Internship report: Month 1, Part 1

So, it’s been a bit of a delay, but here’s the rundown of what I was up to this July. I started working in the special collections lab at the Syracuse University Library on July 5th. I immediately knew this was going to be an awesome experience when my boss, Peter Verheyen, told me that I could keep my blue hair (don’t worry, potential future employers, it has since reverted back to it’s natural color :P). I felt very welcome and fit in quite easily, working upstairs with David Stokoe (if you ever meet him, make sure to ask him about the time he beat Sting at pool) and popping in downstairs to chat with Peter about all things book-related. One of the downstairs lab work-study students, Christina, also moved upstairs to the lab a week after I did.

Bird Library

When I interviewed for the internship, I had a vague notion of what I wanted to work on, but wasn’t wedded to any particular type of treatment focus. I’d expressed an interest in working on larger, flat paper items (i.e. maps, prints, etc) or more tape removal projects (you think I’d had enough, but I guess not!), but after a few days of talking with Peter and David I realized I really wanted to work on books! I mean, when was I ever going to get the chance to learn both the proper English and correct German way of doing the same thing (springbacks, et al), at the same time?

Hence, my first month was spent doing multi-volume book treatments. In particular, I learned the “molded paper spine” treatment, which involves creating a new spine piece from University of Iowa PC4 paper that is shaped by tying it down over the original sewing cords. Eric Alstrom described it thusly:

“The molded paper spine binding is a conservation treatment Donia Conn came up with in answer to a problem she had with a collection in Syracuse University’s library. Syracuse University’s special collections library has a great number of German books printed and bound prior to the 19th century. The molded paper spine is a recasing structure intended for leather-bound books for which the covers have deteriorated too much to be salvageable. The new molded paper spine looks very much like leather and is very strong.”


Donia Conn’s original article about the molded paper spine can be found in Vol 2. No. 1 of the Bonefolder. There’s also a PDF of instructions, available from the Syracuse University Library’s conservation manual.

We picked three 18th century German books for the molded paper spine treatment, each of which weighed approximately 10 pounds. The biggest was so fat that I could barely get my hand around the spine. As only I am prone to doing, I decided to do the turn-ins after David had left, only to discover that it was a mighty feat to do turn-ins on such a heavy tome! I may have used some adult language, in my struggle to complete them.

Big German Book

However, we got through all three books, and then moved onto the next treatment, which was a set of five French volumes, all part of the published memoirs of some French gentlemen. David showed me how to do a proper English split-board binding on one of them, and I finished the other four in the same manner. I picked out some sea-foam green cloth, to match the hand-sewn green-and-white endbands, which I thought were appropriately rococo color choices.

Stuck-on endbands

Now, somewhere in the first couple of weeks, David mentioned that Syracuse has an Academy Award in it’s archives collection. Which means that I have finally completed my Academy Award Photograph trifecta, by posing with the Oscar given for best musical score, for Ben Hur. The three Oscar photos:

The Huntington Library's OscarMy second Oscar.And the Oscar trifecta is complete.

And now, I know that very little can be as exciting as that, but in Part 2 it gets even better! So stay tuned for the next installment of my experiences as the Inaugural Gaylord Preservation Intern!


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