The Conservation Department
The mission of the Preservation and Conservation Department at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library is to provide immediate and long term-care of all the Library’s collections, extending their usable life and assuring their uninterrupted access. It contributes to the New York Botanical Garden’s mission by preserving the Garden’s investment in one of the most complete botanical and horticultural collections.
The Preservation and Conservation Department abides to the Code of Ethics and the Guidelines for Practice established by the American Institute for Conservation, and aims to perform and maintain its activities at the highest standards in the field. The Mertz Library endorses the American Library Association Preservation Policy.
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library’s efforts to preserve and care for its collections were recognized by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and Heritage Preservation. On November 13, 2003, in a ceremony held at The New York Botanical Garden, the Library received the 2003 Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Preservation and Care of Collections.
Collection Care is performed on a regular basis in the Conservation Laboratory by trained staff and volunteers. Library and archival materials in need of immediate attention are sent to the Lab to receive basic treatment or protective enclosure, such as mending tears, pamphlet binding, joint repair, reback, self-closing wrapper and corrugated clamshell.
Item-level conservation treatments on damaged materials from the Library’s special collections and Archives are performed by the conservation staff on regular basis in connection to grant related projects, exhibitions or selection through surveys of the collections. Items are individually evaluated by the conservators to determine the proper treatment, according to the type of material, age and history of object as well as its condition and type of damage. These treatments include mending tears, humidification and flattening, resewing, repairing or replacing bindings. All individual treatments are documented in writing and by digital image.
A primary preservation strategy of the Mertz Library’s Preservation and Conservation Program is to focus on activities that will benefit, in the short- and long-term, the greatest number of items in the Collection, minimizing chemical and physical deterioration of the library and archival materials as well as preventing biological infestations. The Department achieves its mission through a comprehensive program of activities, using a combination of traditional bookbinding craft, modern conservation techniques and materials, as well as computer technology. The preservation activities that have the highest priority for the Library include improving climate in storage areas, rehousing and stabilizing collections.
The conservation staff and the Garden’s engineers have more than ten years of established collaborative work in implementing and managing the climate conditions of the Library within the parameters set forth by the preservation community and energy efficiency requirements. The Library’ independent monitoring program started in September 2000, following a recommendation by William Lull, a consultant in building technology for the preservation of cultural property. Using the Onset’s HOBO system, data loggers are currently installed in various areas of the Library and Archives. Data on the temperature and the relative humidity are collected weekly by the Conservation staff, and compared with the data recorded by the Garden’s Engineering Department through the computerized environmental controls.
Exhibition Preparation and Installation
The Conservation Department is responsible for the preparation, installation, de-installation and maintenance of the exhibits in the Rondina and LoFaro Gallery and the Rare Book Room display Case. Participating actively in the exhibition development process, the primary goal of the department is to ensure that all library objects are properly cared for, handled and displayed. The core exhibition activities includes assessing the conditions and exhibition needs of each object, performing conservation treatment, constructing custom cradles and supports for books, matting and framing. The Conservation Department also provides technical advice and assistance to ensure the preservation of items lent for exhibition and collaborates with other Garden’s departments by sharing knowledge and experience in the field of conservation and exhibition.
The Conservation Department is an integral part of the Library’s Digitization Programs. The department coordinates and plays an active role in establishing selection, care, handling, and transport procedures with all material being digitized either in-house in the imaging lab or with material leaving the Library to be digitized by outsourced vendors.