27 April 2014

Preservation Week, April 27 - May 3, 2014

As the Library system’s special local history collection and archives, we preserve materials in the Beaufort District Collection (BDC) each and every day. Our highest priority is to be good stewards of the cultural heritage materials entrusted to us for the community. Therefore we must be up-to-date on preservation thought, practices, and techniques. 

Institutional, personal, family, and community cultural heritage collections are equally at risk from the environment and poor handling. A key conclusion of the Heritage Health Index http://www.heritagepreservation.org/HHI/ survey (2005) was that people at all levels of government and the private sector must take responsibility for the survival of these cultural heritage collections. The American Library Association (ALA), the Library of Congress, Society of American Archivists, Institute for Museum and Library Services and others responded with “Preservation Week” in 2010 as an essential step to strengthening everyone’s awareness of the importance and scope of preservation needs. The BDC has planned three free programs to empower you with confidence that you are doing right by your family treasures as our contribution to Preservation Week 2014.  

Do you have precious books, letters, diaries, photographs, prints and drawings, or objects like maps, paintings, quilts, baptismal gowns, ceramic vases, sets of china, silverware, or pieces of furniture that you hope others will love in 50 years as much as you do now? Multiply the number of items in your possession by the number of people in your neighborhood, this county, this state, etc.  The obvious conclusion is that an enormous number of culturally significant items held by individuals, families, and communities are in need of basic preservation. 

Empowering others is at the core of the public library’s mission.  Part of being a good cultural heritage materials steward is sharing our knowledge about preservation practices with the community in order to empower you to better protect your own treasures. Preservation can get complicated because different materials require different conditions and treatments.  Nevertheless, some general principles can mitigate a host of potential problems. For example, the unholy trinity of degradation, that is, heat, light, and humidity, must be closely monitored and managed to minimize natural decay of materials.  A simple practice of keeping lights at the lowest level sufficient for the job at hand can actually slow down the rate of decay.  Humidity, always a concern in coastal South Carolina, must be controlled to prevent mold growth, corrosion, drying and cracking, warping, buckling and/or flaking of precious material.  Proper storage matters – a lot! Check out these online resources from Preservation@ your library. 

BDC staff has years of practical experience preserving paper-based materials, such as books, magazine articles, photographs, postcards, and illustrated prints.  A growing portion of our holdings arrives in the form of film and digital materials formats, that is, DVD, cassette audio-tape, VHS tape, CD, microfilm, and film negatives.  Although the scope of the BDC is on the people, places, events, and themes relating to this area, we welcome the opportunity to share our knowledge and experience with preservation of specific formats with you as our contribution to “Preservation Week 2014.” 

“Preserving Your Family Treasures with Grace” is an introduction to basic preservation practices and techniques for paper-based materials such as letters, Family bibles, certificates and diplomas, memorabilia, and photographic prints. The program will be held twice during Preservation Week 2014 for the convenience of county residents. On Wednesday, April 30 I will be at Hilton Head Branch Library from 3:00 – 4:00pm.  A reprise of this program will be on Saturday, May 3 at Beaufort Branch Library from 2:00 – 3:00 pm.  Both programs are free and open to the general public.  

In the past decade, there has been an explosion of created digital materials. I’ll wager that you have at least one moving image or sound recording of human activity or creativity in the form of bits and bytes. In effect each person who has taken a photo with their cell phone or uploaded to YouTube has assumed responsibility for his/her own digital archive.  A brand new BDC@ the Branches preservation program, “Digital Preservation with Grace” addresses basic preservation practices for born digital formats.  I will offer practical tips and suggestions to empower you to preserve your family history on digital media in this free program on Thursday, May 1st, from 2:00pm – 4:00pm at St. Helena Branch Library.   

Join us to learn what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections.  Together we can save our personal history for those who will come after us.

(I apologize for the mishmash of fonts and font sizes.  Something has gone catwampus.) 

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