Preserving the Collections

For the past year I have been working in Lafayette’s Skillman Library, Special Collections Department, creating housing for the rare books and for Skillman’s newest collection – artists’ books. These protective coverings, made of archival materials, are important to the preservation of these objects.

Many of the older works have suffered damage from years of improper storage, from simply being handled for so many years, or the effects of the atmosphere on the book’s materials. I have seen disintegrating leather, red rot, brittle pages, browning of the paper and other conditions. All of these problems need to be considered when choosing the proper cardboard to use as a cover. Other important considerations are how the book will be stored on the shelf, what will be stored next to it, and what weight of covering will be appropriate for each book. The hope is that, by creating a protective cover for the older as well as the newer books, further damage can be prevented.

Using all archival or acid-free materials, I make flapped boxes that hold the books inside. Typically, I use materials from University Products Company such as their Adjustable Rare Book Storage pre-scored cardboard, non-adjustable, corrugated cardboard or Mylar. The Mylar is used for larger artists’ books. Sometimes just a single wrap covering is needed to keep the book protected from what could be next to it on the shelf.
In the video tutorial posted with this essay, I am using the Adjustable Rare Book Storage cardboard, which is pre-scored to make folding easier. It is important that each housing fits snuggly to the book. Throughout the process, it is especially important to handle the original work with care, so as not to damage it any further.

– Carolyn Burns, ‘09

Carolyn Burns is a Student Preservation Assistant in Lafayette College’s Special Collections Department at Skillman Library. She is a senior Art major with concentrations in Printmaking and Art History.

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