22 April 2012

Preservation Week: April 22-28, 2012

It is quite busy as this last semester comes to a close, but this week is also Preservation Week! As I currently work in preservation, and since conservation served as my first window into the world of librarianship, I have a soft spot for preservation in my heart.

Everyone who uses libraries plays a role in the preservation process. Just by keeping food & liquids away from books, refraining from marking in library materials, and carefully handling them, you are helping library items last longer. But when books fall victim to aging, wear and tear, and natural disasters, conservators come to save the day.

In a sense, library preservation owes a great deal to mother nature. The 1966 floor of the Arno river in Florence, Italy was the mother of all modern library disasters. Alli Burness has a great post about the event here:

I discovered the great flood of the Arno Riverin Florence, Italy on 4 November 1966. Like those Art History buffs before me, I'm wondering how on earth I hadn't heard about this event before now. 
This is an event which is still commemorated in years marking significant anniversaries of the flood. It killed at least 30 people. And the are of Florence most heavily impacted by the 1966 flood contained many world renowned collections, including the National Central Library (Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Firenze), the Museo Galileo (formerly the Institute and Museum of the History of Science or the Instituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza) and the Basilica of Santa Croce, which contained, Cimabue's Crucifixion.
After the flood of water, the city was then flooded with volunteers who came from all over the world to help restore Florence and its priceless collections. Some were professional conservators, others were inexperienced students. Together, they literally shoveled mud, books and documents into the backs of trucks and set up book and paper hospitals to restore them. These people, whoever they were, became known as Angeli del Fango, or Mud Angels.
Needless to say, disaster planning has become more of a priority for repositories since then.

Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, post-flood, 1966
And lest you think that preservation is fading away with the printed book, think again. Preservation is an important and tricky business, even for digital materials. The National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP, one of the worst acronyms known to modern man) has some great resources for learning about current developments in digital preservation, as well as tips for preserving personal materials. NDIIPP's blog, The Signal, is also worth following.

Take some time this week to learn a little more about preservation-and save some books in the process!

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