Each year in Special Collections we do a minimum of three large-scale exhibits as well as numerous smaller (single case) exhibits. These exhibits are used for a variety of outreach purposes, from working with graduate students, faculty, and alumni to showcasing special collections materials and drawing in students, classes, and the wider university community.
While the Special Collections exhibits are an integral part of our mission, exhibiting materials can be quite damaging if not done properly. It is my responsibility as the Preservation Librarian to ensure the materials are exhibited safely. This includes using existing cradles and creating custom cradles and supports to protect the books and their bindings from undue stress. I have already shared some of our techniques for safely installing exhibits, both here and here. However, we in preservation are constantly striving to increase our knowledge and awareness of preservation best practices. As such, I had a chance to attend the Don’t Rock the Cradle Symposium last week in Washington DC. Held at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the three-day symposium focused on book cradles and book supports for exhibition.
The symposium was excellently organized and presented. Attendees heard presentations from the functional requirements of book supports, on-site construction of custom exhibit mounts, and the aesthetics of book cradles to creating cradles for miniature books, exhibiting bound Japanese books, and using magnets for mounting and exhibit purposes. I was introduced to a wealth of materials and techniques for creating and installing book supports including the use of museum board, acrylic, and magnets to custom make supports, as well as a comprehensive overview of commercially available cradles along with their pros and cons.
Topics such as measuring books for cradles, the best presentation angle and opening angle for both preservation and display, and how to properly support the entire book through strapping and the use of foam inserts were covered extensively.
Also helpful to me were the presentations covering exhibit planning and preparation. Techniques for working with curators on the selection of materials and exhibit case layout as well as creating workflow timelines were covered in detail.
Attendees also had the chance to view and handle an extensive collection of exhibit cradles, both commercially available and custom made by participants.
Overall, this symposium was extremely useful to me in my position as Preservation Librarian and I am excited to share what I’ve learned and apply my newfound knowledge and inspiration to our exhibits here in Special Collections.