Campus & Community

Center names photograph conservator

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Weissmans are supporting new staff position at preservation center

Paul M. Weissman ’52 and Harriet L. Weissman, whose gift created the University Library’s Weissman Preservation Center in 2000, have announced vital new support for the center’s growing photograph conservation program. With a $1.25 million gift announced on March 1, they will support the senior photograph conservator’s position in the Weissman Preservation Center.

“We were inspired to make this gift by the generous commitment of the Mellon Foundation towards the photograph conservation program,” Paul Weissman stated. “This rich, but potentially fragile, resource is now receiving the attention it needs to ensure its survival into the future.”

Brenda Bernier, who joined the Weissman Center staff in October 2005, has been designated the first Paul M. and Harriet L. Weissman Senior Photograph Conservator in the Harvard University Library. Bernier is the chief conservator for the University’s photographic holdings, estimated at more than 7.5 million items in 48 Harvard repositories and dating back to the emergence of photography in the 1840s.

Bernier came to Harvard from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), where she joined the staff as senior photograph conservator in 2001. At NARA, she was responsible for assessing the nature and condition of the agency’s vast photograph collections, performing conservation treatments, developing plans and guidelines, preparing storage specifications, conducting original research related to the deterioration and treatment of photographic materials, monitoring the work of conservation interns and junior conservators, and serving on NARA’s Emergency Response Team.

Previously, Bernier served as photographic materials and paper conservator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. There she treated early- to mid-20th century photographic materials and paper-based documents and works of art, and performed a wide range of associated activities.

Bernier is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and earned an M.S. in conservation of photographic materials from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. She completed conservation internships at the National Gallery of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, NARA, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

“Thanks to the vision and the generosity of Paul and Harriet Weissman and the founding support of the Mellon Foundation, Harvard is developing a photograph preservation program of the highest possible caliber,” said Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the University Library. “As visual materials continue to grow in importance for scholars of virtually every discipline, the Harvard Libraries will be uniquely positioned to meet their needs.”

Harvard’s overall photograph preservation initiative, which was founded on a $2.1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, complements ongoing preservation programs for the University’s 15.5 million books and millions of manuscripts, printed documents, maps, prints, drawings, disks, tapes, and other media.

The Weissman Preservation Center enables the libraries at Harvard to conserve the University’s most valuable collections of unique and rare library materials.

In addition to their sustained support for the Harvard Libraries, Paul and Harriet Weissman help to underwrite the University’s student financial aid program through the Paul M. Weissman Family Scholarship Program, and they have created the Weissman International Internship Program to foster the development of Harvard College students’ understanding of the global community in which they will live and work.