Friday, November 19, 2010

Preservation Strategies for Old Books

Custom-made boxes for book storage from the
Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts.

There’s a mass-produced biography of Paul Robeson, published in the 1960s, at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) right now.  It’s getting top-of-the-line treatment.  The text has been disbound, the leaves will be washed, tears will be repaired, and the spine will be resewn.  That’s not the usual level of attention that an ordinary book of this period would receive, but this particular one has Robeson’s autograph signature on the title page.  The signature changes everything.

The family books that I brought in to be examined by Jim Hinz, CCAHA Director of Book Conservation, have no great associations with famous people and they don’t qualify as “rare” by any measure.  Sentimental value is the only value they have.  Conservation treatment is not recommended.

However, good care and proper storage is strongly recommended.  According to Jim, the most important thing is to keep the books in appropriate environmental conditions with low humidity and minimal light exposure.  When it comes to temperature and humidity, I should strive for moderation and consistency.

If I wanted to go a step further, Jim suggested that I look into custom-made boxes to store the books.  These boxes protect the books from light, help with humidity, provide some additional protection in the case of disaster, and are ideal for shipping.  For some standard-sized books, custom-fit boxes may be available through Gaylord or University Products.  For most books, custom-made boxes are more
appropriate and these require that very precise measurements be made.  They also look great on the shelf.  Very classy.

Special thanks to Jim Hinz for his consultations during the past week!

© 2010 Lee Price

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