Disaster Planning and Preservation Programs


Flood.jpgOn November 4th, 1966, the Arno River overflowed, flooding the museums, libraries and historic buildings of Florence, Italy. It was a large scale disaster for the archival community, and many conservationists and preservationists from around the world flocked to the city, volunteering their time and manpower to assist in any way they could.[[#_ftn1|[1]](1) It is estimated that 14,000 movable works of art were damaged, as well as three to four million books and manuscripts. In the Biblioteca Nazionale alone, 1,300,000 items were reported to be damaged. [[#_ftn2|[2]](2) The 1966 flood was a turning point in the history of preservation because it caused conservators and preservationists all over the world to consider the implementation of a disaster preparedness or preservation program.

In the years following the flood, several American libraries began to implement preservation programs. The Library of Congress established a new Preservation Directorate under the leadership of Frazer Poole, who then invited Peter Waters to act as a consultant in the organization of a conservation facility. By 1971, Waters had taken a position as the head of the new Restoration Office at the Library of Congress. Fellow flood volunteers and bookbinders Don Etherington and Chris Clarkson joined the staff of the Restoration Office, working specifically in the bindery section.[[#_ftn3|[3]](3)

At the Newberry Library in Chicago, Paul Banks, John Dean and Gary Frost began to look into preservation measures, eventually allocating a portion of the library’s book budget to pay for preservation activities. In 1970, under the direction of Johannes Hytoft, the Folger Shakespeare Library expanded its book repair program into a conservation laboratory and by 1972, The New York Public library established a conservation division. In 1973, The Northeast Document Conservation Center was established, marking the first regional cooperative conservation center for archives in America.[[#_ftn4|[4]](4)

Preservation Education


In the 1980s, American conservators and preservationists turned their attention to the education of future professionals. In 1981, Carolyn Harris and Paul Banks organized and established a preservation program at Colombia University. This program was intended to address the growing need for more formal training in conservation and preservation. The three year conservation program resulted in a Master of Library Science as well as an advanced certificate in Library Conservation. The preservation program took only two years to complete, and resulted in a Masters degree with an advanced certificate in Library Preservation Administration. The program was relocated to the University of Texas at Austin in 1991.[[#_ftn5|[5]](5)

At the Library of Congress, Peter Waters and Frazer Poole began to offer internship opportunities to third year conservation students during the 1980s, furthering the formal training and education of a future generation of conservators. These internships gave students valuable experience in photographic and phased preservation as well as the more traditional book and paper conservation. Many of the interns who benefited from this program went on to hold prominent positions in conservation businesses and institutions around the world.(6)

Throughout the decade, more preservation programs began to appear across the country. In 1985, John Dean created and directed preservation programs at the John Hopkins and Cornell Universities. Brigham Young University established a preservation program under the direction of Craig Jensen, who had learned book conservation under Peter Waters and Frazer Poole at the Library of Congress. Don Etherington created and directed a preservation program in Austin Texas at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HCRC). In addition to these formal academic programs, the American Library Association and the Library of Congress began to sponsor a series of conferences and workshops on preservation and conservation, the first of which occurred in 1983. [[#_ftn6|[6]](7)

Methods and Standards


As preservation was brought to the forefront, many conservators and preservationists began to develop new methods and standards of preservation. Paul Banks wrote several texts on preservation and conservation, including information about environmental standards and control, which he put into practice during the construction of the Newberry Library Stack Building in 1983.[[#_ftn7|[7]](8) At the Library of Congress, Peter Waters implemented phased preservation, a “collection maintenance” system that involves an intensive survey procedure to decide which items should receive the most urgent care.[[#_ftn8|[8]](9) Pamela Darling is also known for her work in prioritizing preservation activities with the box method in her publication: “Preservation Planning, an Assisted Self-Study Manual for Libraries.”[[#_ftn9|[9]](10)

Environmental Preservation Standards at the Newberry Library


Newberry_PH.jpg
Newberry Library Stack Building
Paul Banks was always looking ahead to new developments in the field. For this reason, in the 1970s, he began to research the effect of long term collection storage conditions. Banks concluded that because the best storage for books and manuscripts requires a temperature that is uncomfortable for researchers, the collection storage unit should remain entirely separate from reader services.[[#_ftn10|[10]](11) As conservator of the Newberry Library, Banks used this research to influence the design of the Newberry Library Stack Building. This building, completed in 1982, houses most of the library’s collections. [[#_ftn11|[11]](12)

The building is ten stories high, windowless, and comprised of a double-shell construction. It has a computer monitored system of security and fire detection as well as an environmental system that regulates temperature and humidity and an air filtration system. Banks had high standards for the air quality of the stack building and suggested the implementation of a three stage filtration system. The system maintains a temperature of 60F and an RH of 45 percent.[[#_ftn12|[12]](13) For more information on the particulars of how this system is run, please visit the Newberry Library website.

According to Gary Frost, the successful completion of the Newberry Library Stack Building led to a national standard for collection storage environments. It also set a national trend of remote storage and increased digital access to original materials.[[#_ftn13|[13]](14)

Phased Preservation and the Point System at the Library of Congress


Peter Waters was responsible for developing the phased preservation method during his time at the Library of Congress. It is now practiced in libraries across the globe. phased preservation can be seen as an extension of collection maintenance. Rather than considering full treatment for all materials- an impossible ideal- archivists use phased preservation as way of looking at overwhelming preservation problems from a different angle. The process incorporates longer time frames in a step-by-step process that is both practical and efficient. Archivists practicing this method consider a range of treatment options, matching these options with the use-level and value of each collection. This prioritizes treatment while standard preventative care stabilizes the deterioration of other materials. An example of this can be seen in the rehousing of deteriorating materials. This effort provides both physical protection and a more stable microenvironment with the use of archival boxes and polyester film folders. This step can help to “buy time” for materials that are deteriorating, but are unlikely to receive immediate care.[[#_ftn14|[14]](15)

One example of phased preservation as given by Peter Waters in his “Phased Preservation: A Philosophical Concept and Practical Approach to Preservation,” is the Broadside Collection in the Library of Congress’ Rare Book and Special Collection Division. The first step consisted of conducting a series of condition surveys. The next year, 2,950 hours were allotted to address the items that required urgent care.[[#_ftn15|[15]](16)

Waters points out that to receive the best results, the phased preservation method must be put into action through the collaboration of administrators, curators, librarians and conservationists. He states that once an initial survey has been completed, the collaborators can design a plan of action based upon three broad categories of prioritization: high value materials, materials suitable for both treatment and reformatting which would cut down on frequent use of these items, and material suitable for reformatting.[[#_ftn16|[16]](17)

The Point System


This system, also put into practice by Peter Waters, was created to adopt a more structured and administrative role in the selection of materials to be restored by different departments of the Library of Congress. In theory, each department receives a set number of “points” which are divided among themselves depending on the resources and staff available at the conservation lab. Each division, (Paper, Rare Book or Phased Preservation) has a “point budget” for all three sections of the conservation lab. This system is helpful in designing treatment plans in proportion to the available staff and labor hours. The system also creates greater accountability for library personnel while making their preservation developments more visible.[[#_ftn17|[17]](18)

Pamela Darling and the Box Method


In 1980, Pamela Darling became the preservation specialist at the Association of Research Libraries. Over the course of her career, her work largely focused on identifying preservation problems and deciding the best course of action to remedy them. She is most well known for her 1982 publication with Duane Webster: “Preservation Planning Program: An Assisted Self-Study Manual for Libraries.” This manual was intended to be a practical guide for libraries that wished to organize a preservation program plan. One method for prioritizing preservation activities outlined in her book is often referred to as the “Box Method.”[[#_ftn18|[18]](19)

Box_Method.jpg


The box method is a simple grid that outlines the feasibility and impact of preservation activities. Darling details that activities with high impact that can be put into practice with ease should be placed in Box 1. Activities in Box 2 are low impact but simple to address. Box 3 is reserved for activities that have high impact but are difficult to put into practice, while Box 4 represents the activities that are both low impact, and difficult to put into practice. [[#_ftn19|[19]](20)

According to Darling, the activities in Box 1 deserve the highest priority, as they can be accomplished quickly and easily with a high impact. Archivists should carefully consider the activities in box three, as they may be time consuming or expensive, but probably worth it in the long run. Box 2 can be largely disregarded, as the measures taken will have relatively low impact and the activities of Box 4 can be put at the bottom of the list, as these activities may not be worth the difficulty of preservation.[[#_ftn20|[20]](21)

Conservation vs. Preservation


At this time, preservation and conservation began to emerge as two different but related fields. As stated previously, the University of Columbia offered two separate programs- one geared toward conservation which was intended to train workbench conservators, and one geared toward preservation administration, teaching the methods and practices of preventative care. The conferences, workshops and publications sponsored by different organizations began to emerge with specific focuses on either conservation or preservation. Don Etherington gives the example of a 1979 workshop on “Fine Binding in the 20th Century,” and the publication of The Book and Paper Group Annual, a periodical that began in 1982 and focuses on research and conservation techniques for paper-based materials.[[#_ftn21|[21]](22) In the last thirty years, this schism has widened, creating two entirely separate fields of work and research. Today, however, librarians and conservators have not forgotten their common roots, and often collaborate on preservation and conservation projects, working together toward a common goal.



References:

Clarkson, Christopher. “The Florence flood of November 1966 and its aftermath.” 2003. http://www.ndl.go.jp/en/publication/ndl_newsletter/135/Lecture0312-1.pdf p6 (accessed Nov. 2009)

Etherington, Don. "Historical Background of Book Conservation: The Past Forty Years." Collection Management 31, no. 1/2 (2006): 21-29.

Frost, Gary. "Founding Futurist of the Book: Paul Banks, 2000." 2003. http://futureofthebook.com/founder/ (accessed Dec. 2009)

Frost, Gary. "Pioneers of Book Conservation." 2002.http://futureofthebook.com/pioneers-of-book-conservation/ (accessed Dec. 2009).

Horton, Carolyn. "Saving the Libraries of Florence." Wilson Library Bulletin (R) 41, (June, 1967): 1034-1043.

Library of Congress, "Caring for America's Library:Preservation Directorate 1989-Present." 2009.http://www.loc.gov/preserv/history/1989topresent.html (accessed Dec. 2009)

Newberry Library, "Conservation Department." 2009. http://www.newberry.org/collections/conservation.html (accessed Nov. 2009)

Ogden, Sherelyn. "1.4 Considerations for Prioritizing." 2009.http://www.nedcc.org/resources/leaflets/1Planning_and_Prioritizing/04ConsiderationsForPrioritizing.php (accessed Nov. 2009).

Waters, Peter. “Phased Preservation: a Philosophical Concept and Practical Approach to Preservation.” Special Libraries 81.1 (1990): 35+. Academic OneFile. (accessed Dec. 2009)


Notes:

[[#_ftnref1|[1]]1 Horton, Carolyn. "Saving the Libraries of Florence." Wilson Library Bulletin (R) 41, (June, 1967): 1034-1043. p1
[[#_ftnref2|[2]]2 Clarkson, Christopher. “The Florence flood of November 1966 and its aftermath.” 2003. http://www.ndl.go.jp/en/publication/ndl_newsletter/135/Lecture0312-1.pdf p6 (accessed Nov. 2009)
[[#_ftnref3|[3]]3 Frost, Gary. "Pioneers of Book Conservation." 2002.http://futureofthebook.com/pioneers-of-book-conservation/ (accessed Dec. 2009).
[[#_ftnref4|[4]]4 Etherington, Don. "Historical Background of Book Conservation: The Past Forty Years." Collection Management 31, no. 1/2 (2006): 21-29. p22
[[#_ftnref5|[5]]5 Ibid, p26
6 Library of Congress, "Caring for America's Library:Preservation Directorate 1989-Present." 2009.http://www.loc.gov/preserv/history/1989topresent.html (accessed Dec. 2009).
[[#_ftnref6|[6]]7 Etherington, Don. "Historical Background of Book Conservation: The Past Forty Years," p22-26
[[#_ftnref7|[7]]8 Newberry Library, "Conservation Department." 2009. http://www.newberry.org/collections/conservation.html (accessed Nov. 2009).
[[#_ftnref8|[8]]9 Waters, Peter. “Phased Preservation: a Philosophical Concept and Practical Approach to Preservation.” Special Libraries 81.1 (1990): 35+. Academic OneFile. (accessed Dec. 2009)
[[#_ftnref9|[9]]10 Ogden, Sherelyn. "1.4 Considerations for Prioritizing." 2009.http://www.nedcc.org/resources/leaflets/1Planning_and_Prioritizing/04ConsiderationsForPrioritizing.php (accessed Nov. 2009).
[[#_ftnref10|[10]]11 Frost, Gary. "Founding Futurist of the Book: Paul Banks, 2000." 2003. http://futureofthebook.com/founder/
[[#_ftnref11|[11]]12 Newberry Library, "Conservation Department."
[[#_ftnref12|[12]]13 Ibid
[[#_ftnref13|[13]]14 Frost, "Founding Futurist of the Book: Paul Banks, 2000."
[[#_ftnref14|[14]]15 Waters, Peter. “Phased Preservation: A Philosophical Concept and Practical Approach to Preservation.”
[[#_ftnref15|[15]]16 Ibid
[[#_ftnref16|[16]]17 Ibid
[[#_ftnref17|[17]]18 Ibid
[[#_ftnref18|[18]]19 Ogden, Sherelyn. “1.4 Considerations for Prioritizing.”
[[#_ftnref19|[19]]20 Ibid
[[#_ftnref20|[20]]21 Ibid
[[#_ftnref21|[21]]22 Etherington, Don. “Historical Background of Book Conservation” p23-24