Preservation + Conservation

Celebrate Preservation Week, April 21-27

Posted April 12th, 2013 by ahaggart

Preservation Week is almost here! What’s Preservation Week, you ask? It was created in 2010 by the American Library Association to highlight the importance of preserving library and cultural heritage collections.

Celebrate Preservation Week, April 21st -27th, with a series of events hosted by Curation and Preservation Services of the MIT Libraries. Events are open to all, but some events require registration due to limited seating.

For details about these events and more information on Preservation Week, please visit the MIT Libraries Preservation Week web page.


Save the Music! Transforming MIT music collections for future use

Monday, April 22nd, 2013, 2-3pm

MIT Room 14N-132 (160 Memorial Drive)

Please register for this event


Webinar: The Preservation of Family Photographs

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013, 2-3pm

MIT Room 14N-132 (160 Memorial Drive)


Webinar: Personal Digital Archiving

followed by Q+A with Kari Smith, MIT Digital Archivist

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013, 2-4pm

MIT Room 14N-132 (160 Memorial Drive)


Where Science Meets Artifact: An Inside Look at

the Role of Conservation Science in Preserving Cultural Heritage

Thursday, April 25th, 2013, 3-4pm

Presented by Shannon Taylor, MIT ’13 and Dr. Katherine Eremin, Patricia Cornwall Conservation Scientist at the Harvard Art Museums’ Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies

MIT Room 56-114 (21 Ames Street)

Noteworthy Connections opens in the Maihaugen Gallery

Posted February 21st, 2013 by Heather Denny

David M. Epstein conductor of the MIT Symphony Orchestra, 1965-1998, Photo: MIT Museum

A new exhibition exploring the extraordinary connection between the MIT mind and music has opened in the Libraries’ Maihaugen Gallery.

Noteworthy Connections: Music in the MIT Libraries delves into the holdings of the Lewis Music Library and the Institute Archives and Special Collections, to reveal MIT’s diverse musical interests, the accomplishments of its talented students and faculty, and the rich history the Institute’s musical groups and clubs.

The exhibit will be on view in the gallery until December, 2013. Visit the gallery:

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Building 14N-130

“Magnetic Resonance” on display in the Maihaugen Gallery

Posted October 2nd, 2012 by Heather Denny

The fall exhibit in the Maihaugen Gallery showcases a unique collection on view to the public for the very first time. Magnetic Resonance: Four Centuries of Science from the Vail Collection offers a look inside MIT’s Vail Collection—one of the world’s most important collections of books on magnetism, electricity, animal magnetism, and lighter-than-air travel.

The collection includes foundational texts in the history of science and technology, rare titles from the late 15th-19th centuries, works of popular science, and thousands of rare pamphlets and articles. It was given to MIT in 1912, by Theodore N. Vail, president of AT&T and a member of the MIT Corporation. The exhibit marks the 100th anniversary of the Vail Collection’s arrival at the Institute and celebrates the generosity of Thomas F. Peterson, Jr. (MIT 1957), who supported a three-year project to unlock the potential of this stunning collection. Every title has been fully cataloged, essential conservation work has been performed, and the Vail Collection can now be shared with the world. Visit the gallery, attend an event, or explore the collection online.

Vail Exhibit EventsEXHIBIT EVENTS:

Behind the Scenes: Conserving and Exhibiting the Vail Collection

Wednesday, October 17, 1pm–2pm, Maihaugen Gallery (14N-130) MIT’s book conservator, Nancy Schrock, discusses conservation treatment and  display of the Collection. The talk begins in the gallery and proceeds to the Wunsch Conservation Lab.


Witches, Magic, and Monsters: The Spooky Side of MIT’s Vail Collection

Friday, October 26, 3pm, Institute Archives (14N-118) A Halloween-inspired look at the creepier side of the Collection. Online registration required.


The Scientific Conversation and the Vail Collection: Gallery Talks & Tours

Thursday, November 8, 11am–noon, Maihaugen Gallery (14N-130)

Wednesday, November 28, 3pm–4pm, Maihaugen Gallery (14N-130) Exhibit curator and rare books program manager, Stephen Skuce, leads a tour and talk about the exhibit.


MIT’s Vail Collection: From the Lodestone to the X-Ray

Friday, November 16, 10:30am, Institute Archives (14N-118) A presentation by rare books program manager, Stephen Skuce.

Developing future library leaders: The MIT Libraries’ Fellows Program

Posted September 27th, 2012 by Heather Denny

What will the future of academic librarianship look like? The MIT Libraries have a few ideas. With the launch of a new fellows program, the Libraries are taking an active role in shaping the future of the profession. The MIT Libraries’ Fellows Program was created to provide exceptional, early-career library professionals with the opportunity to contribute to program areas of distinction and strategic priority in a dynamic academic research library. Out of a pool of over 175 accomplished applicants, two fellows were chosen for two-year fellowship positions. Helen Bailey was appointed to the position of Library Fellow for Digital Curation and Preservation, and Mark Clemente was appointed to the position of Library Fellow for Scholarly Publishing and Licensing.

“The fellows will work with and learn from their MIT Libraries’ colleagues who are recognized leaders in these fields,” said Ann Wolpert, Director of Libraries. “Developing programs which contribute to the wider academic and research library community, as well as the real-world opportunities here at MIT, will position these highly talented fellows to advance in both the profession and their careers.”

Helen Bailey, the digital curation and preservation fellow, will report to Nancy McGovern, Head of Curation and Preservation Services, a highly respected leader in the field of digital curation and preservation with a well-established national and international reputation. Under McGovern’s direction, Bailey will work on a range of activities related to the long-term management of digital content, including participating in the Libraries digital content management initiative, contributing to an ongoing scan of community standards and practice for digital curation and preservation, the development of outreach materials to raise awareness about good practice, and conducting an experiment to recommend a solution for a specific curation or preservation need.

MIT Libraries' Fellows: Helen Bailey and Mark Clemente

Mark Clemente, the scholarly publishing and licensing fellow, will report to Ellen Duranceau, Program Manager in the Office of Scholarly Publishing and Licensing (OSPL). Duranceau has led the Libraries efforts in support of the MIT Faculty Open Access Policy and provides copyright and scholarly publishing assistance to the MIT community. She also consults broadly with universities on scholarly communication policies and practice. Working with Duranceau, Clemente will contribute to the work of the OSPL in the areas of copyright advocacy, intellectual property, open access, and rights retention. Clemente will participate in enhancing and expanding a repository collection of open access papers under the MIT Faculty Open Access Policy and will develop and carry out projects to advance the implementation of the Policy.

Bailey and Clemente both bring strong skills and backgrounds in library science to their new roles. Bailey has a B.S. from Florida State University, an M.S. in Information Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Library and Archives Conservation. Since 2010 she has been a preservation specialist with the Dartmouth College Library. Clemente has a B.A. from American University and a M.S. in Library Information Science from Simmons College. He most recently served as a digital collections assistant at Boston College’s O’Neill and Burns Libraries.

Both fellows will have the opportunity to expand their skills and experience in ways that position them to excel and lead in the research library profession. The Fellows Program was made possible with support from The Director’s Fund for Library Excellence.



We’ve got a ticket to ride!

Posted August 30th, 2012 by Remlee Green

Western Electrician volume 21Boston’s MBTA celebrates its 115th birthday this Saturday, September 1. Check out the article from the August 28, 1897 issue of Western Electrician describing the design and construction of the new subway and extolling details such as overhead arc lighting, pine wood ticket booths, and brass handrails on the stairs. “The traveler will find his ‘open sesame’ to be a five-cent piece, which he will hand into the ticket office and will receive in exchange a ticket which will entitle him to a ride…”

All issues of Western Electrician owned by the MIT Libraries have been digitized and are freely available online through the Internet Archive.

International collaborations in digital preservation

Posted August 20th, 2012 by Heather Denny

Image courtesy of Educopia Institute

The MIT Libraries are involved in collaborations that look at the broad range of digital content that universities and other organizations produce, and at ways to make content accessible across generations of technology.

The Libraries’ head of curation and preservation services, Nancy McGovern, was recently involved in an international conference that gathered more than 125 delegates from more than 20 countries at the National Library of Estonia, to explore how to create and sustain collaborations to support the preservation of our collective digital cultural memory.

An outcome of the conference is a guide written for a broad audience that includes librarians, archivists, scholars, curators, technologists, lawyers, researchers, and administrators at many different types of cultural organizations.

Aligning National Approaches to Digital Preservation was edited by Nancy McGovern, and published by the Educopia Institute. It describes successful collaborative strategies and articulates new models that may help organizations work together for their mutual benefit.

Readers can download a free PDF of Aligning National Approaches to Digital Preservation, or purchase the print publication online.


MIT Institute Archives in the Cambridge Open Archives Tour on July 12

Posted July 2nd, 2012 by Heather Denny

Fourth Annual Open Archives Tour: Famous and Infamous

The Cambridge Historical Society is hosting its fourth annual Open Archives Tour, July 9-12, 2012. MIT is participating along with eleven other organizations throughout Cambridge.

With the theme Famous and Infamous, each archive will delve into their collections to display unique materials, including photographs, correspondence, ephemera, and more, offering a rare look inside some of Cambridge’s most fascinating archives. There will be twelve archives featured over four days (three per day).

Tours and Dates:

July 9, 5:00-8:00 pm

City Collections, featuring 

  • Cambridge Historical Commission
  • Cambridge Room of the Public Library
  • Cambridge Public Works Department

July 10, 3:00-6:00 pm

Harvard Collections, featuring 

  • Harvard University Archives
  • Houghton Library at Harvard
  • Schlesinger Library at Harvard

July 11, 5:00-8:00 pm

Cultural Collections, featuring 

  • Mount Auburn Cemetery
  • Cambridge Historical Society
  • The Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site

July 12, 3:00-6:00 pm

MIT Collections, featuring 

For more information and reservations, contact: 617-547-4252 or


Sierra named to Digital Library Federation Advisory Committee

Posted May 7th, 2012 by Heather Denny

Tito Sierra (photo by L.Barry Hetherington)

Tito Sierra, MIT Libraries’ Associate Director for Technology, has been appointed to the Digital Library Federation (DLF) Advisory Committee for the Council on Library and Information Services (CLIR). During his two-year term, Sierra will work with five other committee members to advise the DLF director on program activities, initiatives, and strategy.

CLIR’s Digital Library Federation is a network of libraries and related agencies pioneering innovative uses of information technologies and community expertise to extend collections and services. DLF has promoted work on:

  • Digital library structures, standards, preservation, and use
  • Archives for electronic journals
  • Aggregation services for digital collections
  • Digital library services that expand access to resources for research, teaching, and learning

See the full announcement from the DLF.

Gallery talk on stained glass restoration and conservation Friday, May 11

Posted April 30th, 2012 by Heather Denny

Glass at MIT exhibition, Maihaugen Gallery, photo by: L. Barry Hetherington

Gallery Talk with Roberto Rosa

Roberto Rosa, Serpentino Stained Glass

When: Friday, May 11, 2pm

Where: Institute Archives (14N-118)

In conjunction with the Glass at MIT: Beauty and Utility exhibition, Roberto Rosa from Serpentino Stained Glass will discuss stained glass art and artists, and his work in the restoration and conservation of historic stained glass.

Rosa has restored windows in some of America’s most prominent buildings including the Massachusetts State House and Trinity Church in Boston. Most recently, he was the chief conservator for thirteen opalescent glass windows at Salve Regina University in Newport RI, designed by John La Farge.

After Rosa’s talk there will be time for questions and viewing the exhibit in the Maihaugen Gallery. This event is free and open to the public.

IAPril 2012: Preserving Your Personal Digital Photographs

Posted April 2nd, 2012 by Mark Szarko

When: Thu, April 26, 2:00-3:00 pm

Where: 14N-132

Digital photos are fragile and require special care to keep them accessible. But preserving any kind of digital information is a new concept that most people have little experience with. Technologies change over time and become obsolete, making it difficult to access older digital photos. Learn about the nature of the problem and hear about some simple, practical tips and tools to help you keep your digital photos safe. This event is part of the American Library Association’s Preservation Week.

For more information, please contact: Ann Marie Willer.

IAPril 2012: Taking Care: Family Textiles

Posted April 2nd, 2012 by Mark Szarko

When: Tue, April 24, 2:00-3:00 pm

Where: 14N-132

Do you want to save an old family quilt, a wedding dress, or T-shirts and flags from your fraternity or student club?  A conservator will present this webinar on how to care for the various types of textiles found in family collections including clothing, flags, furniture coverings, and framed textiles. The session will cover how to safely store and display textiles and how to determine when the services of a professional conservator are needed.  This event is part of the American Library Association’s Preservation Week.

For more information, please contact Ann Marie Willer.

MIT Libraries Receive Papers of Distinguished Linguist, Philosopher, and Activist Noam Chomsky

Posted February 9th, 2012 by Heather Denny

Noam Chomsky, photo credit: MIT News

MIT’s Libraries were recently chosen to be the stewards of the personal archives of noted linguist, political activist, and Institute Professor emeritus Noam Chomsky. The significant collection spans a long and distinguished career, beginning when Chomsky joined MIT in 1955 in the Research Laboratory of Electronics, through his years as a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, then as Institute Professor.

Often referred to as “the father of modern linguistics,” Chomsky revolutionized the field of linguistics and paved the way for transformational grammar and universal grammar. His book Syntactic Structures (1957) was considered groundbreaking. He also made significant contributions to the fields of psychology, cognitive science, philosophy of language and philosophy of mind.

“It’s fitting that Professor Chomsky’s papers will remain at MIT as a resource for future generations of scholars. He revolutionized the way we think about the linguistic sciences and the cognitive mechanisms of language acquisition, and his ideas in many realms have had profound influence on scholarship and public discourse here at MIT and worldwide,” MIT President Susan Hockfield said.

Over the years, Chomsky has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Kyoto Prize in 1988 and the MIT Killian Award for the academic year 1991-1992. Most recently, he won the Sydney Peace Prize in 2011. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“Over the last fifty years, Noam Chomsky has not only created the building blocks of linguistic theory and understanding, but has built a remarkable and unique department of Linguistics that has nurtured several generations of linguists who have taken their MIT experience into and across the globe. It is wonderful that Noam’s papers, which span this long period of growth and development, will be available to scholars for many years to come,” MIT Dean of Humanities Deborah Fitzgerald said.

The collection also reflects Chomsky’s political activism and outspoken support for freedom of speech and social justice. He was once quoted as saying, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all” (Guardian (UK), Nov.23, 1992).

He has authored numerous works on the topic, including American Power and the New Mandarins (1969), Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (2006), and Hopes and Prospects (2010).

The addition of Chomsky’s personal archives, and a large portion of his personal library, augments a small existing collection of Chomsky’s papers already in the care of the MIT Libraries’ Institute Archives.

“With this addition, the collection will be a complete archival resource that will provide researchers with unique insight into Professor Chomsky’s thinking, and the development of the field of linguistics, as well as his views on significant issues in social activism from post-WWII through current day,” MIT Institute Archivist Tom Rosko said.

Staff from the MIT Libraries and Institute Archives and Special Collections are in the beginning stages of transferring material to the Archives. Initial work in organizing the Chomsky collection will occur this year, with additional work on improving access to the collection, including online access to portions of it, continuing over the next several years. When the work is done, scholars will have unprecedented access to an enormous depth and breadth of material from one of the world’s most renowned linguists and top intellectual minds.

It’s a wrap!

Posted September 30th, 2011 by Rebecca Caswell

In this image, a Libraries staff member works with a local moving company to prepare a truck of journals for shipment to the Northeast Regional Scanning Center at the Boston Public Library. The materials will be digitized by the Open Content Alliance, which runs the scanning center.

The journals in this shipment span the years 1883-1908, and include electricity related titles such as Western Electrician and Street Railway Gazette.  As the items are digitized, they will be made available online in the Internet Archive.

This shipment also included copies of working papers published by MIT’s Department of Economics. The Libraries are currently scanning over 1,100 of these papers. They are available online at DSpace@MIT.


One Book, Three Ways

Posted August 22nd, 2011 by Rebecca Caswell

Before bookbinding became mechanized, most books were sold unbound. The purchaser, not the publisher, was responsible for the binding of the book.  This meant that one could have his books bound according to budget or taste. Above  is an example showing three copies Jean Jallabert’s Experiences sur L’Electricité (1750), bound in three different ways.

The first two volumes are bound using decorative paper – an inexpensive, but attractive option. The third copy is slightly larger because it was bound with another book, and was given a more elegant full leather binding.

Bindings can give us important clues about a book’s history, such as who owned it and how it was used.  For this reason, it is often important to preserve a book’s covers as well as its contents. These three volumes will be preserved in the Institute Archives and Special Collections so that we can continue to study them – inside and out.

Find it in the library


1897 Binding Ticket Shows Origins of Red Rot

Posted June 17th, 2011 by Nick Szydlowski

1897 Binding Ticket

This 114-year-old binding ticket was recently discovered in a volume of the journal Western Electrician, which was being prepared for digitization.  It shows the options that were available to the MIT Libraries for journal binding in 1897. 

Leather binding with red rotUnder the heading “Style,” the ticket lists a number of options, most of which involve a leather spine.  The leather being used by library binders at that time has not aged well.  The image at the right shows a different journal volume, bound in 1901.  The leather on the spine has disintegrated and started to flake away – a condition referred to as “red rot.”

Law sheep, roan, and skiver, all made from sheepskin, were popular for library bindings because they were cheaper than goatskin.  Unfortunately they were also far less durable, and have degraded significantly over time. 

Fortunately today’s library binders use heavyweight buckram cloth, rather than leather, to bind journals.  In addition to being less expensive, these cloth cases are actually more durable than the leather bindings of decades past.

Happy As A Clam

Posted June 7th, 2011 by Rebecca Caswell

Book before boxing

This 18th c. work on political science and natural law arrived in the Conservation Lab with both its front and back covers detached.  In order to ensure that all of the pieces stayed together, it was being stored in a plastic bag.  Although this provided a good temporary solution, it isn’t an appropriate means for long-term storage.

Book after boxing

The Conservation Lab makes a variety of different enclosures, which are selected based on the needs of the book.  Because of this item’s age and value, it was housed in a  custom made cloth covered clamshell box.  This type of box will prevent the book from sustaining further damage while in transit from storage, while also protecting it from light, dust, and other environmental hazards.

This lovely clamshell box gives new meaning to the phrase “happy as a clam”!

Full-color facsimile preserves crumbling book

Posted May 10th, 2011 by mit-admin

What do you do when a book is still in high demand, but has grown too fragile to hold up to frequent use?  This was the dilemma the Libraries faced with Architectural Drawing by R. Phené Spiers, an 1888 volume featuring stunning color illustrations.  This edition of the book has an MIT connection as well, with a foreword by Architecture School founder William Robert Ware.

To preserve this fragile original, the Conservation Lab repaired the damaged pages and sent them to Acme Bookbinding Co, Inc., where high resolution scans were taken, copies printed on acid-free paper, and pages bound in sturdy cloth.   One copy will be stored with the original in Rotch Limited Access, and a second, circulating copy will be available in the Rotch stacks. 

A preservation facsimile is a high-quality reproduction which is used as a substitute for the original item, in order to prevent the original from being damaged by frequent use.  The images below show the original and the facsimile that was created from it.   The original pages will be stored in a custom portfolio in Rotch Limited Access.

 Preservation facsimile, before and after

Bizarre book repairs – journal volume bound with nails

Posted May 3rd, 2011 by mit-admin

Nail used to bind journal volumeYou never know what you’re going to find when you open an old book! This 1953 volume of Architectural Forum from the Rotch Library had been improperly “repaired” at some point using 10 nails. One of the nails was even sticking out of the book’s spine.

Staff in Preservation + Conservation Services removed the nails, and the book will be rebound using a more conventional method–no tetanus shot required!

Nails removed from journal volume

Preserve your digital photos and documents

Posted April 28th, 2011 by mit-admin

Preservation Week Banner

As part of the American Library Association’s Preservation Week, the MIT Libraries are hosting a webcast today, April 28, 2011:

April 28: Preserving Your Personal Digital Memories, with Bill LeFurgy of the Library of Congress
Digital photos, electronic documents, and other new media are fragile and require special care to keep them useable.   Hear about some simple, practical tips and tools to help you keep your digital memories safe.  Full description

The webcast starts at 2:00 PM in the Digital Instruction Resource Center (DIRC), 14N-132.  This event is free and open to the public.

Accidents Happen: What to do if your family treasures get wet

Posted April 26th, 2011 by Nick Szydlowski

Preservation Week Banner

As part of the American Library Association’s Preservation Week, the MIT Libraries are hosting a webcast today, April 26, 2011:

Accidents Happen: Protecting and Saving Family Treasures, with Nancy E. Kraft of the University of Iowa Libraries
Are your family treasures stored safely in your home or elsewhere?  How do you save your photos when they’ve been submerged in flood water?  What do you do if your books smell mildewy?  What if your basement floods or worse? Attend this session to learn answers to these questions and more.  Full description

The webcast starts at 2:00 PM in the Digital Instruction Resource Center (DIRC), 14N-132.  This event is free and open to the public.