What's Happening in Special Collections and University Archives

Gloves or No Gloves? On the Proper Handling of Rare Books & Manuscripts

Print this pageEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

The Spring 2015 issue of Portland State Magazine offers a cover story focusing on Texts of Time, the student-curated Library exhibit on a newly-acquired Medieval Book of Hours. We’ve heard questions from many readers, however, about the cover photograph, which shows a pair of bare hands holding the fifteenth-century manuscript. Some readers have wondered about proper handling of fragile materials and asked if it would be better to wear gloves.Photo of Book of Hours

We talked to Library Conservation Technician Carolee Harrison, who worked with the photographer on the photo shoot and whose hands are shown holding the book in the photographs. Carolee is well-known throughout the state for her knowledge of the care and repair of library materials. In her work, Carolee draws upon the recommendations of the Library of Congress:

“According to the Library of Congress, wearing gloves while handling antiquarian books may do more harm than good. Portland State University Library Special Collections follows their advice to handle most rare and valuable books with clean, dry hands.”

Specifically, the Library of Congress recommends the following: 

“Before handling any collection item, thoroughly wash and dry hands. Contrary to widespread belief, gloves are not necessarily recommended to handle rare or valuable books. Gloves (nitrile or vinyl) are always recommended if there is reason to suspect a health hazard (e.g., mold, arsenic). Clean gloves (nitrile, vinyl, or lint-free cotton) are also recommended when handling photograph albums/photographs or books with metal or ivory parts. Aside from those specific situations, it is generally preferable to handle your books with clean hands, washed with soap and thoroughly dried, rather than with gloves.”

Indeed, as conservators write in International Preservation News, the recommendation to use gloves is a dangerous and “pervasive myth” that may result in the tearing of pages. And gloves often carry far more dirt than clean hands. Please see “Misperceptions about White Gloves” in International Preservations News for more information.

We are pleased to learn of the Portland State community’s interest in rare book preservation! We welcome you to view the Book of Hours on display in the Library through mid-July.

Texts of Time: The Portland State Book of Hours and the Medieval Manuscript Tradition

Print this pageEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

May 4 – July 17, 2015
First Floor Exhibit Space

Please note: the Book of Hours manuscript will be on display Monday to Friday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. The accompanying materials are on display whenever the Library is open.

Photo of Book of HoursWith support from the Gordon Hunter Fund, Portland State University Library Special Collections recently acquired a late 15th century French Book of Hours, the first intact medieval manuscript owned by the Library. The Book of Hours was the most popular text during the late Medieval period.

A Book of Hours consisted of prayers and meditations that guided readers through the eight liturgical hours of the day celebrated by medieval Christians in Western Europe. These manuscripts were usually small enough to be carried around and sometimes decorated with colorful miniature paintings and gold leaf. A Book of Hours was an essential companion to a devout reader. Royal and wealthy patrons often owned several, lavishly decorated Books of Hours, but for a family of lesser rank, it was often the only book they owned.

Books of Hours were a compact version of the prayers recited at monasteries. They included calendars highlighting feast days, Gospel prayers, prayers to saints, and most importantly, prayers to the Virgin Mary. The prayers were divided into sections to be read from Matins to Compline with illuminations and decorative flourishes throughout. Books of Hours were highly personalized in their original design and later additions to the text made by their owners. Many Books of Hours were given as gifts and remained in families for generations. The Book of Hours presents a wealth of information about daily life and culture in medieval Europe.

Professor Anne McClanan’s art history seminar in winter 2015 prepared a digital and physical exhibit of the Portland State University Library Book of Hours. The physical exhibit is on display in the Library’s First Floor Exhibit Space from May 4 – July 17. The digital exhibit is available online.

bookofhours5 Photo of Book of Hours bookofhours2 bookofhours4

Primary Resources for Community Action: A Black History Forum at PSU Library

Print this pageEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

PrimaryResourcesImage2_small

Thursday, May 21, 2015
6:00-8:00pm
Library, 3rd Floor

PSU Library Special Collections invites you to a free forum on the exciting community and history projects stemming from the archival collections of Senator Avel Gordly and Otto and Verdell Rutherford.

Politician and educator Avel Gordly and community activists and historians Verdell and Otto Rutherford are key figures in Oregon history. Their dedication to social justice, racial equality, and advocacy for the Black community is documented in the historical records they maintained and preserved.

PSU Library Special Collections is the proud steward of the Gordly and Rutherford archives, which have served as vital resources for students, activists, historians, artists, and filmmakers, inspiring creativity and fortifying action.

Please join us to engage with people and projects that carry forward the spirit and the commitment of Senator Gordly and the Rutherford family. After a series of lightning talks by invited presenters, all will have the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas for collaboration, mentorship, strategic action, and the creation and preservation of a representative historical record.

Come share common ground enriched by these important historical collections and consider how the history you are creating today can be preserved as a foundation for future action.

Families are welcome! Refreshments will be served.

For more information, please contact PSU Library Special Collections by email or phone at 503-725-9883.

RSVP on Facebook

This event is hosted by PSU Library Special Collections with support from the PSU Diversity Action Council and the Office of Global Diversity and Inclusion.