Happy Preservation Week!

By Emily Moyer, Collections Care Assistant, Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory

PreservationWeek2015_logoSponsored by the American Library Association’s Association of Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), Preservation Week aims to raise awareness of the importance of preservation and education in providing collections for future generations.

Every week is preservation week in the Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory at The New York Academy of Medicine. Preservation efforts include cleaning, stabilization, and rehousing; monitoring environmental conditions; education on the care and handling of materials; item-level treatments; and disaster preparedness. We work together to try to prevent future deterioration of materials and mitigate risks to the collection.

This behind-the-scenes video shows a day in the conservation lab here at the Academy: creating slings for our 60,000+ health pamphlet collection, shrink wrapping brittle periodicals and books, mounting facsimile images for an exhibition, refoldering and dry cleaning pamphlets, mending a manuscript cookbook, and rebacking a 19th-century medical student notebook.

Happy Preservation Week!


Celebrate Preservation Week, April 26–May 3, 2014

PreservationWeekIn 2010, the American Library Association (ALA) created Preservation Week to bring attention to the millions of items in collecting institutions that require care. Sponsored by the ALA’s Association of Library Collections and Services and partner organizations, it was designed to inspire the preservation of personal, family, and community collections of all kinds, as well as library, museum, and archive collections. The goal is also to raise awareness of the role libraries and other cultural institutions can play in providing ongoing preservation information.

What will you do to celebrate Preservation Week? Here are a few ideas.

1. Write a disaster plan for your institution, if it doesn’t have one already. If it doesn’t, you are not alone. According to a 2004 study, 78% of public libraries and 73% of academic libraries do not have an emergency plan or staff to carry it out. (Read more about it here.)

Get ahead of the game—here are some places to start:

2. Learn more about caring for your private collection materials.

Facsimile denture in custom-made clamshell box

Custom-made box for a facsimile of George’s Washington’s lower denture.

3. Make sure your collection materials are correctly housed. 

  • There are several posts about creating enclosures in our blog that you can peruse:

o Creating a box for a facsimile of George Washington’s lower denture.

o On re-housing our diploma collection.

o And be sure to check out our Item of the Month blog for May 2014, which features an introduction to enclosure basics.

  • A variety of custom enclosures are available from the following vendors:

o Archival Products (of particular note is the Academy folder, named after the New York Academy of Medicine)

o Talas

o Hollinger Metal Edge

4. Find a conservator. Of course, we don’t recommend undertaking conservation treatments unless you are a trained conservator. AIC (The American Institute for Conservation for Historic and Artistic Works) provides a searchable listing of conservation professionals working in specialties ranging from books and paper to objects and textiles. You can search by specialty or by zip code.

5. Attend a Preservation Week event. Click here for an event map and list of speakers.

Preservation week happens only once a year, but collections need constant care. We hope the above can help you get started, or serve as a reminder of the importance of preservation.

Read more about Preservation Week.

Preservation Week Quiz

By Christina Amato, Book Conservator

In recognition of Preservation Week, NYAM conservators have prepared a quiz. The following mystery objects are used in the NYAM Gladys Brooks Book and Paper Conservation Lab. Prove your preservation moxie by choosing which description best matches each item.

Image 1:
Image 1a.  Pest remediation instrument. The small nozzle can reach into the gutters of books, and capture crawling insects and larva via suction. They are whisked into the clear chamber, where they will peacefully expire in the oxygen deprived environment.

b.   Nebulizer. The clear chamber is used to heat water, and the resulting steam can be directed very precisely with the small nozzle onto areas that require humidification (such as crumpled paper or vellum.) The chamber can also be filled with a dilute adhesive, which can be used to consolidate flaking media.

c.   Airbrush. The clear chamber is filled with dilute paint, usually watercolor or acrylic, and is used to tone cloth or Japanese paper for repairing books. It is also frequently used with leather dye to tone calf or goatskin.

Image 2:
Image 2

a.   Sewing frame. Books are occasionally completely disbound and resewn in the lab.  Cord, or linen “tape”, is pulled taut from the horizontal  bar to the base, and books are sewn onto the cords.

b.   Parchment stretching frame. Crumpled parchment is humidified, and attached to the frame using specialized clips. The horizontal bar is slowly raised until the parchment is taut, where it is left to dry.

c.   Traction device. Long hours spent stooped over a bench can lead to a host of orthopedic insults. Conservators are wise to take a few minutes every day to “stretch out on the rack.”

Image 3:
Image 3

a.   Pamphlet binder. Pamphlets are passed between the jaws of this device, which affixes the pages together with stainless steel tackets.  The jaws can be adjusted to accommodate pamphlets of varying thicknesses.

b.   Tape dispenser. Specialized mending tape is applied to torn pages when fed through the jaws. Can also be used with duct tape.

c.   Leather paring device.  A two-sided razor blade is attached to the top jaw; pieces of leather are passed through the jaws, until the desired thickness is reached.  It is often necessary to thin out leather quite a bit before using it to repair a book.

Image 4:
Image 4

a.   Pest Remediation Dome. Books that have been infected with insects can be placed inside the dome. Oxygen is gradually pumped out of the dome, gently suffocating any insects within.

b.   Incubator. Conservators in the Gladys Brooks Book and Paper Conservation lab are world renowned for their hand processed silk thread, which is used in a variety of conservation applications. Silk worms are lovingly and painstakingly raised in the dome from larva, until they are ready to be harvested.

c.   Humidity dome and suction table. Paper or vellum that requires humidification, for flattening, for example, can be placed inside the dome, where the humidity is gradually increased until the desired level is reached. Beneath the dome is a suction table; it can be used to force solvents through a piece of paper, for stain reduction and other applications. 

Image 5:
Image 5

a.   We don’t actually know. We saw it at Restoration Hardware, and thought it looked cool.

b.   Book Press. This is used to apply pressure to books, after treatment, to prevent warping during drying. It can also be used to flatten single sheets of paper.

c.   Book truck. Books are held in place underneath the platen; the truck can then be safely driven around the lab. The large wheel at the top is used for steering. 


1. b         2.  a        3. c         4. c         5. b


5 out of 5: Preservation Superstar! Congratulations! You are tapped into the pulse of preservation!

4 out of 5: Preservation B Lister: Not bad! You have a generally solid understanding of preservation!

3 out of 5: Preservation Dilettante: You know a little about preservation, but could stand to step it up.

2 out of 5: Preservation Novice: It sounds like preservation isn’t your strongest suit but there’s hope yet.

1 out of 5: Preservation Rookie: Things are not looking so good for you, preservation-wise.

0 out of 5: Preservation Lightweight: At least there’s nowhere to go but up.