This week I began to focus in earnest on the conservation of a collection of Lantern slides from the 1930’s. The countertops for the conservation lab cabinets are ordered and their delivery and install are taking the wind out of a lot of other sails, including the conservation project. We order supplies as we run out. We focus on information gathering and surveying the collections and planning how we are going to run the volunteer days when the lab is complete. There will be much rejoicing when the lab is done.
In the meantime, last week the information paper trail thinned, PastPerfect arrived, and the user’s manual was developed. I felt justified in doing a little actual conservation work. Then the countertops were back ordered until the 5th of March. It’s always something. But no matter, we pressed on with the conservation under the excuse of piloting the system we’d set up for the volunteers.
It’s imperative that artifacts like delicate lantern slides get priority care, anyway. The outside temperature is heating up as “spring” approaches the desert. Getting the glass slides into the building while the inside and outside temperature are similar was a big priority. That accomplished, the ideal environment for slides minimizes direct light and provides a cool environment to counteract the chemical break down of the image. For the archeology collections, I’m encouraging a swift processing time except for extraordinary artifacts, but I’m demanding that each slide get full processing attention. They are wiped clean with an ultra soft non-lint cloth, any conservation needs met where possible and noted where not, a detailed description of the image is recorded, and they are placed in 4-flap non-acidic enclosures.
The slides are in pretty good shape for being through a devastating earthquake. That said, approximately 400 are missing and we don’t know yet if they were destroyed in the quake or simply loaned out. There are several truly compelling images of the Imperial Valley, and a few surprises like photos of the Taft inauguration procession. We also had a shock when an image of a ceramic pipe that I’d held in my hands only a few days previously surfaced among the slides. The pipe wasn’t marked with an accession number so that slide image saved us one heck of a headache. Scanning the slide collection accession records revealed a description of the pipe – right next to the rabbit sticks, which similarly had a slide image, but had the wrong accession number affixed to the artifact. I feel vindicated in my chosen profession as we are beginning to realize that the secret to this collection inventory lies in the archives.