Crazy Smart Conservation LabLibrary books don’t always age gracefully. They get dropped. Their spines crack. Their pages get penciled and stained.

Paper is perishable. The same goes for almost everything else libraries collect. Eventually every book, map, photo and cherished manuscript in Duke’s hallowed stacks will succumb to age, use or chemical processes.

But here at Duke University Libraries, we’re working hard to halt the ravages of time.

Consider the Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab. Most people who walk into Perkins Library don’t even know it’s there. Tucked away in a secure nook below ground, it’s something of a cross between a chemistry lab and an artist’s studio. But the entire university benefits from what goes on inside.

Our experienced team of conservation professionals employ a range of tools and techniques to maintain Duke’s extensive research collections — from comic books and maps to archival photos and medical instruments — so that students and researchers can continue using them for a long, long time. It’s intricate, time-consuming work, equal parts scientific know-how and time-honored craft. But without it, some of our most valuable scholarly and cultural treasures would be in a lot worse shape.

That’s not just smart. That’s crazy smart.

To learn more about the Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab, visit the Conservation Services Department website and the Preservation Underground blog.

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