Preservation and conservation

The summer holidays are the time to go away and recharge batteries, but also a chance to focus time and resources on our collections. For those of us working in teams that do not include professional conservators, this is a good time to review preservation and conservation (1) issues and plan ahead to ensure sustainable long-term access to the range of materials in our care.


The British Library Preservation Advisory Centre, which replaced the National Preservation Office (NPO) last year, runs courses, services (preservation reviews and assessments) and offers a wealth of practical information for libraries on all aspects of preservation. It has organised jointly with Research Libraries UK the conference ‘Dare to share: new approaches to long-term collections management’ that will take place at the Wellcome Collection, London, on 6 September 2010.


Preservation Advisory Centre publications are freely available online and also in print by request. The twenty booklets published so far on specific preservation topics, from policy level to handling advice, are a must read for anyone involved in collection management. The latest titles in this excellent series are ‘Damaged books’ and ‘Preservation of photographic material’. The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) has developed the conservation guidelines for videotapes ‘Videotape preservation fact sheet’.


The British Library Collection Care department has produced online videos on handling library materials, including books in boxes, folded or rolled items, archives, prints, drawings and photographs.


Collections Link, a service funded by MLA, is another source of information for collection management resources and training opportunities, including preservation.

The UK Registrars Group (UKRG) devised with MLA a ‘Standard facilities report’, which is available on their website with other useful publications for those involved with exhibition loans, like the ‘UK courier guidelines’. The sad and shocking news that the MLA is to be abolished leaves grants and funding, the Designation scheme and several other programmes it manages in an uncertain situation.


The IFLA Core Activity on Preservation and Conservation (PAC) publishes ‘International preservation news’ three times a year, the latest (August 2010, no.51) dedicated to training issues. PAC is also responsible for the monographic series ’International Preservation Issues’, which includes ‘IFLA principles for the care and handling of library material’.


ICON, the Institute of Conservation, is the professional organisation for conservators in the UK. Among its services is the Conservation Register, which offers guidance on selecting and working with conservators and details for accredited ones. You can search the Register by specialism (under Conservation-Restoration or Preventive Conservation and Surveys) or by place. The ICON website also offers basic conservation advice on a wide selection of materials.


Other conservation organisations providing online information include the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC), the International Council of Museums Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC), the International Centre for the Study and Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), the Getty Conservation Institute, and the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (INCCA), which recently organised the international symposium ’Who cares for contemporary art?’.


For more in-depth information on conservation issues, AATA Online and BCIN (Bibliographic Database: Conservation Information Network) are the main databases of professional and technical literature, and are freely available online.


To finish, what I would consider the last word on the famous gloves or no gloves controversy, ‘The use of white cotton gloves for handling collection items’ by Jane Pimlott (British Library): “Clean dry hands, free from creams and lotions, are preferable in the majority of circumstances.”


Have a good holiday.


BHA/IBA update

The Getty Research Institute announced on June 23 that ProQuest, publishers of ‘ARTbibliographies Modern‘ and ‘Design and Applied Arts Index’, will take over production of the ’International Bibliography of Art’ (IBA) database, making it accessible via its CSA Illumina platform. BHA records (until 2008) will continue to be freely available though the Getty website.


(1) A note on terminology: the term ‘preservation’, as used in libraries and archives, is roughly equivalent to, but broader than, preventive conservation, while ‘conservation’ is reserved for remedial conservation (and restoration). For definitions see:



[Grandal Montero, G. (2010) Resources online: Preservation and conservation. ARLIS News-sheet, no. 207, Sept.-Oct., pp. 3-4.]


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