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Care and Preserve 2004

By Daria D'Arienzo

The Friends Care and Preserve Program is now in its fourth year. This experiment, initiated in 2001 by Chairman Sam Ellenport and the Library's Preservation Officer, Daria D'Arienzo, can now be considered a full-fledged annual Friends program and a rousing success. Every day, throughout the Library, we see the results of Care and Preserve. The program was created to broaden the Library's book repair and preservation program to include complex conservation treatment for individual items from the general and reference collections and the rare material in the Archives and Special Collections. It offers members of the Friends the opportunity to "adopt" a single item (from a list prepared and sent out in January) that is at risk of deterioration without treatment from a professional conservator. The program also supports larger preservation projects and broad areas that need more attention through contributions to the general Care and Preserve fund.


One of the drawings by Mary Hitchcock, showing South College standing alone in 1821, the first College building to be built.

We continue to have generous contributions. At the half year mark, our 2004 solicitation has brought $6,135 from 28 people, with more contributions arriving regularly (the report for the 2004 items will be in the 2005-06 Friends Newsletter). Response over the short life of the Care and Preserve Program has been most encouraging: Friends are building on the $7,288, $8,292, and $12,045 raised in previous years.

These resources allow us to make the Library's practical working tools, worn by years of extensive use, as well as the unique and original items, available to our students and faculty—and indeed to all our patrons—without compromising their safety or shortening their useful lives.

Everything on the 2003 project list has been completed with a single exception, archival boxes for the Bloom Alternative Press Collection. Though disappointed that funds were not raised for these 550 boxes, the need remains. We look to the future to undertake another partnership with University Products (preservation supplies maker and distributor in Holyoke, Massachusetts). The first partnership, the design and creation of protective enclosures for the plates from Edward Curtis' The North American Indian, was a success for both parties.

The 2003 items that have been preserved include: five important drawings of the College from its earliest days (three from the early 1820s by Mary Hitchcock, daughter of President Edward Hitchcock and artist Orra White Hitchcock; one from 1835 by Francis Marsh; and one from 1827 by Joseph Howard, Class of 1827); a manuscript autobiographical note from poet Robert Frost to John Gallishaw; eleven panoramic photographs of the College, ca. 1909–1922; three 18th-century maps that document the French and Indian War; and about forty custom-fitted cloth-covered tray cases for our early illuminated and other fragile manuscripts. Many of these volumes came to the Library as the gift of Arthur Henry Baxter, Professor of Romance Languages, who taught from 1900 to 1937. The manuscripts are used more and more frequently by classes at Amherst and the other four colleges, and the boxes for them were supported by a single special gift.


A panoramic photograph labeled "Grove Exercises at Amherst, June 29, 1915," which was conserved last year. Before treatment, the photograph had been tightly rolled, was dried out and cracked, and could not be viewed.

Use by the very people we serve puts Library materials at risk. But our books and manuscripts and photographs exist to be used. All Library materials also need a stable environment. Books, photographs, electronic and audio-visual resources are affected by temperature, humidity, light, and pollutants. Modern paperbound items are inherently at risk of deterioration by the nature of the materials from which they were created.

The Care and Preserve Program is about balance. We preserve to provide better access for a longer time. This program helps the Library address these preservation issues and provide item-level solutions. Care and Preserve funds enable Library materials to remain available to our academic community for teaching and research. It is a great comfort to be able, without compromising their safety, to allow continued access to items that were once at risk. Each conserved item receives a label or bookplate acknowledging the donor and the support through the program.

The Friends' support for Care and Preserve makes a difference. No matter where the evolution of library resources takes us, there will always be a need to care for and preserve what we already have.