The Preservation Handbook Online

Table of Contents

I. Preservation
II. Assessment
III. Collection Assessment
IV. Agents of Deterioration
V. Monitoring collections
VI. Materials
VII. Storage
VIII. Conservation
IX. Disaster Planning
X. Housekeeping
XI. Resources / Suppliers
XII. Preservation Grants


Humans desire to remain mentally as well as physically constant. Elaborate systems of worship, societal structures, communication, and technologies have been created to preserve and extend the human presence. However noble, entropy is inevitable. All things will eventually return to their basic building blocks. This being understood, the task of preserving a collection will be successful when informed decisions with realistic expectations are made.

Preservation should be thought of as an action that requires people working with cultural materials to draw on a wide variety of skills and resources. Professionals should understand the history of the items they care for and take as many precautionary steps to prevent deterioration. Providing an optimum environment is the only way to extend the life and use of an entire collection. The primary goal of preservation is to maintain physical stability and prolong the existence of informational content.

Conservation should be thought of as a reaction that requires skills and expertise from a professional conservator. The language of conservation should be understood by cultural professionals in order to effectively communicate problems and decide on treatment. Ethical treatment of cultural property should be followed at all times. This requires the least invasive treatment and 100% reversibility.

This handbook has been designed to outline a systematic approach to preservation and to increase the vocabulary and understanding of conservation practice and procedure. All collections will have unique variables so no source will be exhaustive. The intention is to help librarians, archivists, and historians understand the threats to our cultural heritage; the steps of prevention; and possible treatments availble to maintain an objects stability. Improper handling of historical collections will only increase the rate of object deterioration and reduce the accessibility and value of cultural property. Conservation treatment to restore the natural state of an object is expensive and can be avoided when preventative efforts are faithfully persued.