On Wednesday, December 2, I traveled to the High Point Museum for a webinar given by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC). The webinar, Caring for Rare Books, was given by Todd Pattison, a book conservator at NEDCC, and covered the general care of rare books.
Todd began by defining a rare book. A book is rare because of a number of factors, including age, importance, scarcity or subject matter. Todd covered briefly the primary materials encountered with rare books: paper, leather, parchment and cloth. The internal factors of these materials are sometimes difficult to correct, as some of these may have an inherent vice, such as acidic paper. He further mentioned that preservation is an essential function of every library or archive and should be part of it’s strategic plan. Todd discussed each of these materials and their inherent vices. Paper is made of cellulose and over time acids break down the cellulose chains resulting in a loss of strength. Leather, which is tanned animal skin, is naturally acidic and becomes less strong over time. The conditions each of these materials is stored in can also cause deterioration (such as high temperatures). Parchment, a general term also including vellum, is limed and scraped animal skin which is dried under tension. Parchment is very sensitive to humidity. Parchment is not as flexible as paper, but is more durable. Cloth is susceptible to light, dust, pests and mold.
Todd discussed the environment and said that maintaining a stable temperature (60-70 degrees) and humidity level (30-50%) is critical. He also discussed light, air pollutants, pests and mold. Todd advised handling rare books with clean hands (without gloves). One should remove any sharp objects such as jewelry, name badges or watches so as not to damage the materials. When turning pages, one hand should support each page from behind. Todd also discussed the superiority of powder-coated steel shelves over wood shelves and the general use of archival materials for enclosures and liners.
Following the webinar, we heard a presentation from Isabella Balthar who is a member of Preservation Services at UNCG. Isabella discussed a project in which she received a grant to develop posters and videos on basic preservation principles and best practices from UNCG. The project, called No Boundaries in Preservation, attempts to convey best preservation practices in English, Spanish and Portuguese through posters and videos.
The final portion of the day was a wet books salvage demonstration by Marianne Kelsey who is a conservator at Etherington Conservation Services. Marianne discussed three options for salvaging wet books: air-drying, interleaving and freezing.
It was a good day to learn some new things and see colleagues from other institutions. Some of us are also members of Triad-ACREN – the Triad Area Disaster Response Team. Several Triad-ACREN team members were present at this workshop.