Conservation FAQ

Conservators in the labThe core mission of a preservation program is to keep materials in usable condition for both current and future users. This includes monitoring the environment, providing training for the safe handling of materials, planning and training for disasters and developing sound policies that will extend the use of the collections.

Conservation, a subset of preservation, focuses on the physical protection and treatment of materials. Our goal is to save as much of the original materials as possible while being sure that they can be safely used by patrons without causing further loss or damage. For up-to-date information, follow us on Preservation Underground and Facebook.

What core services does the Conservation Services Department provide?

Our staff provides the following services to the libraries:

  • conservation services for books, flat paper and some non-print media
  • construction of custom housings
  • CoLibri™ book jackets for the New & Noteworthy and similar collections
  • digitization project support (pre- and post-imaging conservation services)
  • disaster recovery
  • education and outreach
  • exhibit preparation
  • handling and care training
  • pamphlet binding

Where do the materials come from that are in the conservation lab?

We get materials from both general collections (circulating) and special collections (non-circulating) from the Perkins Library system. They can come from several workflows including circulation, exhibits, digitization projects and technical services.

Currently about 23% of our work is from Perkins Library, and 61% is from the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The remaining work comes from the Music Library, Lilly Library and our other branches. Our fastest growing workflows are those that support the Library’s Exhibit Program and Digital Collections Program.

How can I support Conservation's work?

By donating to the Duke University Libraries Adopt-a-Book Program you directly support the Conservation Department and our mission. We will recognize your gift with an electronic bookplate that will display in the online catalog, and you will be acknowledged on our website (unless you wish to remain anonymous). This is a great way to honor someone important like your mom on Mother's Day, or to recognize an important event such as graduation.

How do you learn to be a conservator?

There are many paths to the conservation profession including learning from a master conservator (the traditional apprenticeship model) or through a post-graduate master's program in conservation of cultural property.

The following links provide more information on some of the training opportunities available in the United States and abroad, although the list does not imply endorsement by Duke University or Duke University Libraries.

Master's programs

Bookbinding

I have a book that needs to be fixed. Can Duke do that for me?

Conservation Services does not undertake private work. The following resources can help you find and work with a conservator either in  private practice or at a regional conservation center. Prior to hiring a private conservator or sending your materials to a regional conservation center, we encourage you to read the American Institute for Conservation documents on finding, choosing and working with a conservator. All AIC members agree to working within the AIC Code of Ethics and Guidelines of Practice

If after reading the AIC documentation you still have questions, please contact the Head of Conservation Services at (919) 660-5985. The University of Michigan has a brief but detailed document called "Please Repair My Book" that outlines things to consider prior to talking to a conservator or to a bookbinder. Also, see our Useful Resources section for more information including a few vendors that sell supplies for preserving and housing your personal collections.

American Institute for Conservation (AIC)

Regional Conservation Centers

Please note that this listing does not imply endorsement by Duke University or Duke University Libraries.

 
Many independent bookbinders offer boxing and repair services. Again, you should read the AIC documentation prior to hiring someone. You can often find reputable bookbinders through the Guild of Bookworkers or other regional bookbinding associations.