Apr 152015


In recent years, Northwestern University Library conservators have seen an increasing number of unique and unusual objects – from neckties to paintings to lollipops –  in need of preservation. Integrated with traditional books and papers, these artifacts exemplify the breadth and depth of the library’s collections and act as primary source materials that support both undergraduate education and advanced scholarly research.

The Preservation Department is often where research on these objects begins. Though the fundamental principles remain the same, the specifics of how to best care for such a wide variety of artifacts require investigation into both the physical structure and cultural value of each item. In order to determine the most appropriate course of action for preserving and providing access to these objects, conservators must understand the production materials and techniques, patterns of deterioration, historical and cultural contexts, evidence of past use, and predictions of future use within the context of Northwestern’s distinctive research collections.

In order to highlight some of the rare and interesting objects that have received conservation attention in the past few years, the Preservation Department curated the exhibit, Beyond the Book: The Changing Nature of Library Collections, which is on view in the Deering Library lobby through May 8, 2015.

This blog, an outgrowth of the exhibit, is an effort to document and share continuing treatment and research projects that reflect the changing nature of library preservation and the potential for what conservation research can offer in terms of broader collaboration across the academic community.

During Preservation Week (April 26 – May 2, 2015), the blog will feature daily posts highlighting exhibit objects that posed some of the more complex research questions and interesting treatment decisions.