Twenty years ago, you might have found Debora Mayer at her worktable in Harvard’s campus center, bent over a fragile 17th-century drawing. She would be carefully marking a photocopy of the drawing, recording each place the original document had been repaired, and eventually moving on to the next item in a steady rhythm of independent work.
Mayer, who is now the Helen H. Glaser Senior Paper Conservator at the Weissman Preservation Center, works a bit differently today. She prepares collections for treatment using high-resolution, digitally scanned images, which are then entered into a database to preserve records of how and when items were treated.
But the key change is that seven other conservators are working with Mayer on her current project, which is unusual for many conservation labs but common for the Weissman Center.
“We work in teams; we have checks and balances,” Mayer said. “Our strength is that we’re a very collaborative lab.”
As the Weissman Preservation Center celebrates its 20th anniversary, Preservation Services Director and Malloy-Rabinowitz Preservation Librarian Brenda Bernier said the emphasis on collaborative problem-solving has been key to the center’s success.
Looking to the next 20 years, Bernier said, “That’s something I want to continue to foster and grow.”
The center was founded in March 2000 with a gift from Paul Weissman ’52 and his wife, Harriet. The Weissmans said the need for library funding resonated with them, as longtime benefactors of their local library who knew its importance as a cultural center.