Latest Posts

Do you know what roach poop looks like?

Have you ever thought about what kinds of knowledge and skills it takes to be a book conservator?  The University of Virginia Magazine did a nice job exploring the kinds of training that our Senior Book Conservator, Eliza Gilligan, has in order to ensure that our collections can continue to be used by the researchers of today and tomorrow:

Fixer of Books

Preservation Statistics: Why gather them? How are they used?

In the spring of 2015, as chair of ALA’s Preservation and Reformatting Section, I was searching for a good topic for the Preservation Forum.  Having completed several preservation surveys in the past year, some well-crafted and others less so, I found myself wondering why folks fill out preservation surveys (and why others don’t.)  How do preservation statistics get used?  It’s a deeply personal question for me, because I know that my job and my growing set of preservation services is a result of comparing our preservation statistics with that of our colleagues back in the days of the ARL Preservation Statistics.

So, last spring, I sent out a survey to see how folks were using their statistics, to seek out new creative ways to utilize statistics here, and to help encourage those reluctant to spend the time to gather stats.

I gave a presentation on the results of that survey in June at ALA at the Preservation Forum.  You can view it here:Preservation Metrics 2015

As you can see, folks have used their data to do a number of things.  How might we apply some of those ideas here?

U.Va. Celebrates Preservation Week with Talk on Preservation Decision-Making

Come join us as we celebrate Preservation Week with a lecture by Quinn Ferris, our graduate intern from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts Conservation Center.  Bring your lunch and we’ll supply some sweet treats!

Balancing Access and Authenticity:  Preservation at University of Virginia’s Access-Focused Special Collections Library

Quinn Morgan Ferris
Conservation Intern, University of Virginia Library
Friday, May 1, 2015
12:15 P.M.
Byrd-Morris Room
3rd Floor
Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature, and Culture
Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library

Quinn Ferris

Quinn Ferris

At the University of Virginia, the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library administers approximately 17 million manuscripts and archival records, as well as rare books, maps, photographs, audio visual materials and ephemera—accessible to the public and used by faculty, students, and staff. Occasional and semester-long classes integrate rare material, and the extended building hours and minimal access restrictions ensure that both students and outside researchers alike are able to make the best use of these uncommon artifacts. In fact, access is so central to the collection that the acquisition policy discourages purchase of materials if handling restrictions need to be imposed for use.

But how do we encourage access/use through handling while also safeguarding the continuing life of the artifact? U.Va. Library’s multi-faceted approach to preservation helps to support the continued care and access of these materials both within Special Collections and beyond. This talk will discuss the activity of the preservation department, as well as consider questions that drive preservation decision-making. How do we avoid restoring function at the cost of bibliographic and historical evidence that is crucial to these study objects? When is minimal treatment—or no treatment at all—preferable to complete restoration? Using the case study of a recent treatment, we consider how to craft balanced methodologies using varied approaches with long-term preservation in mind, yet driven by the context of an access-focused academic institution.

Conservation Intern Works with Civil War Materials

jeannefeltsThe University of Virginia Library offered a six-week conservation exhibition internship this summer to help with preparation for the Special Collections exhibit about the Civil War due to go up this October.

Jeanne Goodman was selected for the internship and working under the supervision of our library book conservator, Eliza Gilligan, performed conservation treatments and exhibit prep on items selected for the show.

Jeanne says:  This summer I had the opportunity to work within the University of Virginia’s Special Collection Library to help prepare an upcoming exhibit on the Civil War. Over a hundred items were selected by five different curators and … Read the whole story and see pictures of her work.

Preservation Services Lab Open House



Tuesday, April 29 to Thursday, May 1: 10 a.m.-noon

Did you ever wonder what happened to that book you checked out with the cracked binding? What about the 19th century volume with broken sewing? Come check out what happens to books that need a little TLC before returning to the shelves for use.


Tuesday, April 29, Wednesday, April 30 and Friday, May 2 2-4 p.m.

When was the last time you saw an audio cassette player? Or a turntable? If you wonder how the University Library is preserving our legacy audio formats, come visit the audio reformatting lab.

(Enter from middle of building and turn right)
Tuesday, April 29 to Thursday, May 1: 10 a.m.-noon

Where else in the Library can you see a fume trunk, an oversized sink to wash books in, and a hot air pencil?

Summer Internship in Conservation

architectural stackThe University of Virginia Library is pleased to offer once again a six-week internship for the summer of 2014 in the Preservation Services Department working with the Book Conservator for the University Library Collections. The purpose of the internship is to perform conservation treatment on a collection of architectural drawings from the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. The architectural drawings are a mixture of blue prints and original tracings from the archive of Edmund Schureman Campbell, who was a professor of architecture at the University of Virginia from 1929-1950. The drawings will be assessed by the intern and prioritized according to complexity of treatment and available time within the schedule of the internship. The intern will write a treatment plan for each selected drawing and maintain the written documentation throughout the treatment process.

The Campbell drawings display a variety of damage consistent with age and frequent handling that can have a high impact on the physical state of working architectural drawings. Likely treatments include dry cleaning, adhesive and pressure sensitive tape removal, paper mending, humidification and flattening, and use of an ultrasonic welder to encapsulate selected drawings. Pre-treatment photo documentation will be performed by the library’s Digital Services Department prior to the intern’s arrival. It is expected that the intern will participate in the after-treatment photo-doc at the end of the six week internship.  The intern will be required to give a presentation to library staff at the end of the internship, describing the project overall and highlighting a few specific details from the treatments.

Treatment will be performed in the UVa Library Conservation Lab, a small but well-equipped facility with a 4 foot x 6 foot treatment sink, de-ionized water system, fume trunk, suction platen, and the usual tools. The treatment will be performed under the supervision of the Book Conservator for Library Collections and in consultation with the Library Curator for the University Archives.

The Library is offering a $4000 stipend to support the internship, generously supported by Brad and Margery Lee. The internship can be scheduled for any consecutive six-week period between June 16, 2014 and September 1, 2014. We will be accepting applications until the position is filled. The ideal candidate will have prior treatment experience with architectural drawings.

Applicants should send a resume, letter of interest, and contact information for three professional references via email to:

Eliza Gilligan
Book Conservator for University Library Collections

Applicants must be a US citizen.


The Preservation Services Department has selected Barbie S. Dailey for the 2014 summer conservation internship. Barbie is an American citizen who has lived in Pondicherry, India for more than 40 years and has worked at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram as a book and paper conservator in their Archives and Research Library. Barbie has participated in several visiting consultancies throughout the world in order to broaden her training and bring skills back to her colleagues at the Ashram Archives. Her particular interest in the project at the University of Virginia Library arose from a similar project she and her colleagues are mounting in their archive. The architectural drawings from the Edmund Campbell archive are from the same time period and encompass the same printing processes as those associated with Golconde, a dormitory building in the Ashram that was built in the early 1940’s. The treatment techniques that Barbie learns in her time at UVa will be of great value to her home institution.

When Marginalia and Ephemera are Part of the Story

s book1Kara says: This book came across my workflow the other day with a strange note, “See box cover for explanation.” Intrigued, I turned the box over to read what would cause this book to get special treatment. It turns out that this book is not like most others. There is a story, Ship of Theseus, but that is only the beginning—because this work is really about the interactions of two readers who read the same copy of Ship of Theseus. They leave behind writing in the margins, postcards and photographs, and notes written on napkins! So my challenge was how to preserve the whole work as a book that was going to be circulated. With items deliberately stuffed in between pages—items essential for the story—how did I keep them from getting lost? Find out how (more pictures after the jump).

s book2

The Pechas Project


The University of Virginia Library holds one of the most complete Tibetan Collections in the world. A significant portion of the collection includes about 3,300 pechas or prayer scrolls. Preservation Services had to find a way to house them safely to prevent damage and allow them to be used by library patrons. Learn how we did it!


Mystery Solved!

Tip InKara says:  This piece of paper sat on my truck of mysteries for several months. It was given to me by the circulation staff—who perhaps found it lost and lonely in the stacks or in a pile of books. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to track down the book I thought it might have come from—we had two copies of the book and it’s quite popular and often not on the shelf. Not wanting to interrupt patron use of the item, I bided my time. Several months ago, I determined it did not come from the other copy of the book. That copy was intact and complete, but this copy has only recently returned to the shelves. I am happy to report that the missing page and its book are now reunited again! We will tip the missing page back into the book and it will be as good as new.

WSLS-TV News Film Collection Launches Online

Roanoke children receive their Salk polio vaccine shots, 4/25/1955.

A still from the news film collection: Roanoke children receive their Salk polio vaccine shots, 4/25/1955.

Leigh says:  The WSLS-TV news film collection has been part of the life of Preservation Services for so long that the public access launch of its clips and scripts on August 5 seems anticlimactic. Of course, the release of the collection online is the whole reason why we’ve been working so hard over the past five years. It’s really a time of exuberance and satisfaction for everyone who worked on the project.

The approximately 13,000 clips and 18,000 pages of anchorperson scripts from WSLS-TV in Roanoke, Va., from 1951 to 1971 will be presented online in batches over the next few months. The first 3,400 or so are browsable at the collection’s Virgo homepage at or searchable by keyword in the larger Virgo catalog. Or check out an online exhibit about the collection.

The WSLS collection has been so important in my work life, it’s as if I’m sending my baby out into the world. I feel personally responsible for any mistakes in the description of the clips, any substandard viewing experience of the videos, any means of confusion with access to the collection online, and any disappointment in the collection’s intellectual content. Silly but true.

I sincerely hope that the collection will become a valuable asset to students and scholars, as well as the general public. At any rate, I like it. It’s my own moving image time capsule.