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Staff in the Barbara Goldsmith Conservation Lab perform physical and chemical treatments on The New York Public Library’s rare and special collections in order to ensure the long-term survival of and access to these permanent collections for current and future generations.
All work is performed in accordance with the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC). The wide variety of collection items treated include: books, pamphlets, manuscript and printed documents, broadsides, posters, prints, drawings, and art on paper as well as three-dimensional objects and photographs on paper, metal, film, and glass.
The Conservation Treatment program also coordinates the care and treatment of all artwork in NYPL’s collections that are not treated in-house, such as paintings, sculpture, murals, textiles, or objects.
Conservators assess the condition of collection items, form treatment plans, and fully document the items by taking photographs and writing detailed reports. Items being treated receive extensive examination and testing prior to and/or during treatment, which can include microscopic examination (using stereo and polarized light microscopes), viewing under ultraviolet and transmitted light, solubility testing, and pH testing.
Documentation of different stages of treatment is kept as the item goes through various stages of conservation. When customized housing is an important element of maintaining the treated materials, Goldsmith Conservation Lab staff construct custom-made housings including: window mats, cloth-covered boxes, portfolios, polyester film encapsulation, and post-bindings.
Conservators in the Goldsmith Conservation Lab play a key role in the exhibition process by evaluating, treating, and preparing materials selected for exhibition in the Library or another institution that has arranged a loan through the Registrar’s Office. Materials selected for exhibition are examined by a conservator to determine if the items are suitable for display and treated if conservation is necessary. Conservators also determine the appropriate way to exhibit materials, such as angle of opening for books or whether a particular item requires a sealed microenvironment. Preparation, such as hinging and matting artwork or securing objects to mounts, is done by staff in the Goldsmith Conservation Lab.
The Conservation Treatment program provides education and training to preservation professionals through internships, active participation and leadership in professional organizations, and informal training. Staff in the Goldsmith Conservation Lab also provide information to other NYPL staff on topics such as proper handling of collection materials. Goldsmith Conservation Lab staff present information to the public through publications, lectures, and answering reference questions regarding conservation topics.
The Library has produced two videos that illustrate some of the activities undertaken in the conservation lab:
The conservation of a map and a document in preparation for the exhibition “Mapping New York’s Shoreline,” on view at The New York Public Library through June 2010.
The conservation of a collection of rare United States military insignia that Chester Burger collected during World War II, and later donated to The New York Public Library.