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Heritage Savers: Inside the NYPL Preservation Division

Binding with metal bosses., Digital ID 427804, New York Public LibraryBinding with metal bosses,
Spencer Collection
Welcome to NYPL’s Preservation blog. We’re looking forward to sharing information with you about what the Preservation Division does to save cultural heritage and make it accessible to you. To start the conversation, here’s a look into what you would see going on in our program today.

In Collections Care you would see staff using CAD software to operate a machine that cuts custom-fitted boxes to protect books in fragile condition and others cleaning collections with a HEPA vacuum. In some of our libraries, we are consulting with a construction crew to protect collections during library renovation, while others of us are surveying collections to determine their condition and preservation needs. In all of the Research Libraries, we are tracking environmental conditions that are recorded onto 176 sensors in air handling equipment and storage spaces.

In the Goldsmith Conservation Lab, conservators are consulting with curators about special collections conservation treatments and about preservation issues related to items being considered for acquisition by the Library. Today you would see a highly skilled conservator analyzing pigments from 19th-century Indian miniatures under a polarizing light microscope. You would see another conservation staff member constructing a custom housing for George Washington’s farm notebook, while another places a 15th-century vellum map in a humidity-controlled sealed package for exhibition loan.

Today the Binding and Shelf Processing staff is labeling over 200 items to be added to the Library’s collections. In addition, another two hundred items are being prepared to go to the three commercial library binding companies that will create durable covers so that our books last over time. Music collection materials are being prepared for mass deacidification, a process that will halt the acid paper decay and provide a buffer to counteract any future deterioration. Materials already treated are being inspected to ensure that preservation standards are met.

The Library’s reformatting program is saving the intellectual content of Library materials that are too deteriorated to use in original paper. Staff is searching national databases to make sure we don’t duplicate preservation work already performed by our colleagues in other institutions. The in-house microfilming lab is creating preservation quality film, with an additional two generations of film backup. Staff is analyzing preservation film produced long ago in the lab in order to optimize its duplication so that it may be used to create as high a digital facsimile as possible.

This is a brief snapshot of the outstanding work being done in our Division today to save the cultural heritage in the Library’s care. We hope you stop back and take a look at our projects and progress as this site grows.


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