Opening the doors to Harvard Library Conservation Labs

2 min read

Members of the community recently flocked to the Weissman Preservation Center and the Collections Conservation Lab for their Open House tours, held in celebration of the American Library Association’s Preservation Week 2013. The informal tours gave visitors a glimpse into the dedication, precision, and level of care provided to Harvard’s millions of books, photographs, artifacts and other items.

Conservators and technicians at the Weissman Preservation Center work with rare books, works on paper and photographs, stabilizing and mending damaged items—and sometimes analyzing the elemental status of a piece to determine the best and safest course of treatment for a damaged item.

At the Collections Conservation Lab, located in Widener Library, Library Assistant Humberto Oliveira showed visitors the process for mending books and returning them to the stacks for their continued use.

The lab mends materials from libraries all across Harvard, and professionals such as Oliveira strive to leave as little trace as possible in their work. If a book needs a new spine, for example, a strip of thick, resilient cloth will be dyed to match the original binding. When a spine is intact but the binding is damaged, technicians will save the spine and create new book covers by hand that match closely to the original work. A book may require just a few minutes of attention, or several hours.