A fundamental role of the National Library is to preserve Australia's documentary heritage, and to make sure it is available for people to use for as long as possible. Collecting material is only one step towards achieving this - the material also needs to be looked after if it is to remain useable.
The aim of the National Library's preservation program is to maintain and preserve items according to their use and their significance. The collection consists of more than 6 million items in many different formats. The Library uses different methods and draws on different skills, procedures and partnerships to manage the preservation of both digital and non-digital collections.
The Preservation Services Section ensures the ongoing access to physical collections by undertaking assessments, treatments, housing, storage reviews, surveys and collection stabilisation for exhibitions, loans and digitisation projects. This work is achieved within the guidelines of the Library’s Preservation Policy.
The Library’s collections are diverse and vast. Staff face daily challenges to find ways of providing access to the collections whilst ensuring the condition of the collection is not compromised. A risk management approach to this work is essential, and the significance of collection items is used to help guide treatment approaches.
Preservation staff are responsible for many activities such as:
- ensuring Library staff are trained in the care and handling of collections, including paintings, textiles, objects, photographs, negatives (glass plate and flexible), large format items like maps and newspapers, flat paper items, books and microforms;
- monitoring the temperature and humidity in storage areas and advising on its suitability for long term storage;
- ensuring that disaster equipment is maintained in all stack areas and staff are trained in its use;
- advising on the appropriate storage of collections in boxes, folders, drawers, hanging screens, plan cabinet draws;
- working closely with special collection areas to provide advice on the preservation requirements of new acquisitions
- carrying out stabilisation treatments on collection items, as well as intensive treatment where required;
- preparing items for reformatting, such as digitisation and microfilm; and
- providing training for preservation students and interns.
The conservation team is currently anticipating the opening of the new Treasures gallery in late 2011.
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