Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ecology and climatology resources

(by Sara Diamond, Archives Specialist)

I am really excited to be going back to my old stomping grounds across the Bay today to present a poster at the Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century.  This conference is being held at U.C. Berkeley from March 25-27. I am presenting this poster at the Valley Life Science building on the Cal Campus today Thursday March 26. I will be talking it up from 4 to 6 pm:

Look for my new Flat Hat. 

The poster will travel next week to Oakland for the National Park Service’s George Wright Conference.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Behind the scenes in Technical Services: fixing the Romance of Piracy

(by Heather Hernandez, Technical Services Librarian)

As any reader knows, despite our best intentions, books are occasionally damaged.  Here in the Collections Dept., we do a lot of repairs on our collections materials, including repairs and stabilization of items upon receipt--a lot of items are in bad shape when they arrive, and we repair and stabilize them so they can be used for research by our users.

The books shelved in our main stacks are not only used by researchers in the Reading Room of the Research Center, but unlike our rare books, they also circulate to staff, and to researchers at other libraries via interlibrary loan.  (Rare books never leave the Research Center, and the decision process for their preservation is entirely different--they are preserved as acquired and often placed in protective enclosures.)  Sometimes we decide to simply replace a damaged stacks copy by purchasing one in better condition, but when we can't easily replace the copy, or repair is more efficient than replacement, we repair it.

One such item is our copy of the Romance of Piracy--the bottom of its spine was damaged.  This typically happens when a book is dropped.  This is a picture of the spine at the bottom of the book, showing the spine slightly detached from the front board (the front cover).  The book is held spine up in a finishing press, ready for repair:

Using an adhesive that is a mixture of wheat starch and methyl cellulose in water, which is fully reversible in water (should we ever wish to reverse the repair), I used a small piece of hanji paper to repair the spine, placing part of the hanji paper under the rumpled and partially detached spine piece, and overlapping a bit onto the front cover:

Then a piece of wax paper is placed on the repair, with waste paper behind that to absorb moisture, and the book is wrapped in a bandage to apply pressure to the repair, so it dries as flat as possible.  It's left like this overnight (and I'm always impatient in the morning to see how it came out!)

This is the dried repair, with the book back in the finishing press, so I can easily trim the hanji paper's little threads that hang below the bottom of the book:

The final step is coloring the hanji paper so that it blends with the rest of the book binding with some colored pencils--this is purely for aesthetic reasons.  The finished repair:

And, most importantly, the book is now sound, and opens and closes again as it should, and is ready  to be read again!

Want to know more about preservation, conservation, and caring for collections?  CoOL, Conservation Online has lots of information and links, including Conservation/Preservation Information for the General Public.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Digging for Gold at the Research Center: Knives!

(by Gina Bardi, Reference Librarian)

For my birthday (I’m still accepting gifts... feel free to mail them in) my husband got me a beautiful sailor’s knife.  What makes a sailor’s knife a sailor’s knife and not just a regular ol’ knife? For one thing, it has a hole drilled into the end so it can dangle from a lanyard around your neck- For another and this is the more pertinent part, it is blunt on one side of the tip.

The knife opened

The knife closed

There is a very good reason for this. Sea going vessels are dangerous places; not the least so for some of the men aboard. Sailors needed knives, but it was a good idea if they had a knife that was more suited for cutting ropes than for stabbing.  

In The Ashley book of knots, Clifford Ashley makes note of this feature saying:

A sailor’s knife frequently has a blunt point and, in addition to its professional uses, is the sailor’s only eating utensil. On long voyages a cautious shipmaster will lead the whole crew aft to the carpenter’s vise and have the point of each knife snapped off to resemble the rigger’s knife (20).

In the book Shanghaiing Days by Richard Dillion, tells of an 1851 voyage of the Challenge (which would prove to be an extremely memorable voyage… for the crew who made it back alive). Before she sailed and during the captain’s “long-drawn-out harangue” his mates, on his order, “industriously and diligently ransacked the crew’s sea bags and chests in the forecastle”. Once this was done, “Captain Waterman chose the watches and had each man lay his sheath knife on the main hatch where the carpenter neatly broke off the point of each blade.” (85-86). This act rendered the knife useless as a quick weapon. I found another story in the book The Making of a sailor by Frederick Pease Harlow which is almost an exact retelling of the Challenge’s. In an 1875 voyage of the ship Akbar, the mate, Mr. Burris, has each man on his watch hand him his sheath knife. Much to some of their surprises, he breaks the tips off.

              You probably didn’t have the mate, in your last ship, break the point off
of your knife, “ said Mr. Burris, “But I always keep a ship sweet and clean
by seeing that every knife aboard the ship has no point. This is for your own
protection. If you get into a fight with a shipmate you know you can’t stick
him with your knife or he, you. Knowing this you both will fight like men and
use your fists, the weapons God has given you to fight with (91).

As opposed to the captain of the Challenge, Mr. Burris was only doing his job. In 1866, 15 years after the Challenge and 11 years before the Akbar, a statute was written which banned sailors from carrying sheathed knives, meaning they had to carry pocket knives instead. Sheathed knives were determined to be too dangerous.
The statute reads:

SEO 4608: No seaman in the merchant service shall wear any sheath knife on shipboard. It shall be the duty of the master of any enrolled or licensed under the laws of the United and of the person entering into contract for the employment of a upon any such vessel to inform every person offering to ship himself provisions of this section and to require his compliance under a penalty of fifty dollars for each omission to be sued for recovered in the name of the United States under the direction of Secretary of the Treasury one half for the benefit of the informer the other halt for the benefit of the fund for the relief of sick and seamen.
(46 USCA. Sec. 710. 1866.)

This was a long time coming, apparently for in 1838, there is an article in the Army and Navy Chronicle which states that ship-masters met in Philadelphia to have “measures adopted to prevent the dangerous and unchristian practice prevalent amoung sailors, of wearing sheath knives or daggers, while engaged in their ordinary work” (204).

Unfortunately, I don’t know how well these provisions worked.  A quick search of the California Digital Newspaper Collection using the search terms “Sailor” and “stabbed” and setting the date after 1866 brings up 646 results! Now granted many of those are about sailors being stabbed on shore, but some do take place at sea.  Here’s one from 1884, one from 1887 and one from 1898.

This isn’t just a quaint practice of the past.  I was talking with Charter Kays, a shipwright here at the park and a true Renaissance Man (He sails! He rides horses! He builds things!) and he told me that even up until the 1970’s when he was sailing, the mate cut the tip off of his knife. It happened to him on the brigantine Romance. The captain, Captain Kimberly, was an old school sailor and liked adhering to the “old ways” so, all the knives on board were untipped.
Of course none of this explains why the marlin spike was allowed…

Army and Navy Chronicle. Benjamin Homans, 1838. Print.
Ashley, Clifford W. The Ashley Book of Knots. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1944.  Print. 

Dillon, Richard H. Shanghaiing Days. New York: Coward-McCann, 1961. Print.

Harlow, Frederick Pease. The Making of a Sailor; Or, Sea Life Aboard a Yankee Square-Rigger. Salem, Mass: Marine Research Society, 1928. Print.

Peters, Richard, George Minot, and George P. Sanger. United States Statutes at Large: Containing the Laws and Concurrent Resolutions ... and Reorganization Plan, Amendment to the Constitution, and Proclamations. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1868. Print.