Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Preservation vs Conservation

Written by Daniel DelViscio

People often use the terms “preservation and “conservation” interchangeably to convey the same meaning.  If you look up these terms in a dictionary you will probably see that one is provided as a synonym of the other. They both fundamentally mean the act of preventing decay.  In the museum and archives community, however, preservation and conservation are two very different processes.

The Smithsonian Institute defines preservation as, “the systematic application of principles that prolong the life of all collections materials—analog and digital”.2 Monitoring the conditions in which records are kept in is one of the ways in which archivists can preserve records before they need to be repaired by professional conservators. Conservation, on the other hand, primarily focuses on fixing individual materials that have been damaged over time, by natural disaster, or by accident. And while conservation often focuses on a single item, preservation takes into account the conditions of the entire archive by controlling things like temperature, humidity, and way in which the records are housed. Finally, conservation is typically much more expensive. 

In preservation, first and foremost is the proper handling of archival materials - such as wearing gloves when handling photographs. The second most important practice for archival preservation is the control of the climate within the archives. According to the National Archives to preserve documents and photographic materials conditions need to be maintained at around 650 between 35% and 45% relative humidity.1 This slows the aging process and keeps mold from forming. No one likes mold.

However, sometimes archivists are confronted by items that warrant restoration. Some institutions like larger universities and museums have internal conservation departments, but most archivists have to outsource to institutions that have the proper laboratories, tools, and trained conservators.

On March 19, 2015 a preservation assessment was conducted by Jessica Keister from the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia, PA. In the assessment, she highlighted this photograph of David Warner. Looking at the photograph we can see why it’s been flagged, and Keister explains that the photograph has been damaged by prolonged red iron staining from a tintype which was housed with the portrait. A photograph like this is an example of an item in need of conservation and not preservation.

But where do you go to get your materials put back together? For institutions in the north-eastern United States, the answer is the conservation department at the Winterthur Museum here in Delaware. Winterthur was established by Henry Algernon du Pont in the early 20th century to be both a home and a museum and today it houses one of the most prestigious institutions for conservation learning in the country.3 And on November 4th we at the Delaware State University Archives will take a special tour of Winterthur. But you’ll have to read about that in the next blog post.

            1. A. Ernest, Conrad. "Realistic  Environment." National Archives and Records Administration. March 1, 1999. Accessed October 15, 2015. https://www.archives.gov/preservation/environmental-control/realistic-preservation-environment.html.
2. "Preservation." Smithsonian Institution Archives. Accessed October 14, 2015. http://siarchives.si.edu/services/preservation#1.
3. "Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library." Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library. Accessed October 14, 2015. http://www.winterthur.org/?p=515&src=headerfooter.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Helmets Through History

Written by Daniel DelViscio

Do you wonder what football was like back in the day? Well here at the Delaware State University Archives we have a handful of sepia colored photographs displaying what the football team looked like. 

See those sweet leather hats? That was back when they didn’t have the newfangled polycarbonate helmets that protect you from concussions and probably sing you a nice lullaby when you go to bed at night. Helmets weren’t designated as mandatory protection until 1943 and it wasn’t unusual to see a mishmash of players on the field wearing different kinds of helmets or no helmets at all. The man who receives the most credit for inventing these first helmets is George Barclay in 1896.1 Back then it was known as the “head harness” and had three leather straps making it a tight fit.

Around 1915 helmets started looking more like they do today with the addition of more padding and flaps that covered the ears with holes for hearing. These were often referred to as Zuppke helmets after Robert Zuppke, the head football coach at the University of Illinois.2 In addition, straps of fabric were introduced in 1917 to better support the head and lessen the impact of a 250lb lineman folding you up like a taco.
Pictured to the right is a player on the 1955 football team shaking hands with the president Dr. Jerome H. Holland, but his helmet wouldn’t be developed until 1939, when the first plastic helmet prototype was created by John T. Riddell and they had some very big advantages over the old models.3 For one, they didn’t rot away like their leather predecessors and they were lighter as well as stronger. Unfortunately the helmets also had some big problems first and foremost being that they were too brittle and couldn’t handle direct blows often shattering on impact.3 So the helmet was made rounder so that collisions were more likely to be deflected. They looked something like the helmets in this 1951 Delaware State College vs. Bluefield State game.

The next big advance was the introduction of the BT-5 face mask in 1955, which at first was a rubber-coated steel tube formed into a single bar over the front of the helmet and over time has become a cage to protect the face of the players, and help referees add a new type of penalty flag to fling.4 Further improvements to the helmet came in the 1970s when some tinkering was done with various shock absorbing systems for inside the helmet like anti-freeze solvent and vinyl cushions. Over the years small alterations have been added for the safety of players and we hope the egg-head engineers keep coming up with new ways to keep our players safe, because we love football.

There you go, a little history to go with the homecoming celebration coming up. As a parting gift here is a picture of the homecoming football game played in 1954, go hornets!



1. Nelson, David M. The Anatomy of a Game: Football, the Rules, and the Men Who   Made the Game. 1st ed. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press ;, 1994.

2. Forthofer, Jason. "A History of Leather Football Helmets." Goarticles.com. 27 Apr. 2009. Web. 22 Oct. 2015. http://goarticles.com/article/A-History-of-Leather-Football-Helmets/1569349/

3. Stamp, Jimmy. "Leatherhead to Radio-head: The Evolution of the Football Helmet." Smithsonian.com. October 1, 2012. Accessed October 22, 2015. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/leatherhead-to-radio-head-the-evolution-of-the-football-helmet-56585562/.

4. Gambini, Bert. "The Otto Graham Myth and the Evolution of the Face Mask ." ClevelandBrowns.com. May 20, 2014. Accessed October 22, 2015. http://www.clevelandbrowns.com/news/article-1/The-Otto-Graham-Myth-and-the-Evolution-of-the-Face-Mask/572726b4-eca8-4e21-aa17-b99b28e735f4.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Professor Joseph R. Fugett

It is always thrilling when a patron walks through the front door of the archives with a question on the tip of their tongue.  They are typically on a mission and hoping that I can point them directly to the answers they seek.  Unfortunately, due to the youth of the DSU archives and the amount of backlogged collections, answers are often elusive.

Yesterday, the story unfolded differently when Ms. Yvonne came to see us.  She was seeking evidence of Joseph R. Fugett’s presence at the State College for Colored Students.

In the early 20th century Mr. Fugett was a 20-something African American man who was paving the way for black youths in the world of education.  He had been educated at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where he attained a bachelor’s degree in agriculture.  From there he ventured to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where he worked as an animal husbandry instructor.  After that he made his way to Dover, Delaware where he was an agriculture professor under the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 which provided vocational education to future farmers.

 Ms. Yvonne knew all of this before she even arrived at Delaware State University.  However, knowing the information is one thing, and seeking to determine the impact Mr. Fugett had at the State College for Colored Students is something entirely different.  Ms. Yvonne wanted to be sure that the special man she had loved as a child was somehow still present at Delaware State University and appreciated by others.

I thought for sure she would be disappointed, but after exhausting nearly all of the materials pertaining to the State College for Colored Students, her exclamation of “I found it!! I found it,” rang out from the corner of the archives she was occupying.  

She held a news article clipped from The State Sentinel in 1919.  The article was an annual report of the college written by President William C. Jason, and it included a description of her grandfather’s work. It read, “We are under obligation also to the Commissioner of Education for the introduction of the course in vocational agriculture.  A competent and progressive young man, Mr. J.R. Fugett, a graduate of Cornell University, with added experience in teaching and practices, was placed in charge of this new department.”

Ms. Yvonne was beaming.  Here was evidence that her grandfather was appreciated during his term, and proof that he could continue to be remembered.

Ms. Yvonne’s experience was a pleasant reminder to me, Jasmine, and Dan that the archives business is not about remembering great men, but men who did great things large and small.  We thank Ms. Yvonne for passing an afternoon with us. 

Written by Joy Scherry

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Meet Daniel DelViscio


My name is Daniel DelViscio and I will be working as an Archival Fellow in the Delaware State University Archives and Special Collections. I am from Philadelphia and have lived there all my life.

For my undergraduate degree I went to Penn State where I earned a very useless English degree. As a result of my inability to find a job along with my lack of desire to teach ankle biting kids I decided to further my education and crippling financial debt by completing a master’s degree. I quickly selected library science as my choice and completed my master’s degree in library science at Clarion University, which is located in northwestern Pennsylvania. Originally, I wanted to earn my degree to become a librarian, but as a result of one of my class assignments I quickly changed that idea. The assignment was to visit two archives - a small repository and a large archive. After a visit to the University of Penn Museum Archives I was inspired and decided that archival work was something I wanted to do.

The largest factor in changing my focus from library to archival studies was the opportunity to work with original, historic materials. Unlike in a library, just about all the records and collections within archives are original and can only be found in that archive. For example, at the University of Penn Museum Archives much of the collections pertained to the artifacts of the museum, various archeological dig sites the museum has been involved in, and the people historically associated with the museum. In essence, the University of Penn Museum Archives is the institutional memory of the museum and without it there wouldn’t be vital information about the people and artifacts that have passed through the museum over the years.  I’m guessing the same is true of the archives at Delaware State University. 

I really look forward to working in the archives for DSU. From what I’ve already learned it has a rich history and I can’t wait to delve into more. I look forward to the exhibits we at the archives will be bringing to you in the near future.

Written by Daniel DelViscio