Preservation Week isn’t just for Archivists! From the helpful minds over at the State Archives of North Carolina AND the State Library of North Carolina, here are some handy tips to keep your records safe and usable for years to come!

History For All the People

This week is National Preservation Week and our sister organization the State Library of North Carolina is doing a series of preservation related posts over on the Government and Heritage Library Blog. Two new things they are talking about as part of that series are their YouTube tutorial about preserving Facebook data and the CINCH (Capture, Ingest, & Checksum) tool, which will help to automate the process of file preservation.

Another of the State Library’s posts gives an excellent handout version of our tips for preserving your own papers and records. Here are some of the most important things to think about:


  • Keep your temperature and humidity stable.  Ideally, keep your temperature at 72 deg. F. and the relative humidity in the 40-55% range.  Fluctuations in humidity are more damaging than fluctuations in temperature.  No record likes to be too hot, dry, or damp.  If you…

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Theatrical tinsel prints at the Folger Shakespeare Library

From the Folger Blog:

Tinsel prints are a unique English art form from the early and mid-19th century. They are typically composed of metal foils, fabric scraps, leather, feathers, and any other suitable material glued onto printed portraits of actors and actresses. 

Theatrical tinsel portraits have their roots in “patch portraits,” which were introduced to England by French prisoners of war in the late 18th century. This technique was embraced in England as a perfect home craft. Initially only the prints were acquired from the print dealer shop, and the metal sheets were cut out by the amateur tinseller to embellish his character. From the 1830s on this divertissement caught on so that you could acquire your embellishments in shops selling portraits and plays. The various metal tinsel shapes were produced by a gunsmith with an array of steel punches or dies that he would use for stamping out the different shapes and sizes, such as swords, helmets, spurs, or even minute dots to embellish the sword. These embellishments were varnished or glazed in a variety of colors, often red or green.1

Today this form of art has become quite rare, the remains in some forgotten attic. But in 2003, the Folger Shakespeare Library received the Peggy Cass and Carl Fisher Collection of Tinsel Prints, consisting of 53 prints from the 1830s and later; this collection greatly expanded the Folger’s holdings, placing it among the world’s major collections of this art form. Actress Peggy Cass is best known for creating the role of Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame, for which she won a Tony Award and was nominated for an Oscar. Later, she was a regular panelist on To Tell the Truth and other television game shows. Her daughter inherited the collection, and gifted this portion to the Folger.

Read more on how Folger Conservator Rhea DeStefano took a step forward and started saving these amazing pieces of history! 

Seal of approval

The American Antiquarian Society, located in Worcester, MA, aims to collect, preserve, and make accessible “one of every item printed through 1876 in British North America, or what became the U.S., Canada, and the West Indies.” Recently, through investigation and valuable side-tracking, Abby Hutchinson, the Editor of the Soceity’s newsletter, did some interesting research on the offical Seal the society uses in their publications and branding. Caroline Sloat, Director of Book Publishing, comments on Ms. Hutchinson’s findings on the AAS blog and discusses how a simple interest can uncover a breadth of knowledge. 

The motto that appears on the seal, “nec poterit ferrum nec edax abolere vetustas,” is from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book 15, l.872), and when combined with line 871, reads “Now I have completed my work, which neither sword nor devouring Time will be able to destroy.” Thomas’s choice of a text seems to speak for itself—or does it? It can be considered a sign of his anticipation of a secure future for the Society, but these lines might also have held special resonance that might not have come from reading Ovid’s narrative poem.

If you’re ever in Massachusetts and fancy a lovely walk, do head over to the AAS in Worcester. Their enthusiasm and aptitude for preservation and teaching others the value in primary-resource research is encouraging and infectious!

Indian archives in peril!

Poor storage conditions, sticky fingers, and lack of solid government aid/management now leave several (if not dozens more) archival collections without chance for preservation or location.

From the NYTimes article by Dinyar Patel, quoting historian Ramachandra Guha:

“Archives are the lowest priority for any government,”…“They are staffed by government officials on punishment postings rather than trained professionals.” Furthermore, many institutions are housed in substandard structures. Open or broken windows are common, exposing historical documents to humidity and boiling hot temperatures, while allowing in the elements, insects, and the occasional animal. In the fall of 2010, several scholars were startled to find a monkey wandering through the research room of the National Archives. Termites and bookworms also have gutted the holdings of many institutions.”

For more, please visit the NYTimes article by clicking on the link above. 

New York Bound Books- now digital!

New York Bound Books once called Rockefeller Plaza their home. Since 1997, however, when they lost their lease, they’ve been building their online presence by documenting the very city they call home. From the website:

As if on cue, when the bookshop closed, I began an annotated reference and guide of the city’s literature from its pre-settlement days to 1950, with descriptions as well as excerpts and illustrations to bring old New York to life. The content is based on New York books and ephemera I came across and catalogued for more than thirty years, as well as knowledge gleaned from dealers’ rare book catalogues, newspaper articles, illustrations and other oddments I saved since the South Street Seaport days. In short, this part of the website is a “bibliopedia” of New York writings., however, will offer much more than bibliographical material. There will be links to relevant booksellers, libraries, archives, institutions and other websites that are largely obscure. New York Boundpublished four books of New York interest in the past, and this tradition will continue.

New York City history thrives on the voices of those who lived it. Every member of this diverse community understands the gradual evolution of their surroundings, and how throughout those changes, small pockets of the original city peek through, maintaining the struggles that transpired along the way.

Please frequent for more historical and current NYC musings. I know I will!