Conservation. Preservation. What’s the difference? These two words are often used interchangeably, but they do mean different things. I often found myself getting confused by the two terms, so I contacted the Boston Public Library. Stuart Walker, a Book Conservator at the BPL provided this clarification. “Preservation encompasses all the range of things people (such as conservators) do to maintain collections or individual items in the best condition possible. This includes cleaning, temperature and RH control, education of the public, pest management, disaster preparedness and recovery planning, mass deacidification programs, digitization, etc. etc. Conservation refers to specific repair work on materials, whether whole collections, or individual items.”
As you pull together your family documents, photographs, letters, and other materials, you may discover that some have deteriorated. If not now, they may over time. Paper has all sorts of enemies — dampness, heat, light, fire, insects, rodents, even the acid that can be part of the paper itself. If you look at an old book and see the pages crumble as you turn them, the book is made of highly acidic paper, often from pine wood. If you look at a book made of older paper, say around the 1770s, it will often be in very good shape. Why? It’s made using bleached rags, hence the term rag paper. Photographs pose problems as well. And newspaper clippings become brittle very quickly.
What if you are concerned about family heirlooms, furniture or even an historic home. Organizations such as Historic New England (formerly know as The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities) are deeply involved in the conservation and preservation of houses built during specific periods and everything that goes into them — clothing, quilts, wall paper, curtains, furniture, cooking utensils, farming implements…
Think about the critical written records of your family, the photographs, the family heirlooms. To be available to future generations, they must all be preserved and damaged ones may be able to be repaired (conserved). If this is a concern, you should consult a person with experience in this field for advice. This is not a do-it-yourself project. It is better to leave something alone than to unintentionally do more damage. “First do no harm” applies to family archives as well as to doctors.
QUICK TIP: NEVER, EVER use tape on anything you want to save. Just look at an old book that has been repaired with tape or photographs that have been added with tape. Tape ruins whatever it touches.
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO KNOW MORE
WEBSITES (Just click on the website of interest)
BOOKS (Just click on the title of interest to see a book’s status)
Baldridge, Aimee. Organize Your Digital Life: How to Store Your Photographs, Music, Video, and Personal Documents in a Digital World. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2009. 006.6 B19O
May-Levenick, Denise S. How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia, and Genealogy Records. Cincinnati, OH: Family Tree Books, 2012. 929.1 L57H
Preserving Local Writers, Genealogy, Photographs, Newspapers and Related Materials. Edited by Carol Smallwood and Elaine Williams. Lenham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2012. 025.84 S63P
Taylor, Maureen Alice. Preserving Your Family Photographs: How to Care for Your Family Photographs – From Daguerreotypes to Digital Imaging. Lexington, KY: Picture Perfect Press, 2010. 771.46 T21P
vea/7 January 2016
Newton Free Library
Library website: http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog: https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide: http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy