Every year for the past decade, the American Library Association has celebrated Preservation Week in late April or early May. This annual event is designed to raise awareness of the ways that our cultural heritage, including books and archival materials, are vulnerable to damage, as well as the work involved in safeguarding these materials.
While this April has been a month fraught with unprecedented pain, disruption, and uncertainty, the work of preservation continues. Our family papers, books, objects, and digital files offer an invaluable link between the past and the present. They are a powerful means of building connections between generations, but they will only survive to do so with proper care.
What is preservation, and how can you preserve your own treasured heirlooms? Join us this week for Preservation Boot Camp to find out. We will be answering these questions and more as we get your family archives into great shape for the future!
What is Preservation?
Libraries aren’t just a home to books: they also collect many other types of objects, many of which are rare or unique. At Miami University, the collections include circulating resources like textbooks; special collections materials such as rare books and postcards; and archives containing manuscripts, photographs, and artifacts. It is the responsibility of the Preservation & Conservation Department to ensure that all of these diverse materials are safeguarded for the benefit of the current and future Miami community. There are many tasks necessary to accomplish this goal, including:
- Anticipating risks to the collection, such as from disasters, and taking steps to mitigate them
- Ensuring a proper storage environment, with safe levels of damaging factors such as light, heat, and humidity
- Conducting physical interventions, or repairs, on individual items
The work of preservation is never “done.” Time and use will continue to take their toll on books and other materials in various ways, even in the best of circumstances. Maintaining our collections is a big job, and we rely on our student workers to help us get it all done. In the Preservation Lab, our talented students build boxes, sew protective covers, repair bindings, and more!
Preservation Boot Camp
Now that you know a bit about what we do at the library, take a moment to think about your own family records and heirlooms. Many families pass down unique and irreplaceable evidence of the people and events of the past. Photo albums, deeds, wedding dresses, digital journals–your family archive might be big or small, old or new, consisting of any and every type of material. Whatever the object, just like in a library setting, your archives are subject to damage and deterioration over time. However, with a few safeguards in place, you can preserve your heirlooms for many years to come.
If after this, you’re ready and excited to get serious about preservation, then you’re in luck! Join us each day next week for Preservation Boot Camp, when we’ll be providing tips and tricks for preserving your family papers, books, objects, or digital files. Have preservation-related questions of your own? We’ll be answering those too! Just head over to the @MiamiOH.spec Instagram account to see tips, and send us a message on Instagram between now and April 30th to be included. We can’t wait to hear your questions! See you on Instagram.
In this time of upheaval and loss, it feels natural to turn to our family heirlooms for comfort. As you join us this Preservation Week, we hope that you find joy in reconnecting with the unique materials in your personal collection.
The Walter Havighurst Special Collections & University Archives blog has posted more in-depth information on Preserving Your Digital Archives.