The volumes to be copied include municipal atlases published in Europe and the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and a distinctive, large-format Chinese arts journal published between 1934 and 1937. Many of these items are in constant use by library patrons and show signs of extensive damage and deterioration.
“These materials are very oversized and structurally they are extremely weak,” said Janet Gertz, Director of Preservation at Columbia University Libraries and Coordinator of the Preservation Photocopy Project. “We are targeting items that are heavily used and many of them are falling apart, with brittle pages and bindings that are no longer sound. This is the first time we’ve had a good format for replacing these materials that will allow them be used as they were meant to be.”
The project will produce approximately 4,350 preservation photocopies on acid-free paper that can be shelved in open-stack areas of the libraries, so that the originals can be protected in closed or off-site storage facilities.
Columbia’s portion of the $37,717 project comprises eight volumes of New York City atlases held in Avery Architectural and Fine Art Library. Gertz said that the volumes to be copied provide invaluable resources for the study of urban planning, geography, architecture, social history, ethnic studies, urban archeology, and art history.
“They have been used to death, not only by students of historic preservation, but by anyone who wants information about how buildings were used in each borough over time,” Gertz said.
The atlases were published in a two-by-three foot format that makes them difficult to preserve and duplicate. They are out of print and are estimated to be worth $2500 per volume.
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.