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Conservation Services, Tozzer, and Harvard-Yenching Collaborate

At the Harvard-Yenching Library, general collections are studied, borrowed, well used—and in need of routine maintenance and repair. Harvard-Yenching, however, does not have a conservation lab—or space for one. Responding to the Harvard-Yenching's need for collections conservation, Conservation Services (in HCL's Preservation & Imaging Department), the Harvard-Yenching, and Tozzer Library collaborated this past summer on an innovative solution. Utilizing the skills of Rebecca Elder, a collections-conservation intern from the master's program at the University of Texas at Austin, the three units created space in the Tozzer conservation lab where Harvard-Yenching staff could work one day each week.

Elder arrived last January already equipped with extensive conservation training. After an initial orientation at Widener Library with Nancy Schrock, chief collections conservator for HCL, and Ethel Hellman, collections conservator for Widener Library, Elder began spending one day a week working on Harvard-Yenching materials at Tozzer. Though Harvard-Yenching staff members Horst Huber, Grace Gui Fang Wu, and Elliott Burke had little or no previous conservation training, they were eager to learn new skills and volunteered for the program. They began their training in July in the Widener lab, where Ethel Hellman taught them how to do minor repairs such as fixing torn pages, replacing missing pages, and adding new spines to damaged covers. Elder continued the program at the Tozzer site. The group performed 150 repairs working only five hours a week over five months.

"Sharing the Tozzer conservation lab and working alongside both Harvard-Yenching and Conservation Services staff has helped develop a sense of community between the three units," said Humberto Oliveira, preservation assistant at Tozzer. Elder's last day was August 21, but the conservation intern program will resume in January when a new intern arrives. Until then, Wu and Huber will keep up their "hand skills" and continue to repair the Harvard-Yenching collection by working at Widener one day a week.

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Last modified on Monday, November 17, 2003.