Conservation and Exhibition Services

Special Collections Conservation

The Special Collections Conservators are charged with the physical preservation of Princeton Library’s rare materials. These special collections include manuscripts, printed works, photographs, maps, and objects, and are housed in the Department of Special Collections, as well as the Cotsen Children’s Library, the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, the William Scheide Collection, Marquand Art Library, and the East Asian Library.

Activities include:

  • Conservation treatment of rare and special materials
  • Condition assessments for special collections materials being digitized, exhibited, or sent on loan
  • Analysis of materials to inform treatment and storage decisions as well as scholarly understanding
  • Assistance with emergency response



General Collections Conservation and Housing

The Collections Conservation unit ensures access to Princeton’s circulating collections via treatment, housing, and reformatting.

Sending materials to Collections Conservation

To reduce the amount of time items spend in the conservation lab, we limit the number each branch can send to 15 items per month for treatment, and no limit on items requiring enclosures.

*Please continue to send items for the bindery directly to the Binding Unit.

Typically items are routed to Conservation via the Circulation desk as damaged items are returned or requested by patrons. This ensures that we prioritize the treatment of materials used most often.
For treatment of materials outside of this workflow and special projects, please contact Conservation directly.

Request for Collections Conservation Services

Collections Conservation has implemented an online database for tracking and documenting each item that is treated or housed. When sending general collections items to Conservation, scan each item into the Request for Collections Conservation Services webpage found on the staff section of the library website. The webpage allows the sender to specify treatment or housing, enter any specific notes, or indicate a rush request with a return by date. Rush treatment can be requested for items needed quickly by faculty or students. For minor repairs (i.e. tip-ins, pockets, basic spine repairs), rush requests can be completed and returned within 24 hours. Other treatments require a minimum of two working days.
Senders can track materials they have sent by following the link at the bottom of the request page, which indicates when an item has been entered, received, and completed, and what type of treatment or housing the item received.
The database eliminates any need for paper slips or printouts, which are easily lost and less efficient. 


In-house treatment of circulating collections for Firestone, branch libraries, and ReCAP

A large percentage of circulating collections in need of repair are sent to the commercial bindery via Shelf Direct and Binding -- please send these directly to the Binding Unit. A portion of these, however, are selected to be treated in-house by conservation staff or selectors. The criteria for in-house treatment include the following:

  • Items with artifactual value, e.g. a book with a unique or decorative cover that should be preserved
  • Items published prior to ~1950. Items published before this date tend to be in more delicate condition and less able to withstand the commercial binding process.
  • Items with images that span across two pages or images that run into the gutter of the book (typically found in art and architecture books). The commercial binder trims a few millimeters from the spine edge of the book, thus some information might be lost.
  • Items that require minimal treatment, such as a tip-in for a loose page or pocket for loose materials.
  • Items with strong paper (see below for more information on brittle books).

Housing and Storage

Housing and storage options vary for special and general collections. Options for general collections include custom corrugated boxes for delicate items or items with multiple pieces, pamphlet bindings for thin materials, and manuscript boxes with folders for flat and unbound materials.

Orders for custom corrugated boxes are submitted monthly and require up to 8 weeks to ship from the vendor. 

For special collections materials, custom drop-spine boxes, wrappers, and other custom enclosures are constructed in-house. Preservation also assesses collections within the library to determine larger-scale housing and storage solutions.

Brittle Books

Once paper becomes acidic and brittle, the paper is too weak to repair.

Since brittle items cannot be repaired, brittle items in the general collections are routed from Conservation to the Collection Development Office. There the selector is given the choice to replace, box, digitize, and/or create a preservation facsimile of the item. The selector’s decision is based on factors including an item's availibility at Princeton and other institutions, copyright date, and value. Items identified for boxing and/or preservation facsimile are then routed back to Conservation.



Exhibition and Loan Support

Preservation and Conservation support the Library’s exhibit and loan program by ensuring the safety of collections while they are transported and displayed. This work includes condition assessments, conservation treatment, evaluation of environmental conditions in gallery spaces, and creation of custom exhibit mounts.