Preservation Week Quiz

By Christina Amato, Book Conservator

In recognition of Preservation Week, NYAM conservators have prepared a quiz. The following mystery objects are used in the NYAM Gladys Brooks Book and Paper Conservation Lab. Prove your preservation moxie by choosing which description best matches each item.

Image 1:
Image 1a.  Pest remediation instrument. The small nozzle can reach into the gutters of books, and capture crawling insects and larva via suction. They are whisked into the clear chamber, where they will peacefully expire in the oxygen deprived environment.

b.   Nebulizer. The clear chamber is used to heat water, and the resulting steam can be directed very precisely with the small nozzle onto areas that require humidification (such as crumpled paper or vellum.) The chamber can also be filled with a dilute adhesive, which can be used to consolidate flaking media.

c.   Airbrush. The clear chamber is filled with dilute paint, usually watercolor or acrylic, and is used to tone cloth or Japanese paper for repairing books. It is also frequently used with leather dye to tone calf or goatskin.

Image 2:
Image 2

a.   Sewing frame. Books are occasionally completely disbound and resewn in the lab.  Cord, or linen “tape”, is pulled taut from the horizontal  bar to the base, and books are sewn onto the cords.

b.   Parchment stretching frame. Crumpled parchment is humidified, and attached to the frame using specialized clips. The horizontal bar is slowly raised until the parchment is taut, where it is left to dry.

c.   Traction device. Long hours spent stooped over a bench can lead to a host of orthopedic insults. Conservators are wise to take a few minutes every day to “stretch out on the rack.”

Image 3:
Image 3

a.   Pamphlet binder. Pamphlets are passed between the jaws of this device, which affixes the pages together with stainless steel tackets.  The jaws can be adjusted to accommodate pamphlets of varying thicknesses.

b.   Tape dispenser. Specialized mending tape is applied to torn pages when fed through the jaws. Can also be used with duct tape.

c.   Leather paring device.  A two-sided razor blade is attached to the top jaw; pieces of leather are passed through the jaws, until the desired thickness is reached.  It is often necessary to thin out leather quite a bit before using it to repair a book.

Image 4:
Image 4

a.   Pest Remediation Dome. Books that have been infected with insects can be placed inside the dome. Oxygen is gradually pumped out of the dome, gently suffocating any insects within.

b.   Incubator. Conservators in the Gladys Brooks Book and Paper Conservation lab are world renowned for their hand processed silk thread, which is used in a variety of conservation applications. Silk worms are lovingly and painstakingly raised in the dome from larva, until they are ready to be harvested.

c.   Humidity dome and suction table. Paper or vellum that requires humidification, for flattening, for example, can be placed inside the dome, where the humidity is gradually increased until the desired level is reached. Beneath the dome is a suction table; it can be used to force solvents through a piece of paper, for stain reduction and other applications. 

Image 5:
Image 5

a.   We don’t actually know. We saw it at Restoration Hardware, and thought it looked cool.

b.   Book Press. This is used to apply pressure to books, after treatment, to prevent warping during drying. It can also be used to flatten single sheets of paper.

c.   Book truck. Books are held in place underneath the platen; the truck can then be safely driven around the lab. The large wheel at the top is used for steering. 


1. b         2.  a        3. c         4. c         5. b


5 out of 5: Preservation Superstar! Congratulations! You are tapped into the pulse of preservation!

4 out of 5: Preservation B Lister: Not bad! You have a generally solid understanding of preservation!

3 out of 5: Preservation Dilettante: You know a little about preservation, but could stand to step it up.

2 out of 5: Preservation Novice: It sounds like preservation isn’t your strongest suit but there’s hope yet.

1 out of 5: Preservation Rookie: Things are not looking so good for you, preservation-wise.

0 out of 5: Preservation Lightweight: At least there’s nowhere to go but up.