Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Preservation Week @MSMC, Part 2

Bryant's Mythology, ca. 1805. Each volume is sadder than the last.
There are many such battered books in libraries everywhere.
A BUNCH OF OTHER LIBRARIES are piling on the blog bandwagon for Preservation Week. We archives and special collections librarians are proud of the service we provide and have lots of company! PresWeek also has its own Facebook page, so you can check out what's going on at institutions big and small.

Yesterday we shared an inexpensive device for measuring the all-important temperature and humidity in the Frank H. Spearman Room here in the Coe Library at Chalon. It works for anyone with treasures they want to hang onto -- cool and dry probably doesn't describe the garage, so keep your good stuff in the house.

A beautiful handmade book of poetry in Spanish,
dated 1866, with its protective box.
Another handy-dandy technique for protecting books are pre-cut boxes made of special cardboard. Not only are they free from harmful chemicals that may further damage brittle paper, but they also filter out gases that may be present wherever there is carpeting, furniture and human beings -- gases that can add acidity to the books and bindings.

When the books are as beat-up as the ones pictured above, boxes also add a physical barrier that will protect the contents from getting dented or bent. Throw a length of unbleached cotton tape around the book and the covers (called boards in the biz) won't become separated from the pages (the text block) even if the hinges are already shot.

Figuring out what to do to help a book is as much art as science. To restore old leather bindings costs into the hundreds of dollars per book, so it had better be a pretty special book to begin with if you're going to go to the expense. For those books of lesser or unknown value, a neat row of light-blue boxes is perfectly adequate. With luck we'll get at least a couple hundred more years out of treasures inside. In our next post, we'll look at the same approach for plain old paper.

A row of 18th-century journals, secure and happy in their special homes.

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