Conservation and Preservation

Conservation and Preservation at the Folger is carried out by a team of highly trained conservators.  The team focuses its work on conserving and preserving the Folger collections for generations to come, while supporting accessibility in appropriate ways for researchers and exhibition visitors today.

While this involves stabilizing collection materials (books, art, manuscripts) to slow down deterioration, the conservators’ responsibilities also include monitoring and advising on the library’s storage environments as well as exhibition preparations and installations. To be successful, the team collaborates closely with other departments within the institution and establishes procedures, processes, and guidelines. 

Processes and procedures

  • Environmental condition recommendations and monitoring in collections spaces 
  • Emergency preparedness guidelines and training exercises 
  • Integrated pest management in all collection areas 
  • Procedures for best handling practices for all collections items  
  • Standardized and custom housing and staff training in appropriate decision-making 
  • Management of collections spaces 
  • Evaluating items prior to digitization to enable safe imaging  
  • Establishing suitability of outgoing loan requests 
  • Exhibition planning and execution in support of both collection material preservation and visitor accessibility 

Conservation treatments

In addition to these responsibilities, the conservation and preservation team performs complex conservation treatments on rare items utilizing the code of ethics as specified by the American Institute for Conservation. When a particular treatment for a collection item falls outside of staff capacity, the team is responsible for outsourcing that treatment to conservation professionals.

Exhibitions

The conservators assess and document incoming and outgoing loan items prior to their exhibition and communicate in accord with lending and borrowing institutions. To prepare items for exhibition, the team evaluates simulated case layouts, employs sophisticated mounting techniques, installs collection items in exhibition cases, conducts lighting analysis of exhibition spaces, maintains the correct climate within exhibition cases, and advises on the climate in exhibition spaces. Additionally, the team assists with installing design elements such as exhibition text and signage. 

Imaging and digitization

For imaging and digitization projects, the team assists with unique set-ups and, if needed, stabilizes the collection items, pre- or post-digitization.

Advanced intern program

The Folger conservation and preservation team has been training book and paper conservators for over 30 years. The Folger offers both an advanced intern program from 3 – 9 months and accepts US graduate level students for an 11-month graduate internship. 

Werner Gundersheimer Conservation Laboratory

The lab, named after former Folger Director Werner Gundersheimer and dedicated on October 5, 2006, provides the state-of the-art space necessary for the team to carry out their work. Illuminated by skylights, the lab is outfitted with the latest tools to evaluate and record an item’s condition, along with a mixture of traditional and cutting-edge equipment required to treat valuable collection material.