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Harvard University Honored with Preservation Award

Harvard Library, Harvard Art Museums, and the Peabody Museum were collectively recognized for their efforts to preserve Harvard’s collections.

Ross Merrill Award

On October 26, 2016, colleagues from across Harvard University came together in the Widener Rotunda to celebrate as the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works presented Harvard Library, Harvard Art Museums, and the Peabody Museum with the Ross Merrill Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Preservation and Care of Collections. Harvard is the first academic institution to receive this honor.

Pamela Hatchfield, president of the AIC, presented the award to representatives from the three organizations: Sarah E. Thomas, Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian; Martha Tedeschi, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director, Harvard Art Museums; and Jeffrey Quilter, Howells Director of the Peabody Museum. 

“Caring for Harvard’s collections is an activity that is embedded deeply in our mission,” said Sarah E. Thomas. “All library staff contribute to these efforts and indeed take great pride in the work they do to ensure the safety and usability of the collections.” Headed by Associate Librarian for Preservation Franziska Frey, Harvard Library’s Preservation Services is made up of over 90 preservation professionals specializing in five major service areas: the Weissman Preservation Center (for rare and unique books, works on paper and photographs), Collections Care (for general and circulating collections), Media Preservation Services (for audio, video and film), Imaging Services (for the digitization of library collections), and Digital Preservation Services.  

The Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at Harvard Art Museums comprises over 20 conservators, conservation scientists, postgraduate and postdoctoral fellows, and technicians. It is one of four research centers at the Harvard Art Museums that specialize in the collaborative, technical study of artists’ materials and techniques, as well as teaching students and training conservators. The department of Collections Management works closely with Conservation to establish and carry out best practices for exhibitions, loans, storage, and study.

Preservation of the Peabody Museum’s unique collections has been an integral part since its beginning, evolving over the decades with the establishment of a formal conservation laboratory in the 1970s. The conservation lab is a department of the Museum’s Collections Division, which includes registration, collections management, and archives. Through its preservation and conservation service programs, it enhances the care and stewardship of over 1.2 million cultural objects.The Conservation staff works closely with the Museum staff along with the staff of the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture to ensure broad and safe access to its fragile cultural material collections.

Provost Alan Garber remarked on the importance of collection preservation at Harvard, as object-based learning flourishes along with a sustained emphasis on the use of collections for research, teaching, and learning at universities and beyond. “Together, the staff of these three venerable Harvard institutions make up a vibrant and collegial community that are committed to the care of Harvard's collections and making them accessible to generations of students,” Garber said.

By Harvard Library Communications.

Published on November 16, 2016.