Happy Preservation Week! This week is a time to raise awareness about the importance of preservation both in our professional library and archives settings, and your personal collections at home. Each year, the State Library marks the week with daily preservation content on our social media platforms.
We’re starting the week off by following up on a post from last year. In February 2020, a staff member was looking through a bound volume of 1822-1824 Old Colony Memorial (OCM) newspapers and came across four fern fronds pressed between the pages. We shared the find during Preservation Week and explained the preservation measures that we would take after the ferns’ discovery. Since the OCM is still an active publication, when they saw this post they reached out, asked some follow-up questions, and then wrote about the find. You can read that article here.
Each find was photographed to document the original placement, with a notation of the page number. We then carefully removed each item using a microspatula and tweezers. The items were placed on a piece of permalife paper cut to size, with the page number written on it in pencil. Each item was then encapsulated in a polyester sleeve. Finally, all the items were placed in a box, along with a folder of the photographs, and a folder containing a copy of the OCM newspaper article and factsheet that we had provided to the reporter. The box was labeled and stored with the bound volume.
Some might question why we go to lengths to preserve these materials. Admittedly, they don’t add research value to the volume of newspapers, and we don’t even know who placed them or when (though if you clicked through to read the OCM article you’ll see that we have some guesses, and that this find did lead us to do some further research into the volume’s provenance). But we save them for the hidden history that they represent, and for the personal connection that they add to an item in our collection. We know that at some point in the newspaper’s history, whether it was during the binding process in the 1940s or by a librarian working with the volumes at a later date, someone removed this flora from its natural environment, carefully transported them to where the bound volume was held and placed them within the pages so that they would be pressed and preserved. Many of us can relate to this and recall at least one time when we’ve come across an item in nature that struck us and we wanted to preserve it in this manner. Since we’ve disturbed these items from their original resting spot, the least we can do is document that location and keep the items in archivally sound storage along with the volume.
We use Preservation Week as a time not just to talk about the preservation measures that we undertake in our library, but to draw attention to the more personal ways that we all preserve the items that make up our own history. We hope that some of the tips that we share for our library collection are useful and applicable when working with your own collection. Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as we celebrate Preservation Week 2022, and if you have any preservation questions, reach out to us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment on any of our posts!