Visitors learned about the processes and people behind preserving the Library’s materials.
May 6, 2014—During Preservation Week (April 27 – May 3), the Library’s Weissman Preservation Center and Collections Care unit welcomed over 75 visitors to learn more about methods, tools and materials.
Presses, cutters, solvents, brushes, needles and paper patches galore were on display at Weissman, as well as some of the materials being treated, such as 19th-century volumes riddled with miniscule holes from insect damage, antique letters with bleeding ink, daguerreotypes destabilized through the passage of time and Benedict Arnold’s papers. “There are a lot of spies and intrigue in this box,” said Livy Bailin, a conservation technican, of the latter.
Kai Fay, a library assistant at the Chemistry Library, is a repeat visitor. “I’ve always loved coming to these events and getting to see the incredible materials.”
“We feel very fortunate to be able to work in a hands-on way with Harvard’s amazing special collections and the open house gives us a chance to share that experience with our library colleagues. This year was especially rich in lively and engaged conversations,” said Brenda Bernier, head of the Weissman Center. “I informally asked about 15 guests which object they liked best from the tour. To my surprise, they all said something different! That speaks volumes about the incredible breadth of the library collections.”
The Collections Care unit treats circulating volumes from several libraries–about 30,000 texts are in its stewardship each year. Collections Care treats everything from torn pages to bindings, and creates custom housing that protect volumes from wear and tear.
Items for repair can be submitted by anyone who notices a need, and curators, librarians and preservation specialists collaborate to determine treatment. A simple mend may address an issue, or a text may be so fragile that digitization is recommended. “I’m fresh out of library school and interested in learning about the collections and what other librarians do,” said Rebecca O’Brien, a library assistant. “This was a great way to do that.”