Preservation Services Across Campus: Schlesinger Library

A compact lab space full of conservation equipment. A multi-use tool for bookbinding and conservation.

This series of blog posts highlights the different spaces across the Harvard campus where Preservation Services staff work to preserve and conserve library materials. 

Preservation Services has had a presence at the Schlesinger Library for over 20 years. Currently staffed on a part-time basis by Kate Rich, Senior Conservation Technician for Collections Care, with the support of Preservation Liaison Kelli Piotrowski, Special Collections Conservator at the Weissman Preservation Center, this compact space can be described as Preservation Services’ “efficiency unit”.  Within its relatively small footprint, we conserve and house collection items, stabilize materials for digitization, and assist in mounting biannual exhibitions. The conservation area is carefully planned to meet the needs of the work. Equipment, such as a machine that serves as nipping press, finishing press, and backer all in one, help to make the most of our space. A long counter, adjustable height tables, and built-in shelving allow for a variety of treatments on site, rather than transferring materials to a larger lab. Its location, nestled on the top floor of the library, allows the conservators to easily work with the curators and catalogers. 

Paper dolls from the Schlesinger collections.  Hands doing paper repair on a fragile object.

The Schlesinger Library, part of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, is home to a vast collection of materials in all formats related to the study of American women and gender. The collection encompasses a wide array of materials, from manuscripts to newspapers, from games to the objects of daily life. Current projects include the repair and housing of a 1965 set of Vogue dolls, costumes, and patterns and preparing the papers of abolitionist Lydia Maria Child for imaging. This variety calls upon our staff’s skills not only as conservators, but their ability to plan and coordinate the treatment of items with different needs in limited space. It is a challenge well rewarded by knowing that we are contributing to the longevity of this unique collection devoted to preserving the history of American Women. 


See also: Conservation