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Administration & Programs

Weissman Preservation Center

Weissman Preservation Center


The Weissman Preservation Center (WPC), named in honor of Paul M. Weissman ’52 and Harriet L. Weissman, operates on a collaborative model in which librarians and conservators supported by the Harvard University Library (HUL), the Harvard College Library (HCL), and other Harvard libraries and archives work in a shared facility. Together they leverage their skills, knowledge, and resources to provide high-quality services that support teaching and learning at Harvard and beyond by ensuring that the University’s library resources survive for the very long term.

In FY 2007, the Weissman Preservation Center moved to state-of-the-art facilities in HUL’s new multiservice building at 90 Mount Auburn Street. This advantageous move has led to an overall increase in productivity for the Weissman Preservation Center, making FY 2007 the WPC’s most productive year to date.

Conservation of Special Collections

The WPC conservation laboratory provides assessment and treatment services for special collections across the Harvard University Library. In FY 2007, WPC conservators worked both in the Harvard libraries and at 90 Mt. Auburn Street to assess, re-house, stabilize, and strengthen priceless books, papers, and photographs from eighteen different collections. During the year, the lab treated 9,188 items, an increase of approximately 100% over FY 2006. While this increase is largely due to the new building, several other factors must be noted.

  • Staff increased by one conservator, two technicians, and two interns from the Kilgarlin Center for Preservation of the Cultural Record at the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Conservators worked on projects in teams, thereby increasing efficiency.
  •  A “quick repair” program developed for HCL’s Houghton Library, in which treatments requiring less than two hours each were performed onsite, thereby eliminating transportation time to and from the lab, was extended to HCL’s Loeb Music Library.
  • The new photograph conservation program reached maturity, offering a range of services and treatments not available before.

Among the collections assessed were:

  • folio and portfolio rare books and photographs from the Tozzer Library (a unit of the HCL);
  • designs associated with Max Reinhardt, theatrical director and producer, from the HCL’s Harvard Theatre Collection;
  • maps from the Bohdon and Neonila Krawciw Ucrainica Antique Map Collection at Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute and HCL’s Harvard Map Collection;
  • photographs of North America from the Peabody Museum Archives;
  • plastic photograph materials from the Polaroid Archives in Baker Library Historical Collections at Harvard Business School (HBS);
  • photographs of Teddy Roosevelt from Harvard College Library; and
  • photographs in the Aga Khan Program at HCL’s Fine Arts Library.

Among the collections re-housed were:

  • glass-plate negatives from the Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library;
  • glass-plate negatives and lantern slides from the Fine Arts Library;
  • an early 20th century Fez album from the Aga Khan collection in the Fine Arts Library;
  • photographs from the Robbins Library of Philosophy (FAS);
  • glass plates, lantern slides, negatives, and cyanotypes from Baker Library Historical Collections; and
  • photographs from the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature (FAS).

Among the items treated were:

  • the Harvard Charter of 1650 from the Harvard University Archives (HUL);
  • fire insurance atlases of Boston and Cambridge from the Harvard Map Collection;
  • accordion-style volumes of Buddhist song tales from HCL’s Harvard–Yenching Library;
  • illuminated manuscripts from Houghton Library;
  • 16th- through 20th-century maps from the Bohdon and Neonila Krawciw Ucrainica Antique Map Collection at the Ukrainian Research Institute and the Harvard Map Collection;
  • documents from the Nadia Boulanger collection in HCL’s Loeb Music Library;
  • bound manuscript letters of the American Unitarian Association from the Andover–Harvard Theological Library at Harvard Divinity School (HDS);
  • 19th-century photographs from the Edward Bangs Drew Collection at the Harvard–Yenching-Library;
  • daguerreotypes and cartes de visite from the University’s historic Artemas Ward House;
  • daguerreotypes from the Peabody Museum Archives;
  • Lewis Hine and Margaret Bourke-White photographs from the Baker Library Historical Collections; and
  • lantern slides from Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Digital Initiatives

The WPC provides guidance to the Harvard community in creating sustainable digital collections through digitization and the acquisition of digital works. Working closely with colleagues in the HUL Office for Information Systems (OIS), the WPC advocates workflows to produce open-standard-compatible digital objects. When deposited to the HUL Digital Repository Service (DRS), these works receive professional stewardship for the very long term. Program accomplishments in FY 2007 included:

  • co-developing the workflow and technical specifications to acquire preservation copies of 4.2 million pages (ca. 21,000 volumes) produced by Thomson Gale in digitizing the Kress Collection of Business and Economics from Baker Library Historical Collections;
  • collaborating to evaluate tradeoffs between quality and file size in developing specifications for page images in mass digitization;
  • conducting a detailed quality audit of page images being delivered to Harvard in the Harvard–Google Project;
  • responding to community requests for advice on digitizing collections of text and visual materials, including a library request to identify and evaluate book scanners;
  • contributing to the University of North Carolina’s DigCCurr project to build an international digital-curation curriculum; and
  • evaluating “digital film” as a component of archiving cultural heritage materials.

Preservation Cataloging and Metadata Production

The seventh microfilm project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities ended on June 30, 2006. During FY 2007, staff members worked on special projects as the preservation cataloging program was gradually phased out. The Harvard College Library funded cataloging of 562 titles (570 volumes) of Slavic materials, chiefly in Ukrainian and Russian. HCL and Wolbach Library funded cataloging of 63 titles (103 volumes) of astronomy materials. All of these titles will be filmed and processed by HCL Imaging Services.

Work continued on two web-accessible collections developed by HUL’s Open Collections Program (OCP): Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics and Immigration to the United States, 1789–1930. Staff members updated the circulation records for Countway Library titles that had been filmed during the seventh NEH microfilming project and selected for digitization and inclusion in Contagion.


Photograph cataloging and metadata production increased significantly throughout FY 2007. Assessments, conservation treatments, and digital projects generated six related intellectual control projects. In preparation for the Fine Arts Library’s move out of the Fogg Museum building, the WPC cataloged 60 collections containing almost 284,000 photographs. The Edward Bangs Drew collection at the Harvard–Yenching Library required eight group-level and 560 item-level records. The Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature began a multi-year cataloging project that resulted in 77 item-level records during this first year. Digitization of photographs from the Artemas Ward House resulted in 185 item-level records. Digitization of photographs from the Soviet Information Bureau collection in the Fung Library resulted in one collection level, 24 item-level records, and an EAD-compatible template for use in creating a finding aid.

Education and Outreach

The WPC provides preservation information and support to all the Harvard libraries and the Harvard community. Through general educational programs, specialized training sessions, brown-bag lunches, documentation, and reference services, staff members provide expertise on a variety of preservation topics to anyone in need.

During FY 2007, we held eight programs and training sessions:

  • “Library Materials Salvage Workshop,” offered by the Library Collections Emergency Team, on October 5, 2006;
  • “Strategies for Safeguarding Audiovisual Research Collections,” by Dietrich Schueller of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, on December 8, 2006 (co-sponsored with HCL’s Loeb Music Library);
  • “Proper Handling of Library Materials,” for the staff of the Harvard–Google Project by Jane Hedberg, WPC’s preservation program officer, on January 3, February 22, and March 22, 2007;
  • “Managing Mold” and “Integrated Pest Management,” by Howard Herman-Haase and Gary Alpert of Harvard’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety, on March 8, 2007;
  • “Incunables,” by Scott Husby of Princeton University, on June 15, 2007; and
  • “Bibliographic Searching,” by Mary Beth Clack, interim co-head of research services in HCL’s Widener Library, on June 18, 2007.

Brown-bag lunches are an effective and enjoyable way for staff members to share experiences and expertise across the boundaries of the University. In FY 2007, WPC brown-bag lunch presentations included:

  • “Selection for HCL Imaging,” by Todd Bachmann, associate head of HCL imaging services, on September 27, 2006;
  • “Historic Bookbindings,” by Pamela Spitzmueller, WPC’s James W. Needham Chief Conservator of Special Collections, on January 10, 2007;
  • “Dickinson Herbaria,” by Leslies Morris, curator of modern books and manuscripts in HCL’s Houghton Library, on January 17, 2007;
  • “Shore Lines,” by Joseph Garver, reference librarian in HCL’s Harvard Map Collection, on February 28, 2007;
  • “3 R’s of Digital Stewardship,” by Steve Chapman, program manager for HUL’s Open Collections Program, on March 14, 2007; and
  • “Photo Cataloging,” by Robert Burton, WPC’s project cataloger for photographs, on June 27, 2007.

Training student workers and new staff members to handle collections in non-damaging ways is a constantly recurring activity. To reduce the burden on staff members in the libraries, WPC redesigned the online slide show developed for the HCL Social Sciences Program so it could be used by any library. View “Care and Handling of Library Materials: Training for Library Staff.” 

The WPC fields a broad range of preservation questions and requests for assistance. In FY 2007, we responded to 153 requests from inside and outside Harvard that ranged from how to safely clean library collections to how to best preserve architectural drawings of Fenway Park. 

Preservation Web Sites

Library Preservation at Harvard, the web site that can be found at, is one of the WPC’s most effective methods of communicating with the far-flung Harvard community. On June 12, 2007, we launched a completely revamped version that has a new look, a new organizational scheme, and new content, which should make it easier for users to find the assistance that they need.

Harvard’s iSites platform enables secure communication among restricted groups of Harvard users. During FY 2007, the WPC developed an iSite for preservation, initially used to facilitate information sharing about emergency preparedness and response. The Preserve iSite is now also used for education/training and general administration.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

The Library Collections Emergency Team (LCET) provides advice and salvage expertise whenever library collections are threatened or damaged. Members of the team monitor a cell-phone hotline and work with the University Operations Center to respond during emergencies. During FY 2007, the LCET was activated six times to assist with collections rescue.

The WPC assisted the Harvard Depository in conducting an experiment to determine how library materials shelved in high-density storage behave when wet. On September 20, 2006, staff members hosed down a specially constructed mock range of books and papers, situated outside the HD building, and took careful notes while observing the progress of the damage. The results were surprising and required a redesign of the proposed method for clearing HD shelves during potential water emergencies.

See “Wet Books in High-Density Storage: What Really Happens and What We Can Do About It” by HD Director Thomas Schneiter.

In addition, the WPC and HD are working with colleagues at other institutions to improve our collective understanding of the ways in which fire develops, spreads, and can be extinguished in high-density storage facilities. During FY 2007, FM Global, a leader in loss prevention research and engineering, agreed to investigate the question and to conduct a simulation burn at its research facility in Rhode Island. The results of this test will be very important for the design of future storage facilities and their fire suppression systems.

Collaboration with Commercial Publishers

Harvard remains a very fruitful source for the Periodicals Index Online (PIO) and has been a significant contributor of content during FY 2007.

Staff identified 382 Harvard journals for inclusion in PIO either as full runs (from start year through to 1995) or as updates to existing runs. Of these 382, 130 were brand new, with the remaining 252 copied to fill in missing issues or bring indexing up to 1995.

In FY 2007, the PIO added content from 107 new journals that were copied either in full or in part at Harvard during previous years. It also added indexing for 286 new journals and extra content details to the entries for another 280 existing journals. The oldest of these new “Harvard” journals, Archiv für die civilistische Praxis, dates back to 1818.

There are now over 5,000 journals published in the PIO, providing access to nearly 17 million article citations going back to 1665. Within PIO, there are direct links to both Periodicals Archive Online (PAO) and JSTOR, which allow users to view 3.2 million indexed articles. Add to this OpenURL outbound linking, which can be applied to all citations, and the PIO reveals a large amount of otherwise hidden journal content.