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Archives and Special Collections to benefit from NEH grant
Monday, December 17, 2007

Jeremy Linden, head of Archives and Special Collections

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a $5,000 grant to SUNY Fredonia to establish a preservation environment monitoring program at the Archives and Special Collections housed at its Daniel A. Reed Library.

Jeremy Linden, head of Archives and Special Collections, is excited about what the Preservation Assistance Grant funding will accomplish at SUNY Fredonia as well as how it stands to benefit other collections housed in the lakeshore region.

“The fact that it will allow us to purchase the preservation environment monitors and complete the larger project goal of measuring the preservation environment at Fredonia, and then share that information with other regional repositories, really takes us to a new level of collections management at the university,” Mr. Linden said.

The grant will fund the purchase of seven monitors, one for each of Reed’s archival storage areas, as well as a software application called Climate Notebook and additional equipment from the Image Permanence Institute, which created the tools and software.

After one year of monitoring, the data and Climate Notebook software will be analyzed to determine the effects of temperature and relative humidity on the library’s archived material, Mr. Linden explained. The derived data can be used to estimate the amount of time the collections will last in their current storage areas before they begin to deteriorate due to environmental conditions, he said.

Monitors will take readings of temperature and relative humidity every five minutes. The resulting data is to be entered through the Climate Notebook software for analysis and comparison with outside temperature and relative humidity levels. From there, a time-weighted preservation index, which factors temperature and humidity levels over a period of time, will be used to estimate the number of years that organic material may last.

“Using these estimates, and the raw data collected, we can make informed decisions regarding our collections areas – whether the environment is safe, or whether we need to make improvements in order to protect the holdings of the university,” Mr. Linden said. “This equipment and software will allow us to study the effect of the local environment on our collections and the (ventilation) systems that maintain the environment in which they are stored.”

Environmental data gathered at Reed Library will be unique to the facility, but the information can provide insight for all repositories, such as museums, public libraries and local historical societies which maintain historical collections, that are situated along the lakeshore and experience similar environmental conditions.

The final year-long analysis will be packaged as a report, and the staff from surrounding repositories will be invited to SUNY Fredonia for a demonstration of the monitoring equipment, a tour of the storage areas monitored, and a discussion of the findings and how they may be interpreted and what inferences may be drawn regarding the environmental conditions of storage areas within the lakeshore region, Mr. Linden said.

Major holdings of the library’s Archives and Collections include the archives and history of SUNY Fredonia, local history collections devoted to Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, the Stefan Zweig Collection, the Holland Land Company collection and Native American collections.

The Preservation Environment Monitoring Project at SUNY Fredonia is funded by a We The People grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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