Library faculty recognized at Celebration of Teaching Excellence

Maoria Kirker and Wendy Mann were recognized at the 2021 Celebration of Teaching Excellence today, an annual event hosted by the Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning at Mason.

Maoria Kirker, Lead of the Teaching & Learning Team at the Libraries and adjunct faculty with the Honors College, received the Adjunct Teacher of Distinction Award. Teacher of Distinction commendations are awarded based on an instructor’s teaching innovation and excellence, commitment to their students, and mentorship activities, among other qualities. To read more about Maoria’s accomplishments and recognition from her students and colleagues, click here for an article written by Mariam Qureshi, Honors College Writing and Reporting Intern (and one of Maoria’s students).

Wendy Mann, Director of the Digital Scholarship Center, received the Distinguished Library Faculty Award. The Distinguished Library Faculty Award is awarded to a library faculty member in recognition of their professional accomplishments, embodiment of the Libraries’ organizational values, and support of the Mason scholarly community. To read more about Wendy’s accomplishments and recognition from her peers, click here for the Libraries’ announcement.

Preservation and Conservation at work

Following up on Preservation Week, Amanda Brent, Processing Coordinator in the Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, has written a piece examining the difference between preservation and conservation, with an example from our special collections.

In the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC), or in any archives for that matter, you hear the words preservation and conservation tossed around a lot – and for good reason! For though archivists are the stewards of hundreds of linear feet of collections and rare books, we don’t always have the resources to repair the inevitable damage that befalls the collections in our care. Damage can occur for a multitude of reasons, and is oftentimes, quite simply, unavoidable. Sometimes collections or purchased records arrive at our repository damaged, or sometimes they accrue damage over time due to the format degrading. However, just because a record or collection is physically damaged, does not necessarily mean that the research value is damaged. In fact, because the research value and uniqueness of the item is of the utmost importance, we call on our friendly preservation librarians and conservators to help us out.

Preserving items is an essential function in archives, one that keeps records safer for longer, so that researchers can continue to use them for as long as possible. Preservation is also a continuum, ranging from fixing specific damage on an item or collection, ensuring proper housing of items, managing climate and pest control in your repository, to ensuring your repository’s building is up to snuff. But what exactly is the difference between preservation and conservation?

Preservation

Preservation in archives is defined as “the professional discipline of protecting materials by minimizing chemical and physical deterioration and damage to minimize the loss of information and to extend the life of cultural property.”[1] In SCRC specifically, “preservation” generally means we can identify and solve the problem in-house with the help of our amazing Head of Preservation Services, Amy Sullivan. “Solving the problem” can entail mitigating and halting the cause of damage, and in some cases repairing the item. An example of this would be repairing a structurally unsound book binding, repairing rips and tears in a document, or getting a fragile item out of an old frame. Preservation also encompasses Digital Preservation, which is a whole other discipline that could be discussed at length another time.

Conservation

Conservation, on the other hand, is defined as “The repair or stabilization of materials through chemical or physical treatment to ensure that they survive in their original form as long as possible…Conservation counters existing damage, as distinguished from preservation, which attempts to prevent damage.” However, “Conservation does not always eliminate evidence of damage…”[2] Occasionally, we have to send off an item/items to be conserved – this generally occurs at the nexus of a) the item is damaged beyond the repairing capability of our in-house staff and b) the record is deemed of such archival value and importance that repairing it becomes a priority.

An Analogy

Let’s use a medical analogy to clarify the varying relationships between these cultural heritage experts in an instance of something needing conservation. A patient (a damaged record or collection) gets a routine check-up from their GP (the archivist), who sees them regularly and knows their medical history. The GP notices something wrong with the patient in their encounter – perhaps something they cannot fully address by themselves – and then refers the patient to a specialist. The specialist (or in this analogy the preservation librarian) can further identify the issue at hand and what the patient truly needs in order to address the issue satisfactorily. In some cases, the specialist might recommend surgery. And that’s when a surgeon (the conservator) comes along to fix or mitigate the damage. The GP, specialist, and surgeon, or in other words, the archivist, preservation librarian, and conservator all have differing and important roles, but working together as a team is essential to caring for the record or collection in question.

An Example

One such collection in SCRC, the Grant of Thornton land from Malcolm de Chastillon to Robert, son of Robert Symond (C0401) from 1327 C.E., was recently sent out for conservation at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC). The item, which was acquired in relatively stable condition for its age, was deemed by SCRC archivists and the Head of Preservation Services to be in need of conservation. Though the item could be stored unharmed in our stacks, we were concerned about future patrons handling the item and therefore perpetuating the damage it had already suffered during its 694 years of existence. So, off to NEDCC it went and below is the conservation plan they proposed and that we accepted:

  • Tension mount parchment onto a double-sided window mat with Japanese paper strips using wheat starch paste. The paper strips will be attached to the perimeters of the mat using Jade 403 and wheat starch paste.
  • A sealed package will be created by sealing the window mats, object and archival backings between two pieces of UV filtering acrylic glazing with Scotch #805 archival sealing tape.
  • Create an archival fluted box to store the sealed package.

And here is the final result! Now this collection can be easily accessed by patrons in a manner that is safe for all, and will ensure the longevity of the item.


[1] https://dictionary.archivists.org/entry/preservation.html

[2] https://dictionary.archivists.org/entry/conservation.html

Graduate students survey on journal access

The University Libraries is conducting a survey to learn about Mason researchers’ journal usage and access needs. As journal costs outpace library budgets, the Libraries has been forced to shift some journals from a subscription-based model to an alternative access model, in which articles are available via Open Access or Interlibrary Loan (ILL).  

The survey for graduate students is available here and will remain open from Monday, May 3 through Monday, May 17, at 11:59 p.m. The survey is anonymous. Survey responses will be used within the Libraries only, to inform journal subscription and renewal decisions. A separate survey has been circulated to faculty.

If you have any questions about this survey, email Dr. Helen McManus, Head, Collections Strategy, at hmcmanus@gmu.edu

To learn more about the Libraries’ recent efforts to further sustainable collection practices, visit our Sustainable Collections site

Join the conversation about Preservation Week

At the Mason Libraries, the mission of our preservation program is to promote and assure long-term access to our collections. This can include a number of efforts, from physical book repair to ensuring collections safety to disaster planning, and more.

Amy Sullivan, Head of Preservation Services at Mason Libraries, will be joining a panel discussion about Preservation Week with Brooke Morris-Chott of the American Library Association and Katie Risseeuw of Northwestern University, facilitated by Jason Byrd of Adelphi University, this Friday, April 30 at 1:30 p.m. You can view the conversation on Instagram @adelphilibrary IGTV.

Amy will also be co-teaching an upcoming (and sold-out) session of ALA CORE’s Fundamentals of Preservation, a four-week online course that introduces participants to the principles, policies, and practices of preservation in libraries and archives. You can follow some of Amy’s work on Instagram @gmupreservation.

Preservation Week – a collaborative effort supported by the American Library Association and many organizations – is a public awareness initiative that aims to promote preservation and conservation in communities with the help of libraries, institutions, and museums.

During this week, ALA is offering free webinars on “Collecting and Preserving after Tragedy” and “Introduction to Community Archiving” – available here. The Library of Congress is also offering a daily webinar series this week, covering a range of topics.

New exhibit – Sanctuary: The Zines Edition

Sanctuary: The Zines Edition features the work of students in the Mason School of Art “Zines and Self-Publishing” class, led by Emily Fussner. This exhibition is held in parallel with a larger exhibit, Sanctuary, organized by artists and arts management students at Mason.

Students considered a single question, “What does sanctuary mean to you?,” and responded with these intimate works that invite readers into personal, sometimes vulnerable spaces while also offering comfort and connection. The zines are exhibited in a hybrid virtual/physical space, with copies on display in Fenwick Gallery and online. Printable versions of each zine are included on the artists’ individual pages, allowing viewers to keep their own, personal copy of each work.

Sanctuary: The Zines Edition is curated by Fenwick Gallery GRA Andi Benge, with exhibition support from the Art and Art History Librarian, Stephanie Grimm.

Please note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to the Fenwick Gallery in the Fenwick Library is currently limited to Mason students, staff, and faculty. Please enjoy our virtual exhibit if you are unable to visit campus.