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Administration and Programs

Weissman Preservation Center


The Weissman Preservation Center (WPC), named in honor of Paul M. Weissman ’52 and Harriet L. Weissman, had a remarkably successful year. Conservation of Special Collections achieved impressive growth in numbers of items assessed and treated. The Photograph Preservation Program expanded bibliographic description of images significantly. Education and Outreach offered an array of services and products to the Harvard community and last year initiated an exciting new project to survey audiovisual materials in the collections. Lastly, collaboration with Periodicals Index Online continued to enhance access to valuable national and international journals. The WPC has grown and matured to become a recognized leader in library preservation.

Conservation of Special Collections

The WPC special collections conservation laboratory provides assessment and treatment services for special collections across the University. WPC conservators assess, rehouse, prepare for exhibit, stabilize, and strengthen priceless books, papers, and photographs. During FY 2008, the lab worked on 16,182 items—an increase of approximately 57% over FY 2007, making it the WPC’s most productive year to date.

A Selection of Collections Surveyed

  • 12,000 World War II vectographs from the Polaroid Collection—Knowledge and Library Services at Harvard Business School
  • 350 panoramic class portraits—Harvard Law School Library
  • 4,147 photographs—Harvard University Archives
  • 500 historical city maps for the Imaging the Urban Environment digital project—HCL’s Harvard Map Collection
  • 2,165 Chinese rubbings—HCL’s Harvard–Yenching Library
  • 156 items from the Rübel Treasure Room—HCL’s Fine Arts Library

A Selection of Collections Rehoused

  • 162 photographs of Latin-American architecture and art work from the Joseph A. Baird, Jr., Collection—Fine Arts Library
  • 4,147 photographs—Harvard University Archives
  • 5,000 glass plate negatives from the Angus McBean Collection—Harvard Theatre Collection

A Selection of Collections Treated

  • 37 American Revolutionary War–era military maps—Harvard Map Collection
  • 5 volumes of 18th-century business records belonging to members of John Hancock’s extended family—Knowledge and Library Services
  • 72-page scrapbook assembled by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.—Harvard Law School Library
  • 37 fragments of Greek papyri from Oxyrhyncus and the Fayum in Egypt—Houghton Library
  • 1681 Russian land grant on parchment with wax seal, cord, and pearls—Houghton Library
  • 104 historical city maps for Imaging the Urban Environment digital project—Harvard Map Collection
  • 195 photographs and 8 albums of photographs from the Edward Bangs Drew Collection—Harvard–Yenching Library
  • 136 water-damaged drawings—Harvard Theatre Collection
  • manuscript of Memoires d’Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar—Houghton Library
  • in preparation for the online Islamic Heritage Project, 35 rare Islamic manuscripts—Houghton Library
  • 18th-century score for selections from Arsace by the Italian composer Giuseppe Maria Orlandini—HCL’s Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library

Photograph Cataloging and Metadata Production

Photograph cataloging and metadata production increased almost 100% during the past year. The 68 collection-level records created in HOLLIS and the 998 item-level records created in OLIVIA provide description of and access to nearly a half million images. In addition, creation of 255 authority records and revision of 106 daguerreotype records improved the functioning of existing search modes.

Education and Outreach

The WPC provides preservation information and support to all 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. In FY 2008, we responded to 159 requests from inside and outside Harvard that ranged from how to deal with an insect infestation found in a new gift to cleaning mold from books in a faculty office.

Training Sessions in FY 2008

  • “Salt Prints” by Mark Osterman, International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House
  • “Digital Print Identification” by Martin Juergens,author of The Digital Print: Identificaiton and Preservation
  • “Pressure Sensitive Tape” by Thea Burns, Helen H. Glaser Senior Paper Conservator in the College LIbrary
  • “Galileo Galilei’s Sidereus Nuncius” by Theresa Smith, Paper Conservator in the University Library
  • “19th Century Publishers’ Bindings” by Todd Pattison, Northeast Document Conservation Center
  • “Chemistry for Bookbinders” by Daniel Kelm, founder. Garage Annex School for Book Arts
  • “Orientation to Library Collections Emergency Team” by Jane Hedberg, WPC Senior Preservation Program Officer

Additional brown-bag lunch presentations covered topics ranging from historical paper-making in Catalonia to map security.

AudioVisual Survey Project

Planning began in July 2007 to locate, identify, and judge the preservation needs of audiovisual materials in the libraries. Following on the success of the Photograph Preservation Program, this project is designed to achieve similar goals for rare or unique sound, video, and motion-picture film collections. The WPC will create an online survey tool that will be used jointly by preservation staff members and collection curators. Development of the survey tool will take place in three phases—prototype, pilot, and full roll-out, which is scheduled for FY 2009.

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 2008, the LCET was activated ten times to assist with collection rescue.

In FY 2008, Countway Library, Harvard Film Archive, Harvard University Archives, Houghton Library, and the occupant collections of Pusey Library sought and received assistance from LCET with emergency plan development.

Progress continued on the fire test for high-density storage facilities begun last year with FM Global. A new engineer assigned to the project received a comprehensive tour of the Harvard Depository, to assist in visualization and model creation. The WPC also hosted a day-long meeting in February for most of the participants. Next steps include FM Global designing a series of phased tests to explore the need for a full burn.

Collaboration with Commercial Publishers

The WPC manages the Harvard libraries’ significant contributions to the Periodicals Index Online (PIO) produced by Chadwyck-Healey⎯a division of ProQuest. The PIO provides access to digitized back files of hundreds of national and international journals that have become increasingly difficult to find. Instead of looking through countless printed indexes and bibliographies, researchers can now search journal contents by author, journal title, subject, language, year of publication, and date ranges in one research tool. This opens the content of Harvard’s, and other libraries, extensive journal collections to students, scholars, and researchers around the world.

This past year, 326 Harvard journals were identified, copied, and submitted for inclusion in the PIO. Out of that number, 106 had never been indexed before, while the remainder filled missing issue gaps.

The PIO made 158 new journals available online that had been copied in full at Harvard. The oldest of these newly accessible “Harvard” journals, World Affairs (Washington), goes back to 1828. PIO also published indexes to 384 new journals and added additional indexing for 99 other journals.

There are now over 5,500 journals included in the PIO, providing access to nearly 18 million article citations going back to 1665. Because of Harvard’s subscriptions to other online resources, there are direct links in PIO to Chadywck-Healey’s Periodicals Archive Online and JSTOR, allowing Harvard users to view the full text of 3.4 million of the PIO indexed articles. Users can also cross-search over 3.2 million articles within British Periodicals (BP).