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Subject: British Library receives Mellon grant

British Library receives Mellon grant

From: Barry Knight <barry.knight>
Date: Wednesday, February 22, 2006
The largest grant ever made for library and archive conservation
research in the United Kingdom has been awarded to the British
Library. The grant of $695,000 by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation
will be used for two projects, one of which will use odorous
compounds given off by old books to measure how fast the books are

The funding will enable the British Library and its partners to
carry out research into the impact of environmental conditions on
book preservation and the future of book storage and conservation.
Both projects aim to target conservation resources more effectively
and ensure that the national written heritage is preserved for the
use and enjoyment of future generations.

Starting on 1 April 2006, the first project will examine copies of
the same books held by various libraries and compare how differences
in their storage conditions and usage have affected their state of
preservation. Working with UCL's Centre for Sustainable Heritage to
study the past environments in libraries, the research will be able
to predict changes in their future condition based on knowledge of
how they are being stored.  Knowing which materials will be at
highest risk in a given set of storage conditions will enable
conservators to target these for closer monitoring and act before
the books are seriously damaged.

The second project that is scheduled to start a year later will
analyse the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) given off by books.
All paper emits a complex mixture of organic compounds as it ages,
including volatile acids.  These substances form the characteristic
smell of old books. VOCs vary according to paper type and are a
contributing factor to paper degradation. The Department of Pure and
Applied Chemistry at the University of Strathclyde will collaborate
by sampling the air in library storage facilities and measuring the
quantity of acid produced. This project will enable libraries to
design stores to minimise the rate of paper degradation and give an
early warning of when the level of acid in the books is reaching
dangerous levels.

The British Library will collaborate with the other five Legal
Deposit libraries (National Library of Wales, National Library of
Scotland, Oxford and Cambridge University Libraries and the library
of Trinity College, Dublin), the National Archives (Kew) and the
National Archives of Scotland, on both projects and will be managed
by Dr Barry Knight, Head of Conservation Research in the Collection
Care department of the British Library.  The library's academic
partners will be the Centre for Sustainable Heritage at University
College London, and the Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry at
the University of Strathclyde.  The project will support Future Life
of Collections, a strategy document produced for library and archive
conservation research in 2004 by the Library and Archive community
in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Helen Shenton, Head of Collection Care said: "This is one of the
largest grants ever made for conservation research in the United
Kingdom. As a new entrant into this area it is an outstanding
endorsement of the collaborative approach being taken by the British
Library, whereby we will work with five other copyright libraries,
two national archives and two universities to produce research that
has a practical application for preserving any library and archive

Dr Barry Knight
Head of Conservation Research
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
+44 20 7412 7229
Fax: +44 20 7412 7658

                  Conservation DistList Instance 19:39
                Distributed: Thursday, February 23, 2006
                       Message Id: cdl-19-39-004
Received on Wednesday, 22 February, 2006

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