This year, April 21st through April 27th has been designated as the American Library Association’s Preservation Week! The purpose of this annual event, according to ALA, is for libraries and other institutions to “connect our communities through events, activities, and resources that highlight what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections.”
Preservation of historic and cultural materials is obviously important to us here at the Ohio Historical Society, and at Ohio Memory! As seen in the photograph above, from the Ohio Guide Collection on Ohio Memory, damage can happen to the materials in our collections in many ways. The caption on the back of this photo sums up the situation as follows: “This picture shows collectively all of the badly damaged volumes to be found among Montgomery County archives and does not represent a true picture of the records as a whole. Mention can be made here that the archives at Montgomery County are in a good state of preservation, but if neglected over a period of time, a condition like the one shown above could be generally accepted.”
One of the ways that Ohio Memory helps to contribute to preservation of materials is through digitization. Digitizing materials allows photographs and other format types to be “accessed” freely without having to handle the (oftentimes fragile) original items. High-quality digital versions also serve as a surrogate version of an original item in case of extreme damage, as seen at left.
Many format types naturally undergo degradation over time, a quality known as “inherent vice.” Part of the reason we were thrilled to digitize the Albert Ewing Collection of glass plate negatives is that, in the 100 years or so since their creation, emulsion has begun to flake off the the glass plates. Each loss of emulsion effectively removes a visual piece of history–as you can see in the Ewing photograph below, damaged and flaking emulsion has erased the faces of several members of this family, while leaving some visible. It is our hope that digitizing vulnerable materials like these will help guard against loss of those valuable details that help to capture our collective history.
Visit the ALA website for more Preservation Week resources, including the history of the event, free webinars, a preservation toolkit and more! They have put together a great fact sheet with “fast facts” about the importance of preservation, and what key points to keep in mind. OHS also provides numerous classes and workshops on digital and physical preservation. Check our events calendar regularly to stay up to date on what we have to offer!
Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!