Friday, February 2, 2018

Conservation Treatment Tiers: An Aid to Prioritization

Staff members often need to know how much time a repair might take in order to prioritize work or to give an estimate to a donor who would like to sponsor a project. In 2017 the staff in the Bentley Conservation Lab devised a more comprehensible method of estimating repair time. A three-tier system didn’t seem detailed enough so we started with four and tweaked it over the next couple months until we settled on our five-tier system.
                Our Tier One category (less than one-hour repair) responds to requests for a quick fix-- examples below. Tier Five designates projects that are very involved and will take more than ten hours. There is a lot of area between “less than one hour” and “more than ten” so we broke it down into three more tiers that fit with our most common types of projects.
                The legend (below right) hangs in our lab for easy reference.  The bar graph is useful in reporting to our administration (through the Business Intelligence Committee) about the types of projects we handle and how long they take. It doesn’t report ongoing work, just the projects that have been completed each month.

Graph for Business Intelligence Report and legend for Conservation Lab

Tier 1: < 1 Hr.

                 A Tier One item might be popped in between longer projects or at the end of a day when starting a larger project doesn’t seem efficient. A Tier One is often done immediately because it is needed by the digitization lab which makes it high priority. Another example is when a researcher in our reading room requests an item and Reference staff finds the item in such need of repair that it might be damaged in handling.  Some examples are mending small tears, ironing wrinkles, and removing sewing or staples.

Ironing on a quick mend

Tier 2: 1 - 3 Hrs.

               Tier Two covers slightly more time-consuming repairs such as making portfolio-style boxes or encapsulating scrapbook leaves when they are too fragile to be rebound but must be protected.

Scrapbook pages encapsulated in polyester film

Inside view of a portfolio style box

A finished portfolio style box

Tier 3: 3 - 5 Hrs.

               Examples of Tier Three jobs are mending maps or drawings, depending on the extent of the tears and number of items. The photos show tears in a map and previous tape repair that needs to be removed from fragile tracing paper.

Damaged drawings on tracing paper drawing

Multiple types of tape on tracing paper drawing

Map torn and separated at the fold

Tier 4: 5 - 10 Hrs.

               This Ann Arbor Film festival document was a hand-made scroll with many types of tapes and adhesives, definitely Tier Four, as were the founding documents of the University of Michigan Philosophical Society. The book was in pieces and so important to the university’s history that it was given a ¾ leather binding.

12 foot Ann Arbor Film Festival collaged scroll

2 images of the scroll, detailing tape, adhesive and loose items

University of Michigan Philosophical Society founding documents, before treatment

Inside detail

Detail of rusty staples and worn signature folds

Finishing the ¾ leather binding

Tier 5: > 10 Hrs. 

         Tier Five projects are those that take over ten hours and we try to estimate just how many that might be. In this case we had a scrapbook of extremely acidic and crumbling paper with newspaper articles that were fragile, wrinkled and torn. We photographed each page before removing the items then used those photos for proper placement on the new pages.  The new scrapbook was larger so the articles could be displayed without overlapping.

Scrapbook, before treatment

Scrapbook pages were numbered and photographed for identification

The photos were used to match fragments of articles for proper placement

Reconstructed articles and polyester film pockets on new scrapbook leaves

Original Cover

Finished scrapbook- at long last!

               Our treatment tiers are serving their purpose and mesh well with the Bentley's system of prioritization. (Hint: it involves a COLORFUL spreadsheet!) More about that in our next rip-roaring installment.  

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