By JOHN SAYERS
Everyone who has old family photographs, important papers or special books that are fading, yellowing and growing fragile faces the perennial problem of how to preserve them.
More than 600 concerned collectors -- including professional librarians, historians, genealogists and hobbyists -- came to the Library's James Madison Building on April 21 for the third in an increasingly popular series of annual Preservation Awareness Workshops. The event, free and open to the public, was co-sponsored by the Library's Preservation Directorate and the Center for the Book as part of National Library Week.
While the event organizers continued to offer attendees expert advice on handling, cleaning and storing important papers and valuable family photographs, each year new features have been added. "We are responding to the public's needs and interests, said Director for Preservation Diane N. Kresh. "We have added new features because we want to offer information on a full range of preservation options to individuals who come to the Library with important family treasures."
The highlight of this year's seminar was a visit by "The Book Guys" of public radio fame. Dr. Billington was interviewed by hosts Allan J. Stypeck and Mike Cuthbert as they taped two episodes of the program. In addition, C-SPAN taped and later aired the programs, which also included interviews with Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole and other workshop attendees.
Mr. Stypeck also offered free appraisals of old books, prints, photographs, manuscripts and sound recordings, reviewing more than 1,000 items during the day. Also, members of the American Institute for Conservation were on hand to assess the condition of personal books, documents and photographs and to offer storage advice and possible conservation treatment options.
Attendees could view the film "Into the Future," produced by the Council on Library and Information Resources, which examines the critical issue of preservation of knowledge in the electronic age, and attend lectures by Library staff on the care, handling and storage of books, paper and prints, home movies and videos, audio recordings and photos.
Sporting matching T-shirts over their professional attire, Library staff contributed to the relaxed, fair-like atmosphere of the exhibitions and presentations. Particularly popular were staff demonstrations of conservation techniques such as gold tooling, paper mending, book sewing, matting and hinging of works of art on paper. Attendees could view old prints through a microscope to determine how to identify the manufacturing. Also, visitors learned how paper is tested to determine the degree of brittleness. Framed enlargements of artwork that had been treated at the Library were on display.
Staff answered questions and provided printed information on the handling, cleaning and storage of books, papers and documents, fine prints, photographs, CDs, sound recordings and motion picture film. Library staff shared the room with representatives of nonprofit professional associations in the preservation field as well as companies that manufacture and distribute conservation products.
The first Preservation Awareness Workshop, held in 1996, proved so successful that the Library decided to make the workshop an annual event. According to workshop coordinator Amparo R. de Torres, the seminar has outgrown the Madison Building and will be held next year in the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building on April 13, 1999. "It has really been a team effort," said Ms. Torres, thanking the more than 120 Library employees who contributed to the success of the event.
Visitor evaluations of the workshop were overwhelmingly positive: "An excellent combination of LC preservation activities and advice with vendor display of a wide range of products" ... "Before, preservation was a low priority for me as both reader and librarian. Now, I am more concerned as I see to what lengths the LC goes" ... "How else can you reach the experts free of charge?"