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.
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.
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!
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 2017.”
Drop by Hilton Head Branch Library 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.