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Preservation 101  

Last Updated: Sep 18, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Defining Preservation & Conservation

Photo from the National Bureau of Standards

What is Preservation?
Preservation includes the activities that prolong the usable life of archival records. Preservation activities are designed to minimize the physical and chemical deterioration of records and to prevent the loss of informational content.

What is Conservation?
Conservation attempts to preserve records in their original format. Conservators examine records and evaluate their condition and the materials that contain them. Conservators then recommend corrective treatments to stop deterioration or to improve their condition. As they perform the recommended treatments, conservators carefully document the condition of the record as well as the procedures performed and materials used.

Why is preservation important?
In 2005 the first comprehensive national survey of the condition and preservation needs of the nation’s collections reported that U.S. institutions hold more than 4.8 billion items. Libraries alone hold 3 billion items (63 percent of the whole). A treasure trove of uncounted additional items is held by individuals, families, and communities.

Some 630 million items in collecting institutions require immediate attention and care. Eighty percent of these institutions have no paid staff assigned responsibility for collections care; 22 percent have no collections care personnel at all. Some 2.6 billion items are not protected by an emergency plan. As natural disasters of recent years have taught us, these resources are in jeopardy should a disaster strike. Personal, family, and community collections are equally at risk.


Preservation Faux Pas

The dos and don'ts of handling library materials. Fun "vintage" video produced by the Preservation staff at Kansas State Libraries Preservation Working Group.

Subject Guide

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