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Preservation Week Leads to MayDay

By Kayla Harris, Librarian/Archivist

Last week was Preservation Week, celebrated by the American Library Association, the Library of Congress, the Society of American Archivists, the Institute of Museum of Library Services and many other cultural heritage institutions. It is a time when librarians and archivists connect with those in the community to raise awareness about preservation concerns for collections and connect people with the resources and expertise they need to preserve our shared history.

Temperature, light, and humidity are some of the most damaging environmental factors for collections. It is common to find family letters, photos, and scrapbooks stored in attics or basements but the fluctuations in these areas can accelerate the deterioration process. Spaces with high humidity may foster the growth of mold whereas low humidity can make paper brittle and easier to tear. However, this is not cause to be discouraged. There are many steps you can take to save your family’s treasures and some are as simple as relocating your boxes of photographs to the main part of the house instead of the attic. Learn more about steps you can take at the Preservation Week website.

Following up on Preservation Week, today is known as MayDay. Taking a cue from the famous distress call ‘Mayday,’ the Society of American Archivists created MayDay as a reminder for archivists to always be prepared for the worst when it comes to preserving collections. Each year on May 1st archivists are asked to participate by doing something simple to enable them to better respond in an emergency situation. This might mean checking the contents of a disaster plan kit, ensuring that all collections are in boxes off the ground, or making a list of the most critical collections to save first in a disaster.

This year Preservation Week and MayDay are even more exciting at the Marian Library as we continue to move our special collection materials to the third floor of Roesch Library. In the new space, temperature and humidity fluctuations are controlled to help prolong the life of our materials on the Blessed Virgin Mary. At this time the rare books move has been completed, we have begun moving some of the unframed art, and the archival collections move will begin soon. For our specific MayDay action we will be reviewing and updating our disaster plan to reflect that we now have collections on both the third and seventh floors.

Take some time this MayDay to think about what valuable mementos you possess in your home and what action — no matter how small — you can take right now to ensure they are protected.

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