In this long overdue blog entry, I’ll recount the work I’ve been doing and the experiences I’ve had as a student assistant at Special Collections over the past month. I’ve been assigned with the conservation and digitization of the Friendly Association Papers, a collection of documents from the mid-eighteenth century that chronicle the efforts of a bunch of Philadelphia Quakers as they sought to arrest the escalating violence between Native Americans and settlers in Pennsylvania . The Papers contain a fascinating mix of journals, letters, minutes of conferences, receipts of trade between merchants and Native Americans, land deeds etc. The details of this effort to resolve conflict by fiercely advocating pacifism are worthy of several separate blog posts. For now, I’ll focus on my role in preserving this collection for posterity.
Within a few days of starting my job, I was left wondering about the extent to which the alkalinity of a solution of ammonium hydroxide decreases after a container of it is left open overnight. Let me backtrack and elaborate on my duties to shed some light on how I managed to land myself in such a quandary. I alternate between working in the main Special Collections section located towards the back of Magill and the bindery on the library’s 1st tier.
In Special Collections, I operate the camera-stand shown on the left to photograph the documents after they’ve been treated in the bindery and catalog the images before they are uploaded online to Triptych, the tri-college digital library. All of the above tasks take place under the watchful eyes of Anne Moore, the Digital Collections Librarian, and Bruce Bumbarger, the Library Conservator responsible for the bindery. The bindery is a pretty neat place, containing books and manuscripts in varying stages of disrepair as well as housing the hardware and chemicals needed to treat these books and bring them back into a satisfactory condition. The ammonium hydroxide I previously mentioned is one such chemical used in the conservation of the Papers to insure the documents are thoroughly de-acidified before they are re-housed. Besides being treated with ammonium hydroxide, the documents are also put through a series of baths (pictured above) to make them less brittle and remove the iron in the ink responsible for the corrosion endangering the documents. Recently, Magill hired two summer interns (one of whom is the possessor of the appendage in the right picture) specializing in library conservation to speed along the process of conserving the Papers. Hopefully, you’ll be hearing from them soon.
In my time at Haverford, I’ve developed the lucky habit of meeting interesting people in the most random of places. My streak continued when I ran into David Cook, MD, class of ’64 in the bindery where he occasionally volunteers. I remember a conversation with David in which I was really struck by the numerous changes Haverford has undergone since he was a student here. Apart from the obvious dearth of XX chromosomes, there were many open areas of land that are now carrying the weight of buildings which we take for granted, including Gummere. After being forced to live there in the 1st week of summer, I have to say that sounds like a reasonably fair trade-off, even though I’m sure most of my peers would beg to differ. Anyway, I’m veering off-track now. It just seems really cool that an alumnus has continued to maintain such a close association with the college after the elapse of such a long time. I can only wish that I have the same relationship with Haverford long after I graduate.