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

Literature Review

Creation is the manifestation of human achievement, varying in form and composition. Significance can be found in: monumental and everyday structures; prose, verse and poetry; works of art; music and lyrics; and utilitarian technology. Retaining human memory by preserving our creations requires the merging of disciplines. Along with art history, modern conservators study scientific theory and practice, anthropological history, philosophy, and the technical processes of fine arts and craftsmanship. Documentation of working techniques and treatment of specific objects is available but record of the profession prior to the 20th century is scarce. This makes it unclear how well organized and codified conservation practice was prior to the last century. The existence of more than twenty-five centuries of art however, indicates that modes of conservation have been developing over the course of time.

In the catalogue for the exhibition "Altered States,” James Martin addresses the applications of science in the analysis, conservation, and interpretation of works of art. Beginning in the 18th century with a balloonist that had a physics laboratory in the Louvre, and continuing through the 1950s when museum scientists and conservators founded the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC). This article defines the interdependence of scientific analysis and conservation practice.

The aims of modern conservation are embodied in the bylaws, code of ethics, and standards of practice of its professional organizations.
“To provide an organization to coordinate and advance the knowledge and improved methods of conservation needed to protect, preserve, and maintain the condition and physical integrity of objects or structures which because of their history, significance, rarity, or workmanship have a commonly accepted value and importance for the public interest. The term conservation shall mean examination (action taken to determine the nature and properties of materials and the causes of deterioration and alteration), restoration (action taken to correct deterioration and alteration), and preservation (actions taken to prevent, stop, or retard deterioration.)” The AIC Bylaws.

Frederick Bearman discusses the principles and ethics of preservation that developed in archives and library collections in the 19th century in his paper for the fourth international conference of the Institute of Paper Conservation (pg. 83-85). Bearman recognizes Sir Henry Cole, an officer in both the Records Commission and the Public Records Office, as the “father” of modern conservation principles and ethics. Principles that were further developed and refined by Sir Hilary Jenkinson in the 1920s and Roger Ellis in the 1950s. The history and practice of modern conservation has been compiled by editor Andrew Oddy (1992). Oddy brings together experts working in the field to look at the different facets in caring for historical collections. Conservation in the traditional sense alludes to restorative treatments. Preventative conservation, was developed during the industrial revolution in reaction to the declining air quality. All aspects of conservation practice are continually refined as knowledge increases. Preventive conservation and ethical restoration is possible only because scientific research has helped us to understand the processes of deterioration and the physical properties of individual objects.

For example: statistical analysis and scientific research helped to minimize the intellectual loss of paper suffering from embrittlement. “The future of the past: Preservation in American Research Libraries,” outlines the reactions of the Council on Library Resources and the ARL to the epidemic of embrittled paper. The Library of Congress, Yale, and Harvard carefully documented and published the problems of embrittlement in their own collections. Initial response to the problem was large-scale development of mass-deacidification using diethyl zinc (DEZ) carried out in the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center by the Library of Congress in the 1980s. An accident in 1985 led to the dismantling of the program. The reports to follow the DEZ testing “Mass deacidification: an update on possibilities and limitations documented severe drawbacks to using the DEZ chemical. Further steps were then taken by the National Endowment for the Humanities to initiate a national response by establishing the Office of Preservation in 1985. The Commission on Preservation and Access was established in 1986 by the CLR as a private, non-profit group to foster collaboration in preserving and making available compromised historical documents through migration to more stable media. In 1987, Chandru J. Shahani and William K. Wilson published an overview on the chemical principles behind paper deterioration in the American Scientist. Finally, in 1988, Donald K. Sebera presented “ A graphical representation of the relationship of environmental conditions to the permanence of hygroscopic materials and composites.” Sebera concluded that cool, dry storage would significantly retard the acid-hydrolysis occurring within the high lignin paper manufactured following the mechanized process of paper making. Thus, the methodology of preventative conservation is indirect: deterioration is reduced by controlling its causes.

Conservation and preservation practices require an understanding of the humanities and the sciences to enable the professional conservator to study the products of material culture in their past and present contexts and ensure their preservation for the benefit of future generations. Archivist and librarians can draw upon the literature produced by conservators, professional organizations, museums and government agencies to ensure the most effective treatments for their collections.



"Preservation" defined in 1996 by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC)
"The protection of cultural property through activities that minimize chemical and physical deterioration and damage and that prevent loss of informational content. The primary goal of preservation is to prolong the existence of cultural property."1

Banks, P. N. and Pilette, R. (2000) Preservation issues and planning. Chicago and London.:ALA.


Smith, M. A. and Garlick, K. (1987) Surveying library collections: a suggested approach with case study
summary - a comprehensive approach to surveying large collections. This article takes you through the steps from start to finish involved in the assessment of the presidential collection at the Library of Congress.

Agents of Deterioration

Bradley, S.M. (1990) Do objects have a finite lifetime? in Keene, S. (ed.) Managing Conservation. U.K.: Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works of Art.
summary - this article covers the agents of deterioration that effect museum collections and their use. Bradley includes archeological, ethnographic, and decorative objects, as well as vehicles of transportation. Aspects of conservation and preservation are defined and outlined. Migration options are also discussed.

Maltby, S. (2001) Here drums the sun. Old house journal.
summary - this article addresses light damage and recommendations for UV solar protection.

Montana - Ryan, V. (1995) Integrated Pest Management. Rocky Mountain Conservation Center.
summary - this technical leaflet explores pest management in depth includes: pest identification; pest detection; object specific pest control, and chemical fumigation.

Turner, S. (1985) Mold the silent enemy. The new library scene
summary - this article recounts the consequence of a failing evaporative cooling system in a long-term storage area for Denver Public Library. Active mold was discovered and Turner outlines all the processes that follow. Well written and informative however, information pertains to library collections that are not considered rare or archival.

Weintraub, S. (n.d.). Creating and maintaining the right environment. Caring for your collections.
summary- preservation goal is to protect the original image. Weintraub discusses control of environmental factors including: different types of light; relative humidity; pollutants; and temperature. The article addresses the changes that objects undergo in fluctuating and extreme conditions. Advice is offered for both macro and micro level controls.

Monitoring Collections

Chicora Foundation, Inc. (1994) Managing the museum environment. Author. Retrieved March 2, 2003 from <>
summary - excellent reference source for environmental control mechanisms. HVAC systems, and monitoring equipment are discussed.

Controlling the exhibition environment. (n.d.) in Museum exhibition.
summary - a comprehensive article that covers all aspects of environmental conditions and threats to collections; potential damage to objects on exhibit; building design; and micro-climates.

Craddock, A. B. (n.d.) Control of temperature and humidity in small collections.
summary - this article discusses deterioration associated with RH and temperature; the ideal climate; modifications to the environment for storage and exhibit areas.

National Parks Service (1993) Datalogger applications in monitoring the museum environment. in Conserve-O-Gram. Author (Number 3/3)
summary - explains the types of dataloggers available; their capacities in data gathering; manipulation and data output; disadvantages and advantages; and sources.


The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (1994). AIC Code of ethics and guidelines for practice
summary - outlines standards of practice for conservation professionals including: professional conduct; examination and scientific investigation; preventative conservation; treatment; documentation; and emergency situations.

The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (1996). 1AIC Definitions of conservation terminology
summary - clearly defines the role of conservation, documentation, treatment, and preventative care of cultural material.

Brealey, J. M. (1987) Profiles - Colored muds in a sticky substance. The New Yorker. May issue
summary - a critical look at developments in the conservation profession. Brealey suggests that current conservation techniques can reek havoc in the long-term interpretation and that intense dialog and revision is necessary.

Lawrence, S. (n.d.). Conservation policies for museums. The Art Gallery of Ontario.
summary - this article draws attention to the numerous staff resources that art exhibitions demand. Since numerous people are involved in the maintenance care and well being of a collection the need to develop conservation policies that are institution wide are crucial. The article routines an eight step process in policy development.

Phillimore, E. (comp.) (n.d.) A glossary of terms useful in conservation. Canadian Museum Association.

Materials - books

Clark Morrow, C. and Dyal, C. (1986). Conservation treatment procedures: a manual of step-by-step procedures for the maintenance and repair of library materials. Libraries Unlimited.
summary - this article provides a check list for book repair decision-making and presents comprehensive treatment options. Five maintenance procedure are highlighted and deterioration and repair of leather-bound books are addressed.

Grandinette, M. and Silverman, R. (1994) The library collections conservation discussion group: taking a comprehensive look at book repair. Published by the A.I.C.
summary - Maria Grandinette is Preservation Officer, for The Hoover Institute on War, Revolution, and Peace, Stanford University. Randy Silverman is Preservation Librarian, Marriott Library, University of Utah. Together they discuss a national effort to improve the quality of book repair. Suggestions for developing a conservation program are presented including: selection process; treatment specification; and training opportunities. The article acknowledges budget constraints that influence type and extent of conservation in libraries.

Pickwoad, N. (1994) Distinguishing between the good and bad repair of books in Hadgraft, N. and K, Swift (Eds.) Conservation and preservation in small libraries. Parker Library Publications.
summary - this article examines how conservation and rebinding should be approached. Nicholas reasserts that conservation activity should only involve the minimal treatment to achieve the end. Treatment must utilize bibliographic and conservators requirements while maintaining provenance and historical significance. Pickwoad addresses the importance of documentation in conservation treatment and provides guidelines for judging the quality of book repair.

Smith, A. (1999). The future of the past: preservation in American research libraries. The Council on Library and Information Resources.
summary - this article discusses the "brittle book" problem facing research libraries around the world. Case studies from Yale and the Library of Congress' are included. Treatments including mass-deacidification and migration to preservation photocopies and microfilm surrogates are evaluated. Smith includes the inherent-vice associated with books and environmental conditions that place them at risk. Four key questions are posed for effective action on a national level: 1. how do we document the information to be saved, on what medium, and using what standards; 2. how do we record the fact that a title has been preserved; 3. what should be preserved; 4. who should be responsible for accomplishing the preservation. Smith also discusses the problems with multimedia and potential loss from magnetic tape and digital files.

Smith, C. (1998). To preserve and protect The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved August 28, 2002 from <>
summary - this article describes the restoration of a copy of Dante by the University of Texas conservators. Includes techniques and time involved in the conservation process.

Materials - paintings

Hodkinson, I. S. (n.d.) Man's effect on paintings. Ontario, Canada.: Queen's University.

Materials - paper

Tudhope, H. (1998) Mylar encapsulation for documents and works of art on paper. Art Conservation Center. Denver, CO.: Denver University.

Materials - photographs

Reilly, James ( 1998) Storage guide for color photographic materials. University if the State of New York. Rochester, NY.:Image Permanence Institute.
summary - covers historical background; stability of color material; technology of colored materials; why dyes fade; enclosures for color photographs; determining the life expectancy of color materials; ANSI and ISO standards; environmental threats; storage conditions; cool and cold storage practices; restoration of color photos; and annotated bibliography.

Swan, A. (1981) Conservation of photographic print collections. Library Trends. (Fall)

Wilhelm, H. and Brower, C. (1993) The permanence and care of color photographs: traditional and digital color prints, color negatives, slides, and motion pictures. Preservation Publishing Company
summary - source authority on color photo and film care. Highly technical with comprehensive information about characteristics, stability, and conservation concerns of color products. Has preservation recommendations and product specs.


Canadian Conservation Institute. (1988) Care of black-and-white photographic negatives on film. Notes. Ottawa, Canada.: Author. (16/3)

Canadian Conservation Institute. (1988) Care of black-and-white photographic prints. Notes. Ottawa, Canada.: Author. (16/4)

Canadian Conservation Institute. (1988) Care of color photographic materials. Notes. Ottawa, Canada.: Author. (16/5)

Herskovitz, R. (1999) Storage of glass plate negatives. Tech talk in the Minnesota History Interpreter. Minnesota.: Minnesota Historical Society. (July)

Norris, D.H. Photographs. Caring for your collections.

Northeast Document Conservation Center. (1992) Storage enclosures for photographic materials. Technical leaflet, storage and handling. Andover, MA.: Author.

Tetreault, J. (n.d.) Potential for deterioration of museum artifacts caused by display and storage materials. Canadian Conservation Institute. Ottawa, Canada: Department of Communications.

Sease, C. and Anderson, C. (n.d.) Preventative conservation at the Field Museum. Chicago: The Field Museum

Disaster planning

VirTis ( n.d.) An introduction to freeze drying.
summary - freeze drying will lock solid particles firmly in place and stop physical and chemical reactions from occurring. This article provides technical information about the process. It is important to understand this process prior to a disaster.

Alire, C. (ed.) (2000) Library disaster planning and recovery handbook. New York, N.Y.: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.


McIntyre G. (1987) It's a dirty job...good housekeeping in living historic sites. Museum Quarterly.
summary - this article explores the problems facing historic house staff as they manage the daily needs of 100 historic site museums in Ontario. Discusses traditional cleaning techniques and interpretation.