Sending items to Conservation

This article describes the process of sending an item in the library's holdings to the conservation lab.

Selecting items to enter into the conservation database

The Folger uses three ranking systems to prioritize items for conservation: value (monetary and scholarly), condition, and degree of work. Value and Condition are noted on the "Awaiting conservation" flag.

Value ranking (monetary and scholarly, with tongue-in-cheek phrasing):

  1. Treasure: it would be a scandal beyond the scholarly world if it disappeared
  2. High importance: it would be a scandal within the scholarly world if disappeared
  3. Important: it would be a real shame if it disappeared, but wouldn't make headlines anywhere
  4. Less important: we could get a replacement or equivalent if it disappeared
  5. Least important: we could easily get a replacement or equivalent, but probably wouldn't bother

Condition ranking:

  1. Very high: rapid deterioration and/or cannot be shelved without intervention
  2. High: cannot be given out, but could go back to the shelf without sustaining further damage
  3. Medium: can be given out with permission of curator
  4. Low: can be given out, but handle with extra care
  5. Very low: stable, can be given out as usual

Degree of work:

  • Major work (more than 14 hours)
  • Intermediate B (5 to 14 hours)
  • Intermediate A (1 to 5 hours)
  • Minor work (less than 1 hour)

Bound volumes that are rarely used, do not pose an immediate threat to themselves or others, and are available in surrogate form, are candidates for phase boxing rather than conservation. This slows the rate of deterioration without taking the time of a full treatment. If demand for a phase boxed item suddenly increases, curators can place the item near the beginning of the conservation queue (conservation on demand).

Entering rare material into the conservation database

Curators create records for all items that will eventually enter the Conservation Lab. Exception: For exhibition items, curators proof (with item in hand) exhibition coordinator’s entry and add additional information if necessary.

n.b. If a call number is established after the creation of the record, the curator needs to revise the conservation database record to reflect both the accession number and the call number.

If a new accession requires treatment, curators should create a record and then contact the lab for a consult. The conservators and curators decide whether treatment needs to happen before or after cataloging, and the conservators make the appropriate selection in the drop-down menus for “degree of work” and “proposed treatment” Once the record is created, curators reshelve the item with an “AWAITING CONSERVATION” flag, which includes the shelfmark and the conservation database record ID number. If the item cannot be reshelved because of its fragility, it is shelved in the manuscript map case (manuscript and most art material) or the book conservation shelf (aisle xxx), with the location clearly marked on the yellow call slip. For more information on "Awaiting Conservation" flags and other flags used in Central Library, see Central Library flags.

Deciding order of work

Conservators and curators should meet at least twice a year (first week of October and April) to discuss future treatments and to prioritize items near the top of the conservation queue. The assistant head of conservation initiates these meetings as necessary, depending on the workflow in the lab. Curators should bring shortlists of priority work to these meetings and be prepared to suggest groups of items requiring similar treatments (leaf-casting, paper mends, iron gall ink corrosion) for batch treatments if requested. If a certain type of treatment or format is needed outside of these meetings, the assistant head of conservation should contact the appropriate curator for ideas, or make suggestions based on a search of the conservation database.

Sending rare material to the conservation lab

When an item is brought to the lab by a curator, it should be accompanied by a printout of the conservation database record. The curator is responsible for signing out the item and filing the yellow carbon in the Reading Room corral. The assistant head of conservation checks in each item and assigns it to the relevant conservator.

While an item is in the conservation lab

Conservators, curators, and Reading Room staff (via a guest view of the web version) can view a list of all items in the lab, sorted by call number under each conservator’s name, by consulting the “What’s in the lab” view in the conservation database.

Before treatment begins

Conservators should email the relevant curator when a treatment plan is available for viewing in the database. Curators should respond immediately, either agreeing to the treatment, or with questions.

Sending rare material back from the conservation lab

When a conserved item is returned to the Reading Room, the conservator sends the initialled and dated database record to the respective curator. After the item has been reshelved, the curator checks the treatment, initials and dates the copy of the record (adding comments if necessary), and returns it to the lab.

If the item's Hamnet description needs to be updated after treatment

Send e-mail to Erin Blake detailing what needs to be updated (use the "Cat. Review" field in the ConsDB record as a reminder).