Collection Guides are now Online

The last activity for the project has been completed: full descriptions for the drawings are available online. The Guide to Flagler College’s Hotel Ponce de Leon Architecture Collection is available at http://web.uflib.ufl.edu/spec/manuscript/guides/hotelponce.htm. The Guide to the Memorial Presbyterian Church Architecture Collection is available at http://web.uflib.ufl.edu/spec/manuscript/guides/memorial.htm. These archival finding aids provide both collection- and item-level links to the digital images available in the Carrère & Hastings Digital Collection (http://ufdc.ufl.edu/caha).

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Nearing the End

We’re excited to be nearing the end of this wonderful project. I’m happy to report that all of the drawings have been conserved and digitized. The digital images are available online at http://ufdc.ufl.edu/caha, and the original drawings are now protected from further deterioration. The guides to the collections will be published on the UF Special Collections website any day now.

A few of the original drawings, now flattened and encapsulated, are going to be on display in the Flagler College Proctor Library for the next few weeks. Lourdes Santamaría-Wheeler, exhibits coordinator for the UF Smathers Libraries, has created posters and labels to promote the project.

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Society of Florida Archivists Annual Meeting 2011

At the beginning of May 2011, Leslee Keys, John Nemmers, Laurie Taylor, and myself presented on various aspects of this project at the Society of Florida Archivists Annual Meeting which, fittingly, was held at Flagler College. The response to the project was very positive and I think many others who are embarking on similar projects or have architectural drawings/blueprints in their collections were able to get ideas on how to move forward on preserving those objects.

The presentations are available to view through the University of Florida’s Digital Library and are linked below.

Saving St. Augustine’s Architectural Treasures: About the Project
John Nemmers, UF Descriptive Archivist

Saving St. Augustine’s Architectural Treasures: Conservation of Architectural Drawings
Kim Tinnell, Conservation Technician/Student Assistant

Saving St. Augustine’s Architectural Treasures: Digitization of Architectural Drawings
Laure Taylor, UF Digital Library Center

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Conservation Treatment-Hotel Ponce de Leon Large Drawing Continued

We are continuing work on the very fragile, large drawings of the Hotel Ponce de Leon. As noted in the previous post on these drawings, we have already separated them into three separate sections (as they originally had been), removed the dirty cloth backing, cleaned the surface of the paper, reattached loose pieces, and backed them with a heat set tissue to keep the loose pieces intact and provide the paper with some support while they were being digitized. We have decided to remove the heat set tissue backing and back these drawings with Japanese paper.

To remove the backing, we place the drawing on a suction table. The suction holds the drawing down as we gently remove the heat set tissue backing by separating it from the drawing with a spatula and pulling it off in small sections. Since conservation materials are designed to be reversible, it comes off relatively easily.

Next, we make starch paste using wheat starch and distilled water, which will be used as the adhesive for attaching the Japanese paper to the drawing. The wheat starch and water are combined over heat until they form a thickened paste. (The Northeast Document Conservation Center has a very informative leaflet on their website on using adhesives to repair paper artifacts. It can be found here.)

After this cools, we apply a thin layer to the Japanese paper making sure we apply the paste in different directions. Japanese paper is prone to stretching and shrinking so applying the paste in different directions helps ensure that it will not stretch or shrink all in one direction once adhered to the drawing.

The Japanese paper is then laid on the back of the drawing while it is still on the suction table and is kept there until it dries.

So far we have completed this work on two thirds of one of the drawings. In these images, John Freund, the head of the conservation department, demonstrated this process which I was later able to perform under his supervision. I hope we will finish treatment on the last third of the drawing this week.

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Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church

We have completed all the conservation work, description, and digitization of the drawings and blueprints of the Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church. Last week I visited St. Augustine and saw the church (and the Hotel Ponce de Leon). Although I had never been there before, I felt as though I had since I’ve been working with these drawings for a few months and have become familiar with the church’s features. In working so closely with original materials, you begin to feel connected to their history. What was going through the minds of John Carrere and Thomas Hastings as they created original drawings, amended existing blueprints, and visited the sites where the Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church and Hotel Ponce de Leon would be built? Could they envision the towering dome they had designed for the church as they stood on the empty lot?

I can hear Carrere and Hastings debating what types of carvings should go on the doors, how high the dome should be, and where walls should be placed as to allow for a large, open space or several small intimate spaces. The previous repairs are interesting, too. I imagine Carrere and Hastings visiting the site, bringing along some of their drawings and blueprints so they can compare and make changes to what has already been built, and opps! one of them tears. An assistant scrambles for Scotch Tape, a stapler, or (in one instance) some paste and a brochure for the Hotel Ponce de Leon to serve as a Band-Aide.

Through this project, history is being preserved in both the content of the drawings and in the drawings themselves as historically significant objects.

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Conservation Treatment-Hotel Ponce de Leon Large Drawing

We have begun to work on some of the drawings in the worst condition. Yesterday, we completed the work on one of the largest floor plans for the Hotel Ponce de Leon. There are four drawings similar to this one that have all been kept in the same conditions.

These drawings are approximately eight feet wide and have been stored rolled up in tubes. Each drawing was originally three separate pieces of paper that were attached to one another. Due to the conditions in which they have been kept, they have started to separate from one another. For conservation and storage purposes, we are separating them into three sections. You can see where the three pieces have started to separate from one another in the photograph below.

This drawing has a lot of rodent damage (particularly on the left side) and many pieces have come loose. We are setting aside any loose pieces, which can be matched up after the three sections have been separated and flattened.

The first step in the conservation process of these drawings is to remove the cloth backing, which is extremely dirty and has mold as well as the remains of insects on it. Because of the previous exposure to humidity, the cloth backing is easily removed in strips.

The paper is in fragile, brittle condition. Since it has been stored in a roll, the paper wants to continue to curl on its own. In order to prevent it from breaking as we tried to flatten it, we used a humidifier to help relax the paper. After removing dirt from the drawing’s surface using a low intensity vacuum cleaner and soft brush, we backed it temporarily with heat-set tissue. This makes handling the fragile drawing easier. Because the tissue sticks to the paper, it also allows us to attach the smaller, broken off pieces in the right places.

After digitization, we will remove the heat-set tissue and back the drawing with Japanese paper.

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Conservation Treatment-Encapsulation

We have begun encapsulating the blueprints and drawings from the Presbyterian Church. This is the final step in the conservation process. After they are all encapsulated, they will be stored in flat files in the library. While most people will use the digital images of these documents for research, the originals will be available upon request. Encapsulating them will allow for safer handling.

We are encapsulating the documents in Mylar using an ultrasonic encapsulator, which forms a seal using sound waves. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity levels in the environment and other environmental factors such as dust and insects are some of the major agents of deterioration for delicate materials such as these drawings and blueprints. Encapsulating them creates a stable microclimate for the drawing/blueprint to “live” in and keep unwanted intruders out. Because of the chemical processes used to make blueprints and diazotypes, we only seal three sides. Sealing the entire paper would result in creating a microclimate that was damaging to the print.

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