Deep within the depths of our book stacks is a room filled with every bibliophile’s dream—thousands and thousands of old books. The rare book stack contains a wonderfully diverse collection of Renaissance and Early Modern-era parchment bindings. As part of our founding collections these books are affectionately called our ‘Grandpa books’.
Our rare book stack
The following true story nicely illustrates what digital preservation is about and why it is important.
Some time ago, a user in our Main Reading Room requested an item from our collection titled ‘The Complete First Fleet’. This database of all 1,441 people known to have been part of the First Fleet published in 1992 is an example of our early digital collections.
In light of Born Digital Week, it seems appropriate to write a blog on some of the challenges we and other institutions face when it comes to looking after born-digital content. So let’s take a closer look at a born-digital item in our collection which highlights some of the processes and challenges of preserving and maintaining access to digital content.
Most of us have moved into the digital world in order to work, communicate, take photos, and generally to run our lives. But the huge storage capacity of contemporary computers and other devices, and a sense of being too busy, mean that many people have chaotic personal digital archives, disorganised and prone to accidental loss.
If our digital archivists could be angels on the shoulders of digital content creators, they would bestow 4 pieces of wisdom.
Hidden away up on the fourth floor of the Library, the Preservation lab is always using weird and wonderful tools to undertake conservation treatment on our wide range of collection material.
A snippet of the wide range of tools selected from a paper conservators toolkit.
2015 has been an exciting year with the lead up to our upcoming exhibition, Celestial Empire: Life in China 1644–1911. Preservation staff have been working hard to prepare a number of items for display including books, pith albums, and maps. Some of these items required stabilising repairs so they could be safely mounted, handled, and exhibited.
George Baxter (1804-1867), The massacre of the lamented missionary the Rev. J. Williams and Mr Harris, printed in oil colours [by] the patentee G. Baxter, London : Published by G. Baxter, 1841, nla.obj-138467869 Rex Nan Kivell Collection (Pictures)
Many of the items on display in our Exhibition Gallery for the William Strutt exhibition, Heroes and Villains: Strutt's Australia, previously had dark orange and brown staining on their corners from deteriorated sticky tape or adhesive where it may have been previously mounted. These dark adhesive residues had begun to stain the objects all the way through to the front of the work. As this was accelerating the rate of degradation of these works, we have attempted to remove as much of the adhesive and stain as possible without causing harm to the work.
The Library’s Manuscript Collection is a veritable treasure trove for intrepid researchers to uncover new and exciting fragments of our cultural history. These treasures include rare examples of Australian currency, such as this unimposing scrap of paper dated 1812, which promises its bearer payment of ‘two shillings and sixpence’.
Ann Mash's prommisory note, from the Sir John Ferguson Collection (MS 3611)
In preparation for display in the Library’s current exhibition Revealing the Rothschild Prayer Book c. 1505–1510 from the Kerry Stokes Collection, Preservation Services was very excited to receive into its care a fourteenth-century English Psalter MS 1172. The Latin text is dated to 1330–1350 AD and features annotations and drawings by a sixteenth-century Welsh school boy. The manuscript remains in what appears to be its original monastic binding.