25th in Chicago. This served to attract a group of participants of diverse backgrounds and experience, and also promoted interest in AIC membership.

Due to restricted enrollment, many potential registrants could not be accommodated. The workshop may be repeated at a different site to meet this demand. Questionnaires have been distributed to those on the waiting list to identify preferences in scheduling a repeat program.

[Note: Participants included Helen Burgess, Mindell Dubansky, Mary-Lou Florian, Maria Holden, Ralph Ocker, Guy Petherbridge, Charles Remmey, Patricia Reyes, Jack Thompson, Carol Turchan and Johanna Wellheiser. - Ed.]

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