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Friday, May 17 • 11:00am - 11:30am
(Sustainability) A Case For A New Case Paper: From Farm to Table to Desk to Bench

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Co-Authors: Eric Benson, Quinn Ferris, Jennifer Hain Teper, Anneka Vetter 

In the spring of 2018, a class of students led by conservators at the University of Illinois Library took a field trip to Fresh Press Agricultural Fiber Papermaking Lab, housed within the University of Illinois’ School of Art and Design. After the students and instructors experienced the steps and products of agricultural fiber sheet formation first-hand, they were struck by an idea—what if a cross-campus collaboration could yield a new source of paper for conservation use?

Paper case bindings, based on historical structures and modified using conservation-friendly materials, have been championed by notable book conservators from Christopher Clarkson to Gary Frost.  They are often selected as a rebinding option due to their reversibility, durability, flexibility, and inexpensiveness. In the past, the use of flax-based heavy weight handmade papers, such as PC4 Flax Case paper from the University of Iowa and Cave paper out of Minneapolos, MN, have been preferred for these bindings. But more recently, the supply of these papers have dwindled, leaving conservators searching for suitable alternatives. Though papers made from bast fibers (such as cotton or linen) have remained popular due to their good working and aging characteristics, the production of such papers do not prioritize sustainable practices. Historical treatises on using alternatives to bast or lignin-rich fibers, such as straw, date back to the early 19th century, though such material choices did not become the mainstream. 

Since 2011, Fresh Press has been conducting research on how to change the paper supply chain from forest to farm by exploring regional sustainable agricultural fiber waste as paper and paper products (like packaging and building materials). A partnership between Fresh Press and the University Library Conservation Lab is currently underway to investigate the physical, material, and chemical characteristics of handmade paper sourced from regional agricultural waste. The goal of this partnership is to co-engineer a more environmentally friendly and locally sourced paper that would meet the needs of the book conservator, fill the void in the case paper market, and help further the mission at Fresh Press to “change the paper supply chain from forest to farm.” 

The most important characteristics of conservation case paper are its strength, fold endurance, and longevity, which we hypothesize are reproducible with fibers other than the traditional flax. The locally sourced agricultural fibers from the U of I's Sustainable Student Farm being investigated for case paper include corn, soybean, tomato, miscanthus, rye, big blue stem, hemp, switch grass, and sun flower, among others. Experiments will quantify and compare each paper’s acidity, yellowness, fiber length, tensile strength, basis weight, moisture content, caliper, density, bulk, smoothness, porosity, stiffness, burst strength, tear strength and folding endurance. Through a collaboration with the mechanical engineering department, these tests will be conducted following the Technical Association of Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) guidelines and protocols. The data gathered will guide which fibers and blends are selected to maximize strength and fold endurance for case paper. In addition, accelerated aging studies will be conducted to determine projected longevity and the ability of the fibers to stand up to conservation practices.
This presentation will describe and evaluate the collaborative research and experimentation undertaken to create a new, locally and sustainably sourced case paper for conservation rebinding at the University of Illinois and beyond as we consider the future impact of our findings.

avatar for Quinn Morgan Ferris

Quinn Morgan Ferris

Senior Conservator for Special Collections, University of Illinois
Quinn Morgan Ferris is the Senior Conservator for Special Collections at the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign, where she started as the Rare Book Conservator in 2016. Quinn's current position at the U of I includes conservation treatment and planning for Special... Read More →
avatar for Jennifer Hain Teper-[Fellow]

Jennifer Hain Teper-[Fellow]

Head of Preservation, University of Illinois Library
Jennifer Hain Teper serves as the Velde Preservation Librarian at the University of Illinois Libraries overseeing conservation, collections care, digital preservation, and digitization services throughout the library system. Before her current position began in 2009, she served as... Read More →

avatar for Eric Benson

Eric Benson

Associate Professor & Chair of Graphic Design, University of Illinois
Eric Benson was born in Arizona and raised in Mid-Michigan where he later received his BFA in graphic and industrial design from the University of Michigan in 1998. He worked professionally as a UI/UX designer at Razorfish and Texas Instruments before he received his MFA in design... Read More →

Friday May 17, 2019 11:00am - 11:30am EDT
Shinnecock/Nipmuc Rooms Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Sustainability
  • Track Sustainability
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Eric Benson, Quinn Ferris, Jennifer Hain-Teper, Anneka Vetter
  • Abstract ID 19089
  • Tags Paper making,case paper,conservation binding,sustainability,collaborative research,book and paper