Sunday, January 25, 2009

Assignment #1

Recent Trends in Book Conservation and Library Collections Care
Maria Fredericks
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation Vol. 31, No. 1, Conservation of Sacred Objects and Other Papers from the General Session of the 19th Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 3-8, 1991 (Spring, 1992), pp. 95-101
Published by: The American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works
Stable URL:

The Maria Fredericks article I chose to review explores how preservation and conservation philosophies are shaped not by our own ideals but by outside forces that often compromise our work. These outside sources include the growing number of collection materials in need of care and the lack of funding available. The Cloonan article appears to be in favor of allowing preservation work to become "... a way of seeing and thinking about the world" despite these outside forces. The forming schism in philosophies is only intensified with the state of our economy. Library budgets are becoming tighter than ever even as public usage of library collections increase. More libraries and archives are beginning to see an increase in requests for access to fragile collections. Conservators understand that these access requests could lead to further deterioration of collections so their preservation philosophy must shift in a way that appears to act against the idea that the conservation and preservation fields exist to save items of cultural significance so that they may be accessed by future generations. Instead of simply denying access, digitization programs have been created in an effort to provide access to materials without causing harm to them. However it appears that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of technology as a cure all because many institutions have gotten rid of their preservation programs entirely and replaced them with digitization departments. Cloonan urges that "this is shortsighted, narrow-minded, and, ultimately, counterproductive" to the goals of preservation but Fredericks would argue that the surge in digitization is the best way we know how to provide access AND increase the longevity of materials.

Fredericks concludes that it is hard to work against using technology as our only preservation tool because national institutions prefer digitization reformatting as a preservation technique. They see it as the best and cheapest way to benefit governmental constituents. In class we briefly discussed how preservation philosophies differed when considering public, private, and governmental institutions. Cloonan warns that digitization and born digital artifacts often come with their own set of problems that could compromise the health and longevity of cultural artifacts. According to Fredericks, technical solutions are becoming more prevalent among preservation administrators within the government at the highest levels. The Commission on Preservation and Access has concerned itself only with preserving the information of documents and are constantly searching for new technologies to make the information available as oppose to how to preserve the original documents.

Both articles make it clear that preservation administrators are close to losing sight of why we do what we do and that it is easy to see technology as the answer to all of our problems. They respects that original artifacts need to be kept safe but that new technologies can be a part of this safety plan. Furthermore both Fredericks and Cloonan instruct preservation administrators to learn to make technology work for them in pursuit of their preservation philosophy but also to see the problems that are being created and work together to solve them accordingly.