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Conservation Lab

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Conservator Frank Mowery

Although many Folger activities are highly visible to the public, some crucial parts of its work take place largely behind the scenes, including the vital task of conserving rare materials in the Folger collection. Conservation at the Folger involves studying, preserving, and restoring books, manuscripts, and works of art on paper.


Folger conservators collaborate closely with the Folger’s curators to determine how to treat particular objects, seeking the delicate balance in each case between treating objects and preserving their historic integrity. While their emphasis is on stabilizing materials to halt further deterioration, in some cases the conservators restore materials to an earlier state, sometimes by reversing well-intentioned, but harmful, repairs of the past. Conservators also protect fragile items by creating custom housings for them; replace disintegrating old bindings; and prepare materials of all kinds so they may be safely photographed, exhibited, and studied by scholars.


Led by head of conservation Renate Mesmer, the Folger conservation staff includes internationally recognized conservators. The advanced conservation internship program, one of the first to be established in the United States, attracts professionals from around the world. The Folger also plays a leading role in pioneering and developing new conservation technologies.


Once housed in basement workshops, the Folger conservation team now works in the state-of-the-art, 2000-square foot Werner Gundersheimer Conservation Laboratory on the Folger’s third floor. Illuminated by skylights, the lab boasts spacious counters and storage cabinets, instrumentation for evaluating and recording an item's condition, the latest equipment for leaf-casting and other innovative techniques, enhanced safety features, handsome wood cabinetry, and sturdy bamboo floors. Named for former Folger Shakespeare Library director Werner Gundersheimer, the laboratory was dedicated on October 5, 2006.

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Learn more about the Folger collection


The Werner Gundersheimer Conservation Laboratory

Is Made Possible through Major Gifts from


Estate of Julienne M. Michel

Jide Zeitlin

Anne and Ronald Abramson

Tricia and B. Francis Saul II

Estate of Susan Snyder

Albert H. and Shirley Small

Elizabeth and Julian Eisenstein

Estate of Frieda Gundersheimer

The Mosaic Foundation (of P. and R. Heydon)

H. Axel Schupf


And numerous other generous donors

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