Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

Call numbers for microfilm

In order to make it easier for people to find specific rolls in the cabinets and to maintain order in the cabinets, we (Deb, Sarah, Sandra, and Wendy) have devised a system of “call numbers” that will apply only to the microfilm in this collection (microfilm of books or journals will be classified according to the Library of Congress scheme, per usual).  As you can see in the table below, we have created a system that uses the first few letters of the city, followed by a number that has been assigned to the holding institutions in that city. As microfilm are processed in the course of the project, the last part of the call number will be assigned: for example, ATH.1.1, ATH.1.2, ATH.1.3, ATH.1.4…, then WEST.ATH.1.1, WEST.ATH.1.2, … for microfilm of manuscripts from the Benaki Museum.

Because Dumbarton Oaks promised the Westerink family that his microfilm would be kept separate from the rest of the collection, microfilm from the Westerink estate have call numbers prefaced by WEST and will be housed in a cabinet as a subcollection. The microfilm from other donors is integrated within the general collection, but the source of the microfilm is noted in the “Acquired” field in the database.

If you identify manuscripts that are held in institutions other than those represented in this table, please see Deb or Sarah to devise an appropriate “call number.”

NB – click through to see the whole post, including call numbers!

Cities in alphabetical order Call numbers Westerink call numbers
Athens Benaki Museum ATH.1 WEST.ATH.1
Athens National Library ATH.2 WEST.ATH.2
Athens Gennadius Library ATH.3 WEST.ATH.3
Baltimore Walters Art Gallery BAL.1 WEST.BAL.1
Basel Universitätsbibliothek BAS.1 WEST.BAS.1
Berlin Staatsbibliothek – Preussischer Kulturbesitz BERL.1 WEST.BERL.1
Bern Stadtbibliothek BERN.1 WEST.BERN.1
Besançon Bibliotheque de l’Université de Franche-Comté BES.1 WEST.BES.1
Bethesda National Library of Medicine BET.1 WEST.BET.1
Bologna Biblioteca Universitaria BOL.1 WEST.BOL.1
Brussels Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique BRU.1 WEST.BRU.1
Bucharest Academia Romana BUC.1 WEST.BUC.1
Bucharest Biblioteca Nationala BUC.2 WEST.BUC.2
Budapest BUD.1 WEST.BUD.1
Cambridge Cambridge University Library CAMK.1 WEST.CAMK.1
Cambridge Trinity College Library CAMK.2 WEST.CAMK.2
Cambridge, MA Houghton Library CAMS.1 WEST.CAMS.1
Copenhagen Kongelige Bibliotek COP.1 WEST.COP.1
Dēmētsana Library DEM.1 WEST.DEM.1
Dresden Sächsische Landesbibliothek DRE.1 WEST.DRE.1
Dublin Trinity College Library DUB.1 WEST.DUB.1
Erfurt Bibliotheca Amploniana ERF.1 WEST.ERF.1
Erlangen Universitätsbibliothek ERL.1 WEST.ERL.1
Florence Biblioteca Marucelliana FLO.1 WEST.FLO.1
Florence Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana FLO.2 WEST.FLO.2
Florence Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze FLO.3 WEST.FLO.3
Florence Biblioteca Riccardiana FLO.4 WEST.FLO.4
Geneva Basilian Monastery GEN.1 WEST.GEN.1
Geneva City Library GEN.2 WEST.GEN.2
Glasgow University of Glasgow Library GLA.1 WEST.GLA.1
Göttingen Niedersächsiche Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek GOT.1 WEST.GOT.1
Grottaferrata Biblioteca GRO.1 WEST.GRO.1
Hamburg Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek HAM.1 WEST.HAM.1
Heidelberg Universitätsbibliothek HEI.1 WEST.HEI.1
Holkham Earls of Leicester Library HOL.1 WEST.HOL.1
Istanbul Patriarchate Library IST.1 WEST.IST.1
Istanbul Topkapi Palace IST.2 WEST.IST.2
Los Angeles, CA J. Paul Getty Museum LAN.1 WEST.LAN.1
Jerusalem Armenian Patriarchate JER.1 WEST.JER.1
Jerusalem Ecumenical Patriarchate JER.2 WEST.JER.2
Jerusalem Greek Patriarchate JER.3 WEST.JER.3
Karlsruhe Badische Landesbibliothek KAR.1 WEST.KAR.1
Leiden Rijksuniversiteit Bibliotheek LEID.1 WEST.LEID.1
Leipzig Universitätsbibliothek LEIP.1 WEST.LEIP.1
London British Library LON.1 WEST.LON.1
London Royal Institute of British Architects LON.2 WEST.LON.2
Madrid Biblioteca Nacional MAD.1 WEST.MAD.1
Madrid El Escorial MAD.2 WEST.MAD.2
Manchester John Rylands University Library MAN.1 WEST.MAN.1
Messina Biblioteca Universitaria MES.1 WEST.MES.1
Metēora   MET.1 WEST.MET.1
Milan Biblioteca Ambrosiana MIL.1 WEST.MIL.1
Modena Biblioteca Estense Universitaria MOD.1 WEST.MOD.1
Moscow State Historical Museum MOS.1 WEST.MOS.1
Mount Athos Dionysiou Monastery MTA.1 WEST.MTA.1
Mount Athos Docheiariou Monastery MTA.2 WEST.MTA.2
Mount Athos Esphigmenou Monastery MTA.3 WEST.MTA.3
Mount Athos Great Lavra Monastery MTA.4 WEST.MTA.4
Mount Athos Great Lavra Monastery, Skete of St. Anne MTA.5 WEST.MTA.5
Mount Athos Gregoriou Monastery MTA.6 WEST.MTA.6
Mount Athos Hilandar Monastery MTA.7 WEST.MTA.7
Mount Athos Iveron Monastery MTA.8 WEST.MTA.8
Mount Athos Karakallou Monastery MTA.9 WEST.MTA.9
Mount Athos Koutloumousiou Monastery MTA.10 WEST.MTA.10
Mount Athos Panteleimon Monastery MTA.11 WEST.MTA.11
Mount Athos Pantokrator Monastery MTA.12 WEST.MTA.12
Mount Athos Stauroniketa Monastery MTA.13 WEST.MTA.13
Mount Athos Vatopedi Monastery MTA.14 WEST.MTA.14
Mount Athos Xeropotamou Monastery MTA.15 WEST.MTA.15
Mount Sinai Monastery of Saint Catherine MTS.1 WEST.MTS.1
Munich Bayerische Staatsbibliothek MUN.1 WEST.MUN.1
Naples Biblioteca Nazionale NAP.1 WEST.NAP.1
New Haven Beinecke Library NWH.1 WEST.NWH.1
Oxford Bodleian Library OXF.1 WEST.OXF.1
Oxford Corpus Christi College Library OXF.2 WEST.OXF.2
Padua Biblioteca Universitaria di Padova PAD.1 WEST.PAD.1
Palermo Biblioteca Centrale della Regione Siciliana PAL.1 WEST.PAL.1
Palermo Biblioteca Comunale PAL.2 WEST.PAL.2
Paris Bibliothèque Nationale PARI.1 WEST.PARI.1
Parma Biblioteca Palatina PARM.1 WEST.PARM.1
Patmos Monastery of Saint John PAT.1 WEST.PAT.1
Princeton Princeton University Library PRI.1 WEST.PRI.1
Rome Biblioteca Angelica ROM.1 WEST.ROM.1
Rome Biblioteca Casanatense ROM.2 WEST.ROM.2
Rome Biblioteca Palatina ROM.3 WEST.ROM.3
Rome Biblioteca Vallicelliana ROM.4 WEST.ROM.4
St. Petersburg National Library STP.1 WEST.STP.1
Strasbourg, France STF.1 WEST.STF.1
Thessalonikē Anatolia College THE.1 WEST.THE.1
Thessalonikē Aristotle University THE.2 WEST.THE.2
Tiblisi National Academy of Sciences TIB.1 WEST.TIB.1
Tírnavos Library TIR.1 WEST.TIR.1
Turin Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria TUR.1 WEST.TUR.1
Uppsala Universitetsbiblioteket UPP.1 WEST.UPP.1
Urbana IL University of Illinois URB.1 WEST.URB.1
Vatican City Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana VAT.1 WEST.VAT.1
Vatican City Vatican Archives VAT.2 WEST.VAT.2
Venice Archivio de Stato VEN.1 WEST.VEN.1
Venice Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana VEN.2 WEST.VEN.2
Vienna Österreichische Nationalbibliothek VIE.1 WEST.VIE.1
Washington, D.C. Dumbarton Oaks Museum WAS.1 WEST.WAS.1
Wolfenbüttel Herzog August Bibliothek WOL.1 WEST.WOL.1
Yerevan Matenadaran YER.1 WEST.YER.1
Zurich Zentralbibliothek ZUR.1 WEST.ZUR.1
May 31, 2011

Pinakes: Textes et manuscrits grecs database

A common question from patrons is “Do you have any microfilm with texts of [specific Byzantine author]?” Originally, we planned to include contents in the finding aid in order to answer just this question, but, during the planning stages, we learned that the Institut de recherche et d’histoire de textes (hereafter IRHT) has built a free database from the printed catalogs of libraries and is gradually integrating information about the contents of individual manuscripts. Rather than duplicate IRHT’s efforts, we decided to eliminate a list of contents from our own database and instead direct researchers to the more comprehensive database Pinakes if they are trying to identify manuscripts of interest to their research. After they search Pinakes, they can use our finding aid in order to determine if we have microfilm of specific manuscripts.

Some limitations with the Pinakes database as it exists now:

  • It focuses on Greek manuscripts before the 16th century.
  • Content is being added but is not complete at this point.
  • The names of authors and titles are Latinized with “V” used in place of “U.” This information is based on the TLG canon, the CSGL, and the CPG. In most cases, the first name is before the surname, but sometimes the names are inverted.
  • In cases where the attribution of a text is debated, IRHT followed CPG.

Using Pinakes: To read detailed instructions, select “Mode d’emploi” from the menu along the top of the screen. To do a search, select “Recherche” from the menu along the top of the screen.

Recherche Générale

Recherche d’un manuscrit will allow you to search for a specific manuscript.

  1. Under “Ville,” type the name of the city.
  2. As you type, a list of possible cities should appear below the box. You must select from this list by clicking on the appropriate item within the list. The database will not allow you to proceed if you type the city’s name yourself. (Note: The Vatican’s holdings will be found under Ville: VATICANO. Mt. Athos as Ville: HAGION OROS)
  3. After you have selected the city, the database will offer a drop-down menu under “Dépôt.” Select the holding institution from this drop-down menu.
  4. After you have selected the holding institution, the database will offer a drop-down menu under “Cote.” Select the shelfmark for the specific manuscript from this list.
  5. Click on the button “Rechercher.”
May 27, 2011

Why FileMaker?

We decided to use FileMaker Pro 11 because:

  • it has an intuitive interface for data entry, browsing, and searching;
  • it is easy to customize the design of the database and of “reports” created from the data;
  • it allows for simultaneous data entry from multiple users;
  • it can be published fairly easily on the Web.
May 20, 2011

using A-D strips

A-D (acid-detecting) strips are acid-base indicator papers that turn colors in the presence of increasing amounts of acidic vapors, in this case from acetic acid from the chemical decay of an acetate film base. Often acetic acid has a vinegary smell, but the strips provide a more accurate and safer method of evaluating acetate deterioration than sniffing!

appropriate placement of A-D strips (from IPI's user guide)

  1. Remove the film from the box. We will not test inside the box in order to avoid inaccurate results based on old, reused boxes (which we are planning to discard anyway) and in order to create a closed, confined space in which the strip will test for acidic vapors created by the deterioration of the film.
  2. Place a single roll of film and one A-D strip inside a plastic bag. Be sure the strip does not slide inside the rolled film because the strip must be exposed to atmosphere within the enclosed space, but it is okay (even preferred) to put the strip against the edge of the film between flanges of the roll (image shows preferred placement of strips but this might not be possible with many of our film)
  3. Seal the bag with some air inside it.
  4. Tape the relevant information from the box to the bag.
  5. Leave the strip with the film for at least 24 hours (exposure for a few days is preferred). At the end of the exposure period, if you can see through the sealed bag that the color change on the strip is not uniform, then the color change process may not be complete and you should leave it for a while longer.

IMPORTANT: After opening a package, please try to use all the A-D strips. If you can not, then please seal the unused strips inside the resealable polyethylene bag and within the outer bag as soon as possible.

When you are ready to catalog the film,

  1. Enter basic information into a new record in the database.
  2. When you open the bag, remove the A-D strip first.
  3. Compare the strip’s color to the color bands on the pencil. Exact matches will not always happen. Even though only 4 levels (0-3) appear on the pencil, think in terms of 7 possible values: 0, 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0. 2.5, or 3.0 If the strip’s color is close to one of the bands but not quite there, go ahead and take the number that the color seems similar to. If the strip’s color seems to fall between two color bands, then assign it a value halfway between the numbers.
  4. Record the number in the “A-D Strip Level”  field in the database.

Worried because the A-D strip number seems to contradict  your own inspection of the film? Don’t be!

You see clear signs of deterioration (channeling, for example) but the A-D strip value seems low?  The acidity can evaporate from film over time.

When you examine the film base, you believe it is polyester, yet the A-D strip gives a value? Polyester-based films can absorb acid vapors from deteriorating acetate-based neighbors or from reused boxes that absorbed it from earlier contents.

May 19, 2011

The splicer looks a lot like this:

May 17, 2011

Institutions organized by country

Cities & Holding Institutions


Yerevan, Matenadaran


Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek


Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique


Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek


Mount Sinai, Monastery of Saint Catherine


Besançon, Bibliotheque de l’Université de Franche-Comté

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale


Tiblisi, National Academy of Sciences


Berlin, Staatsbibliothek – Preussischer Kulturbesitz

Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek

Erfurt, Bibliotheca Amploniana

Erlangen, Universitätsbibliothek

Göttingen, Niedersächsiche Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek

Hamburg, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek

Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek

Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek

Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek

Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek


Athens, Benaki Museum

Athens, National Library

[Note “formerly in Constantinople, Metochion” when relevant.]

Athens, Gennadius Library

Dēmētsana, Library


[We do not know which institutions on Metēora are represented in the collection.  Please do some detective work for us, dear interns!]

Mount Athos, Dionysiou Monastery

Mount Athos, Docheiariou Monastery

Mount Athos, Esphigmenou Monastery

Mount Athos, Gregoriou Monastery

Mount Athos, Hilandar Monastery

Mount Athos, Iveron Monastery

Mount Athos, Karakallou Monastery

Mount Athos, Koutloumousiou Monastery

Mount Athos, Great Lavra Monastery

Mount Athos, Panteleimon Monastery

Mount Athos, Pantokrator Monastery

Mount Athos, Skete of St. Anne (Great Lavra Monastery)

Mount Athos, Stauroniketa Monastery

Mount Athos, Vatopedi Monastery

Mount Athos, Xeropotamou Monastery

Patmos, Monastery of Saint John

Thessalonikē, Anatolia College

Thessalonikē, Aristotle University
Tírnavos, Library


Dublin, Trinity College Library


Jerusalem, Armenian Patriarchate

Jerusalem, Ecumenical Patriarchate

Jerusalem, Greek Patriarchate


Bologna, Biblioteca Universitaria

Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

Florence, Biblioteca Marucelliana

Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze

Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana

Grottaferrata, Biblioteca

Messina, Biblioteca Universitaria

Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana

Modena, Biblioteca Estense Universitaria

Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale

Padua, Biblioteca Universitaria di Padova

Palermo, Biblioteca Comunale

Palermo, Biblioteca Centrale della Regione Siciliana

Parma, Biblioteca Palatina

Rome, Biblioteca Angelica

Rome, Biblioteca Casanatense

Rome, Biblioteca Palatina

Rome, Biblioteca Vallicelliana

Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria

Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

Venice, Archivio de Stato


Leiden, Rijksuniversiteit Bibliotheek


Bucharest, Academia Romana

Bucharest, Biblioteca Nationala


Moscow, State Historical Museum

St. Petersburg, National Library


Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional

Madrid, El Escorial


Uppsala, Universitetsbiblioteket


Basel, Universitätsbibliothek
Bern, Stadtbibliothek

Geneva, Basilian Monastery

Geneva, City Library

Zurich, Zentralbibliothek


Istanbul, Patriarchate Library

Istanbul, Topkapi Palace


Cambridge, Cambridge University Library

Cambridge, Trinity College Library

Glasgow, University of Glasgow Library

Holkham, Earls of Leicester Library

London, British Library

[Note “formerly in the British Museum” if relevant.]

London, Royal Institute of British Architects

Manchester, John Rylands University Library

Oxford, Bodleian Library

Oxford, Corpus Christi College Library


Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery

Bethesda, National Library of Medicine

Cambridge, Houghton Library

New Haven, Beinecke Library

Princeton, Princeton University Library

[Use for “Garrett Collection.”]

Urbana, University Library

Washington, D.C., Dumbarton Oaks Museum

Washington, D.C., Library of Congress


Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

Vatican City, Vatican Archives

May 16, 2011

“Condition of microfilm” field – appropriate terms

Terms that can be entered into the “Condition of Microfilm” field in the database are in BOLD

Issues with the surface of the film

abrasion = damage to the surface of the film caused by rubbing, scratching, etc.

crystals on the surface of the film or the roll


mold: bring to the attention of Deb, Sarah, or Sheila immediately!

moisture spots

damage from a rubber band or metal objects, including specifically rust

paper adhering

brittle tape or yellowed tape – if you acted to improve this issue, please add “-new splicing tape applied

Issues with the emulsion layer (the one containing the image)

mirroring = usually bluish-metallic sheen, sometimes has an iridescent quality; in extreme cases, can appear bronze-colored

redox (reduction-oxidation reaction, aka microspots) = red or colored blemishes on film, resemble measles

with regard to image decay, please make a note if you think you see any of the following:

color bleed

color fading

image discoloration = usually yellowing of the image itself (but not apparently of the film base)

Issues with the base layer or the physical condition of the film as a whole


flaking = localized separation between the base and emulsion layers, usually along the edges

bubbling = “bubbles” appear between the layers

buckling = base clearly separating from the emulsion layer in several places

channeling = extreme form of buckling where the base has separated significantly from the emulsion layer and the film is very warped and brittle

warped = badly out of shape, perhaps bent from handling, but layers are not significantly separating

curling (width) or curling (length)

film torn – if you repaired this problem, please add “-repaired with splicing tape

vinegar syndrome

adhesion = film adhering to itself, unable to separate without risk of loss

May 16, 2011

Goals for the project

Presently, the Dumbarton Oaks library holds almost 2000 microfilm rolls that are reproductions of medieval and early modern manuscripts, the originals of which are held in institutions around the world.  To our knowledge, none of these microfilm has been accessioned properly – HOLLIS contains no bibliographic records for the individual microfilm, their containers are not barcoded, there is no finding aid nor checklist, and the only inventory that we know exists is a rudimentary Excel spreadsheet we created before the move in summer 2005. Our users only know of their presence through “word-of-mouth” (included in the library orientations and on the orientation handouts).

The project aims to:

  • create a finding aid to enable scholars to search for specific microfilm without browsing the collection
  • develop a system for designating locations within the microfilm collection (probably not LC classification but something appropriate, local, and intuitive)
  • take steps to ensure the preservation of the microfilm
  • establish a clear, written policy regarding reproductions of the microfilm and digital files in our possession
May 11, 2011

Why aren’t we…?


Several reasons actually. First and foremost, the rights to reproduce images of these manuscripts belong with the library, museum, monastery, or institution that hold the originals, not with Dumbarton Oaks. Within our library, the microfilm collection is intended for in-house scholarly use, not for wider public consumption (however desirable).

Secondly, the best digital surrogate of a manuscript is created by photographing the original, not scanning a microfilm that is several steps removed from the original. Every time an image is reproduced from another reproduction, then “information” is lost (you might notice that digital photographs made of illustrations in books are never as clear as original photographs of objects – more grainy or pixelated, for example).

Thirdly, however strange this may seem in our increasingly digital world, microfilm is still a trusted format for long-term access to information. Digital is not yet accepted as the best long-term solution for storing information, because of rapid changes in digital technology and the risk of lost or destroyed data.

…making copies of at-risk film?

Decisions about what to do with deteriorating film will be made after the full extent of the problem can be adequately assessed. 

Film that are in advanced stages of deterioration but still have some usable life left in them might be moved to our cold storage rooms.

We will not house the entire collection in cold storage, in part because of limited space, but in larger part because the cold storage rooms are kept locked to protect several unique collections that must be kept in cold conditions. We do not want to restrict patrons’ access to the microfilm collection. Fortunately, the new library maintains appropriately cool temperatures and relative humidity in its general stacks in order to ensure the long-term preservation of film that is not in advanced stages of deterioration.

At some point, Deb will access the importance of film that are at the greatest risk in order to decide whether to replace individual films.

May 11, 2011

base vs. emulsion layers on microfilm

Film is made up of several microscopically-thin layers. For the purposes of this project, it is helpful to know about the two most important: the base layer and the emulsion layer.

The emulsion layer is the layer that actually contains the image. This side has a matte-like appearance.

The base layer is the transparent, supporting layer to which the emulsion layer is adhered with a binder. In our microfilm collection, the base layers are likely to be of an acetate variety or polyester. It is unlikely but possible that you might encounter a very old microfilm with a nitrate base. The base side is noticeably glossier than the emulsion layer.

One common problem with deteriorating acetate-based film is that, as it chemically breaks down, the base shrinks, but the emulsion layer does not. The result is that the film base pulls away from the emulsion layer, which can look like bubbles between the layers or flaking off of a brittle, yellowed layer (which is the base layer). In extreme conditions, the base layer becomes so brittle that attempts to flatten it can cause the base layer to break.