Preservation Department Timeline

For over three centuries, the University has been a place for assembling, protecting, and sharing recorded knowledge. Library preservation at Yale predates the creation of a department by many decades. Rare book restorations, book care, repair and binding, and innovative experiments in microphotography foretell today's modern methods. Do you recognize elements of the present-day Preservation Department and preservation methodologies?

In the early 1970s, a Preservation Department was established at Yale University Library. Yale's Preservation Department would be one of the early leaders in the field: being one of only four libraries with any program at all by early 1980. The new department started a review and decision process. Subject specialists reviewed catalog information and worked with preservation staff to select the best preservation option available. The Conservation Studio was designed and built: a model for other conservation studios of that era.

The Yale University Library Preservation Department receive grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (1979 and 1985, respectively) that allow the department to be innovators in the field; the grants provide money to train over 40 interns, create training slide shows and handouts, and perform the first comprehensive, statistically accurate preservation condition survey in the United States. Yale University Library's Preservation Department is taking shape.

Yale's Preservation Department publishes its collections condition survey with results that were already suspected: the number of brittle volumes in the collection is alarming - over 40 percent. This survey spawns the national crusade for solving the "brittle books" crisis. Yale receives one of the first National Endowment for the Humanities Brittle Books Microfilm grants and begins the battle against crumbling texts in the stacks.

Combining new technology with the old starts off the 1990s in the Preservation Department at Yale with Project Open Book, in collaboration with Cornell University. Collections Care becomes a permanent unit within Preservation, and National Endowment for the Humanities grant programs continue to preserve Yale Libraries' collections - in the 1990s, NEH grants will have filmed and preserved over 20,000 volumes.

Entry into the new millennium sees the renovation of the Yale Sterling Memorial Library stacks and the inception of an off-site shelving facility. Both of these buildings now have climate control to preserve volumes for decades to come. More preservation tools such as environmental monitoring software and mass deacidification are put into use to preserve Yale's collections.

Last modified: 
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 2:44pm