- How do I preserve my collection items?
- Should I wear gloves when handling collection items?
- What should I do if my collection item has damage and needs repair?
- Can I bring my collection item to the Library of Congress for conservation?
- How do I find a conservator?
- How can I find out how much my collection item is worth?
- Can I donate my collection item(s) to the Library of Congress?
- Should preservation be a consideration as I think about donating my collection?
- How should I pack collection items for storage or shipping?
- Where can I find preservation supplies?
- What kinds of plastic storage supplies are okay to use?
- If I have to store collection items in the basement or attic, should I put them in plastic bags or bins?
- What should I do if my collection item gets wet or moldy?
- How do I properly mat and frame my collection item?
- Is it okay to spotlight my framed collection item?
- What are the preservation considerations when exhibiting/displaying collection item(s)?
- What environmental management resources can help me plan improvements to my institution's HVAC system?
- What is the Library of Congress's policy on food and drink in collection areas?
- How does one become a conservator?
- Does the Library of Congress offer preservation courses?
- Where can I find preservation resources in other languages besides English?
The most effective and economical preservation measures for all types of materials (e.g., paper, books, photographs, audio-visual, etc.) are preventive: good care, storage, and handling. Jump to collections care tips for non-library materials (e.g., paintings, furniture, textiles, sculpture, decorative and other objects). See also Caring for Private and Family Collections (Northeast Document Conservation Center).
It depends upon the material(s) out of which the item is made.
Before handling any collection item, thoroughly wash and dry hands.
Always wear gloves (clean cotton or nitrile) when handling photographs, metal, or ivory objects. Always wear gloves (nitrile or if unavailable, vinyl) if there is reason to suspect a health hazard (e.g., mold, arsenic).
Gloves are not necessarily recommended for handling other materials as they reduce tactile sensitivity and increase dropping risk. For more information, see "Misperceptions About White Gloves ," pp. 4-16 from International Preservation News [PDF: 1.08 MB / 52 pp.].
Conservation work to address damage is time consuming and costly to do correctly.
If the item has collection value and is not used or exposed to risk of further damage, consider leaving it as-is and focusing on improving storage conditions.
If the item is of personal/sentimental value only, the damage is minor, and some risk of further damage from do-it-yourelf repair is acceptable, the Northeast Document Conservation Center has put together helpful information on basic conservation procedures for paper objects . Do not use self-stick tape, even if it is marketed as "archival."
If the item is of particular value, has progressing damage, is handled frequently, or is otherwise complicated, consider consulting a conservator.
Congress stipulates that the Library preserve and maintain the collections of the Library of Congress only.
Two main options for obtaining conservation services are: with a conservator in private practice or at a regional conservation center. The website of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) features information on How to Choose a Conservator and How to Find a Conservator by region, specialty, type of service, etc. The Regional Alliance for Preservation (RAP) maintains a list of U.S. regional conservation centers by geographic area (note: not all RAP members, such as the Library of Congress, offers conservation services to the public).
Two main options for obtaining conservation services are with a conservator in private practice or at a regional conservation center. The website of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) features information on How to Choose a Conservator and How to Find a Conservator by region, specialty, type of service, etc. The Regional Alliance for Preservation maintains a list of U.S. regional conservation centers by geographic area (note: not all RAP members, such as the Library of Congress, offers conservation services to the public).
By stipulation of Congress, the Library of Congress does not provide appraisal services.
The Smithsonian Institution has a helpful resource on gaining an identification, value, and offer for objects in general. For books specifically, Your Old Books (Rare Book and Manuscript Section, American Library Association) addresses some frequently asked questions about rare books and various aspects of collecting, including terminology, condition, and value. The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America also has information on collecting, appraising, and selling as well as a directory of booksellers and appraisers.
The Library's Acquisitions office handles donations of books and other materials.
Yes. Donating your collection item or collection is a very personal decision. Donors often select a recipient that is meaningful to them, such as an alma mater, local institution, or another organization with which they have close ties. Apart from the conditions you may wish to set on how your gift may be used, donors should always inquire after the long-term preservation of their gift and might consider selecting a different institution if the first cannot adequately provide for the upkeep and preservation of the object(s).
For additional information, see A Guide to Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository (Society of American Archivists).
There are specific tips for different kinds of objects, but the overall goal is to use appropriate materials and minimize risk of damage. See Handling, Packing, and Shipping [4.73 MB / 32 pp.] (National Park Service, Museum Handbook I).
Follow recommendations for good storage environment.
For further information about packing various kinds of library materials, see Moving Collections [PDF: 1.57 MB / 23 pp.] (British Library); Packing & storing books (State Library of Victoria); Packing and Shipping Paper Artifacts (Northeast Document Conservation Center).
- Preservation/Conservation Suppliers And Services (Amigos Library Services)
- Conservation Suppliers (Conservation Online)
- LAPNet List of Disaster Supplies (Los Angeles Preservation Network)
- Supplies and Services List (Guild of Book Workers)
Polyethylene, polypropylene, or polyester (polyethylene terephthalate or PET) plastic zip bags, sleeves, or bins without any additional slip or coating agents are considered stable and inert plastics. Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other unknown plastics.
If I have to store my collection items in the basement or attic, should I put them in plastic bags or bins?
Do not store objects of value in basements or attics.
Polyethylene or polypropylene bags or bins are useful as a secondary protection against water damage (first protection is avoiding areas of higher water risk), but do not offer protection against the deteriorating effects of environmental extremes found in basements and attics. In addition, the combination of a plastic storage container in an area of high humidity increases mold risk.
Take necessary safety precautions if the water is contaminated with sewage or other hazards or if there is active (wet or furry) mold growth.
Most objects cannot withstand being wet for more than a day or two without sustaining serious, potentially catastrophic, damage.
Emergency Guidelines for Art Disasters [PDF: 224 KB/ 12 pp.] (New York Museum of Modern Art) covers paintings, works of art on paper, photographs, optical media, magnetic media, books, and film.
Sound quality matting and framing is very important. The Library of Congress Preservation Directorate has written Preservation Guidelines for Matting and Framing.
Note: Permanent or long-term display of paper-based materials is never recommended because of the permanent and irreversible damage caused by light. If the item is of personal, monetary, or historic value, consider matting and framing a facsimile and keeping the original in a good storage and storage environment.
Light irreversibly damages paper and other organic materials, causing permanent, undesirable changes in appearance and molecular structure. All light causes damage, but intense light, shorter wavelengths of light (e.g., ultraviolet), and prolonged exposure are the most damaging. The following lighting conditions for display are preferable: overall, even, indirect, low intensity illumination; total elimination of ultraviolet light; no direct sunlight; no illumination at all if no one is looking.
Note: Permanent or long-term display of paper or organic materials is never recommended because of the permanent and irreversible damage caused by light. If the item is of personal, monetary, or historic value, consider matting and framing a facsimile and keeping the original in a good storage and storage environment.
The most important preservation considerations for exhibition and display of collection items are:
- relative humidity
- quality of the exhibition supplies that touch or surround the object (e.g., mat, frame, exhibition case)
Helpful resources: Preservation Guidelines for Matting and Framing; ANSI/NISO Z39.79-2001 standard Environmental Conditions for Exhibiting Library and Archival Materials ; Protecting Paper and Book Collections During Exhibition (Northeast Document Conservation Center).
For more information about the exhibit policies and practices at the Library of Congress, see “Displays: The Role of Preservation in Exhibitions at the Library of Congress ” in the IFLA 2006 international symposium proceedings, The 3-D’s of Preservation: Disaster, Displays, Digitization, pp. 73-96. [PDF: 1276 KB / 144 pp.].
What environmental management resources can help me plan improvements to my institution's HVAC system?
- Preservation Leaflets , specifically those under Planning and Prioritizing and The Environment (Northeast Document Conservation Center)
- The Realistic Preservation Environment (National Archives and Records Administration)
- Environmental Guidelines for the Storage of Paper Records [PDF: 1.78 MB / 27 pp.] (National Information Standards Organization)
- Preservation Calcalator (Image Permanence Institute)
Library of Congress policy does not allow the consumption of food or drink in reading rooms and collection areas. In general, food and drink should be kept away from library and other collection items to reduce the risk of damage from spills and other soiling and pests.
For conservation, specifically, see Become a Conservator from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic and Works (AIC) and the member programs of the Association of North American Graduate Programs in the Conservation of Cultural Property (ANAGPIC).
For a list of training opportunities in conservation, preservation, preservation administration, architectural preservation, and in related fields, see Art Conservation Training: Sources for Degrees, Seminars, and Mid-Career Training (Smithsonian Institution).
The Library of Congress does not offer preservation or library science courses or degrees. The Library does offer collections emergency training for librarians and basic preservation workshops for the public.
One can participate in workshops and other continuing education opportunities in preservation outside of a degree program through:
- Preservation 101 (live, online course offered by the Northeastern Document Conservation Center)
- Workshops from the Northeast Document Conservation Center
- Workshops from the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts
- LYRASIS Preservation Training
The Book Arts Web maintains a Book Arts Education list.
- El cuidado, manipulación y almacenamiento de fotografías (Library of Congress)
- Asociación para la Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural de las Américas
- Technical Bulletins El Rescate de Obras de Arte Creadas Sobre Papel; El Rescate de Colecciones Fotograficas; Rescate de Libros (Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts)
- Hojas en Español Preservación General; Preservación Desastres (LYRASIS)
- Recursos latinoamericanos de restauración y conservación para bibliotecas y archivos
- Como Rescatar Registros - Como Reconocer los Problemas de la Conservación de Documentos en las Colecciones de Investigación [PDF: 52 KB / 7 pp.] (Smithsonian Institution)
- La Rueda de Salvamento y Respuesta ante Emergencias (Heritage Preservation)
- Institut canadien de conservation (Canadian Conservation Institute)