Caring for Private Collections
The most frequently asked questions about preservation or conservation have to do with caring for private collections. There are many online resources, including:
The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC), a non-profit, regional conservation center that offers a multitude of online resources, including preservation leaflets, a suppliers’ list, and disaster recovery information.
The American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) offers a series of online conservation guides and geographic listings of conservators.
If you are looking for a conservator in the Chicago area, see our guide to independent Conservators.
Always store your collections away from direct sunlight and preferably in a dark, cool place. Ideal temperature and humidity levels for storage of collection materials depend on the type of material. For books and papers, the Newberry targets the Stack Building temperature range at 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. The relative humidity range is 45%, + or – 5%. The most critical factor is to keep your target temperature or humidity levels consistent. Fluctuations cause stress on materials and contribute to their decay. For more information about storage conditions for various kinds of materials, refer to the AIC’s Caring for Your Treasures.
The simplest way to protect your collections is to store fragile or rare items in appropriate archival enclosures or boxes. This keeps light and pollutants away from materials, but also creates a protective buffer and reduces the ill effects of environmental fluctuations. Refer to the archival suppliers, Archival Products and University Products.
Flood, fire or other disasters can be devastating to collections. Refer to NEDCC’s Disaster Assistance for an emergency hotline, as well as other services and resources. You can also access the Chicago Area Resource Guide (CARG), which lists various vendors and services that can assist in any size or type of disaster.
The most common problem is dealing with wet collections. In these cases, it is best to act quickly and within the first six hours. It is imperative to dry wet book or paper materials before mold begins to grow. Consult a conservator or a company from the CARG list to assist you with the best methods for your disaster situation.
Opportunities for Study
The Newberry Conservation department offers two different Internships depending on qualifications and experience. Please contact Lesa Dowd, Director of Conservation Services, at email@example.com for more information and an application form.
Other area study opportunities include the University of Chicago’s Graham School, which offers courses in collections care, and the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation in Mt. Carroll, IL, which offers courses in preservation and conservation.