The Conservation Division at the Library of Congress ensures the preservation of the Library's special collections by undertaking condition surveys and (re)housing projects, conducting condition assessments, basic stabilization, and full treatments, and participating in the management of collections storage, exhibitions, loans, digitization, and other projects.
Beyond the Library, the Conservation Division furthers the field of conservation by hosting advanced conservation internships -- in which conservation program students spend a year in the conservation laboratories to complete their graduate education -- and with a staff active in research and publishing.
The step-by-step process to examine and conserve “outsider artist” Martín Ramírez’s 1951 drawing, Untitled (Madonna in Landscape with Cars), highlights the analysis, treatment, and preparation of the work for exhibition and afterwards, for preservation storage.
"Treatment Considerations for a Newly-Discovered Drawing by Martín Ramírez," the Library's 74th Topic in Preservation Series lecture (with video streaming on demand).
The treatment of Torii Kiyonaga's "Two Beauties under a Cherry Tree" (1782-83) for the Library's 2012 exhibit, Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship, included selective reversion of blackened red lead pigment and provided an opportunity to investigate the materials and techniques of its production, which resulted in a related study, Characterization and Identification of Colorants in a Japanese Pillar Print.
The multiple preservation problems of seven allegorical engravings of music motets required a range of treatment techniques, including testing, cleaning, backing removal, humidification, washing, light bleaching, re-sizing, drying and flattening, lining, mending, infilling, hinging, matting, and boxing.
A case study of conservation decision-making to balance stabilization of a deteriorated object with respect for the object’s history and material culture.
An example of how a relatively simple treatment often still requires sophisticated decision-making.
The conservation story behind one of the Library's serendipitous finds -- a misaddressed work of art that languished in poor environmental conditions of the U.S. Postal Service Dead Letters Office for decades.
Bach to Baseball Cards celebrates 200 years of preservation at the Library of Congress. It aims to illustrate the creative preservation solutions that have been used at the Library to preserve and protect the Library's rich, diverse collections for future generations.
In preparation for digitization, Norman Schatell's graphic personal narrative of his naval enlistment in World War II was stabilized and rehoused.
The Library’s Geography & Map Division holds one of the world's largest collection of globes. Conservation staff developed a standardized housing solution for over 300 globes differing in material composition, construction, size, and weight in preparation for moving the globes to the Library's optimized storage facility in Fort Meade, Maryland.
To celebrate the Library’s Bicentennial, in 2000 Congress conceived the Local Legacies Project to document the creative arts, crafts, and customs found across the United States. Congress members and their constituents sent the Library's American Folklife Center thousands of objects, including clothing, toys, buttons, food, and other items unusual for library collections. The range of items required various innovative, but efficient, housing solutions to serve the dual needs of preservation and access.
Conservators conduct surveys of collections to gather information necessary to prepare for treatment, rehousing, moves, and other activities that may occur on a large scale. For the Law Library's pre-1801 books, Conservation developed a survey model that enabled only two staff members working part-time on the project to efficiently and accurately gather information about the collections, from which housing and treatment projects for over 10,000 books could be planned.
After half a century in a damp Georgetown rowhouse basement, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Herbert Block's 14,400 original political drawings and 50,000 rough sketches came to the Library. It took conservators more than five years to clean, treat, and custom house the drawings and sketches, which may be seen on rotating exhibit in the Library's Herblock Gallery.