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Subject: Collection conservation

Collection conservation

From: Cathy Atwood <cb522>
Date: Monday, June 21, 1993
The letters about the AIC Code of Ethics and the concept of collection
conservation prompt the following remarks, which are only loosely
related to one another!

There is at least one other type of library book besides the two
mentioned so far ("regular" collections and rare books). A library's
special collections department has a lot of books which are
valuable/useful because they are about a specific topic, were owned by a
particular person, were part of the library's original collection, etc.
These books are not necessarily treated individually, as rare books. And
when they are treated as collections, the choice of care might be more
"generous" than books in the general collections receive.

I agree with the term collection conservation (using the singular) when
speaking about the library as a whole, or about the general concept.  I
tend to use collections conservation (the plural) when talking about a
project involving discrete collections, especially when they will
receive different levels/types of care.

Documentation is an interesting subject.  Documentation on a group of
material can be handled along the lines of the AIC's Code of Ethics,
with one report covering the entire project.  But I'd like to expand the
kinds of documentation which are done in libraries and archives.

A simple point: lots of people might initial a treatment report as
working on the project, agreeing to various phases, or otherwise
contributing to the treatment.  Make sure that the full name for each
person appears at the end of the report!  I've gone back to early
reports, and have had no idea who to talk to, when there are only
scrawled initials.  Or maybe the person who finishes a project signs a
full name, and earlier contributors exist only as initials.

I'm also a believer in recording the institutional history of
conservation.  If there isn't already a record, try to reconstruct a
brief history--who worked when; when were floods and other disasters;
when were grant funded projects; how has the budget changed; where has
conservation been in the institution's table of organization; etc.  Then
keep records on the continuing history of conservation; I've used the
format of a monthly report.  This is an informal but valuable way to
keep track of:

    the comings and goings of staff, students, volunteers, interns

    the acquisition or disposal of tools and equipment

    a change in suppliers, improvement of a supply specification, or
    adverse change in a supply formulation

    the start of a new technique, variation on a previous technique, new
    philosophy, new vocabulary, etc.

This documentation has two purposes.  It charts the evolution of the
conservation program, its practices and activities.  And it provides an
overall timeline of techniques and supplies that have been used.
Individual treatment reports would say (for instance) that solvents or
heat was used to remove tape.  But what if you wanted to know the first
time that your institution used heat for tape removal, or when heat set
tissue (or a particular product) was first used?  A monthly report or
similar tool is very useful for your own work, and a boon to future
generations at your institution.

Thanks for listening!
Cathy Atwood

                   Conservation DistList Instance 7:6
                 Distributed: Wednesday, June 23, 1993
                        Message Id: cdl-7-6-001
Received on Monday, 21 June, 1993

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