The Harvard University Library is pleased to announce the naming of the Weissman Preservation Center in honor of a generous gift from Paul M. Weissman and Harriet L. Weissman. The gift adds to the distinction of the Library and advances its mission to preserve Harvard’s vast library collections for future generations of students and scholars.

“The Harvard Library collections are a significant part of what makes the University a great center for scholarship and teaching,” noted Sidney Verba, Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library. “The University has no higher responsibility than to steward those collections for current and future generations of Library users. Preservation is an overwhelming need among Harvard’s libraries. The reformatting of brittle materials and the conservation of rare books and manuscripts is not well understood by most of us who use research collections. The Weissman’s gift demonstrates their deep understanding of what is at stake if collections remain at risk. Their generous support will enable the Preservation Center in the University Library to kindle further understanding of this important work.”

At a ceremony held March 20 to celebrate the Center’s naming, Provost Harvey Fineberg unveiled a plaque and thanked the Weissman’s for their remarkable gift, saying, “The efforts and accomplishments of the Weissman Preservation Center in the Harvard University Library will stand as a living demonstration of Paul and Harriet’s profound understanding of the importance of preservation to scholarship at Harvard. Their gift will ensure that present and future scholars and students will have access to Harvard’s incomparable collections.”

During the celebration, guests were treated to a tour of the Center along with displays of conservation and brittle-books microfilming projects currently underway. On view were an extraordinary range of objects currently being conserved, including the beautiful work Insectes et Plantes de Surinam (1726) by Maria Merian, who traveled to the Dutch colony of Surinam in 1699 to illustrate the lush tropical insect life there; Novi Herbarii, by botanist Otto Brunfels, who wrote on herbal pharmacology and compiled practical pharmacological texts for physicians and apothecaries; water colors by the great ornithological painter Louis Agassiz Fuertes; and Civil War battle drawings and notes by Frank Vizetelly, who covered the war for British readers and whose work often appeared as engravings in The Illustrated London News.

In thanking Mr. and Mrs. Weissman, Jan Merrill Oldham, Malloy Rabinowitz Preservation Librarian in the Harvard University Library and the Harvard College Library said, “The naming of the Weissman Preservation Center in the Harvard University Library cannot be viewed out of context with Paul and Harriet Weissman’s founding of the Weissman International Internship Program, which offers to Harvard College students an exceptional opportunity for professional, intellectual, and personal growth through a combination of work, observation, instruction, and cultural immersion. Reports from student participants are remarkable evidence of the Program’s success.”

So too the libraries at Harvard offer an exceptional opportunity for professional, intellectual, and personal growth. Here skill understanding and passion have been brought to bear on the amassing of information resources equaled only in a very few research institution worldwide. Many of the published materials that pass through the Weissman Center for reformatting were collected comprehensively only at Harvard. And, many of the materials that we conserve are the unique products of research, scholarship and artistic achievement.

The Weissman Preservation Center in the Harvard University Library, together with Preservation & Imaging Services in the Harvard College Library, administer programs dedicated to ensuring that Harvard’s library collections remain accessible for teaching and research. The Weissman Center, in addition to managing a conservation laboratory where rare books, manuscripts, maps, prints, drawings, and other rare and unique materials of extraordinary research and artistic value are conserved, provides a range of services to the libraries at Harvard.

These include advisory services regarding collections care, conservation, microfilming, digitizing, and micropublishing; assistance with preservation program development; field services (collections surveys, environmental monitoring, emergency preparedness); and grant writing and project management. Currently the Center, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, is managing a program to microfilm decaying nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts in the history of science (medicine, astronomy, anthropology, and botany) from the Countway, Wolbach, Tozzer, Widener, and Botany libraries.

Copyright © 2000 The President and Fellows of Harvard College