The “Environmental Monitoring Field Trial II” project was designed to enable institutions to improve their collections environment and data reporting capabilities, and obtain a deeper understanding of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. As an additional benefit of participating in the project, CUL will receive new environmental monitoring equipment.
This project follows IPI’s Field Trial I conducted from 2000 to 2002, during which Columbia’s conservators participated in the design and testing of new monitoring software. Only 35 of 200 museum and library professionals from around the United States who participated in Field Trial I were selected to receive advanced training from IPI, including Columbia’s Special Collections conservator, Alexis Hagadorn.
Hagadorn will attend a three-day workshop to receive advanced training in assessing the performance of mechanical systems, interpreting environmental needs of diverse collections, and applying environmental data to improve collection preservation and lower operating costs. The training emphasizes coordination with in-house facilities departments, and Paul Raschilla, a plant engineer in Columbia Facilities Management will be a partner in this project.
“We are privileged to be selected for the next phase of IPI’s trial,” said Hagadorn. “The Libraries are making significant investments to improve collections storage through renovation and new construction. This advanced training will give us the expertise to successfully fine-tune the new systems and plan for the future.”
A detailed environmental monitoring program helps the Libraries maintain the stable storage conditions required for the preservation of the collections. Conditions that are too warm and damp will accelerate the chemical deterioration of all materials, particularly acidic papers, photographs, tapes, and film. Conditions that are too dry or that fluctuate between extremes can also lead to physical deterioration. An example of such damage is the shrinkage of early writing surfaces like parchment, which results in cracking and flaking of the original inks and pigments. Much damage caused by poor storage environments is irreversible, even with modern conservation techniques.
The electronic data loggers used by CUL’s Preservation Division sense and record temperature and relative humidity throughout the stacks. This information allows conservators and facilities engineers to respond to sudden or chronic problems in collection storage areas, preventing severe damage to sensitive materials. The Libraries’ participation in Field Trial I has already yielded more effective reporting on collection environments, while serving the broader museum and library community by providing feedback for the continued development of this important preservation software.
This project was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through a grant called “Training and Implementation for Effective Use of Environment in Collections Preservation.” For more information about the project, please visit http://www.rit.edu/~661www1/sub_pages/8page21a.htm.
The Image Permanence Institute (IPI) is a university-based, nonprofit research laboratory devoted to scientific research in the preservation of visual and other forms of recorded information. IPI is the world’s largest independent laboratory with this specific scope. IPI was founded in 1985 though the combined efforts and sponsorship of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the Society for Imaging Science and Technology (IS&T).
Organized in 1974, Columbia's Preservation Division is one of the five oldest library preservation programs in the United States. The division has primary responsibility for maintaining the Libraries' collections through proper care, housing, and disaster prevention. The division provides treatment of items to ensure their continued availability for use, and copying to new formats when use is no longer possible due to damage or severe deterioration. Materials in all formats and genres are cared for by the division, including digital resources created by the Libraries. For more information visit http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/services/preservation/.
Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/ is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.