New York Public Library

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Overview/Mission

The mission of The New York Public Library is to inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities.

Background of the Institution

The New York Public Library (NYPL) has been an essential provider of free books, information, ideas, and education for all New Yorkers for more than 100 years. Founded in 1895, NYPL is the nation’s largest public library system, featuring a unique combination of 88 neighborhood branches and four scholarly research centers, bringing together an extraordinary richness of resources and opportunities available to all.

Serving more than 17 million patrons a year, and millions more online, the Library holds more than 51 million items, from books, e-books, and DVDs to renowned research collections used by scholars from around the world. Housed in the iconic 42nd Street library and three other research centers, NYPL’s historical collections hold such treasures as Columbus’s 1493 letter announcing his discovery of the New World, George Washington’s original Farewell Address, and John Coltrane’s handwritten score of “Lover Man.”

In the always expanding digital realm, The New York Public Library provides patrons worldwide with powerful online tools to help them discover its extensive resources and services. On nypl.org visitors can browse the Library’s immense collections, download e-books, and view more than 800,000 items from our award-winning Digital Gallery. Through Ask NYPL our librarians are available to answer patron questions on any topic at any time.

Supported by both public funds and private donations, The New York Public Library embarks on its next 100 years passionately committed to meeting the ever-changing needs of our patrons. For the millions who depend on us in this, the world’s most vibrant and diverse city, NYPL is more important than ever. [1]

History of the Laboratory/Studio

NYPL has one of the oldest institutional preservation programs in the United States, with activities dating back to the 1911 opening of the landmark building, now known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. The Barbara Goldsmith Conservation Laboratory cares for objects from Divisions within the Schwarzman Building, the Library for the Performing Arts (Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center) and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The Lab preserves both the artifacts that comprise the Library’s vast and diverse collections as well as their intellectual content.

NYPL Bindery operations began in 1913 with a staff of seventy, two years after the library opened. All binding and "collections maintenance" activities for the NYPL were performed by this unit until the bindery was closed in the late 1970's. Restoration work transitioned to preventative conservation activities in the 1980s. The Phased Treatment and Collections Maintenance Unit (PT/CMU) of the Conservation Lab formed in 1988 as an attempt to deal with preservation needs and treatment of low-use artifactual material in the non-circulating general stacks of the Research Libraries and repair requirements of heavily-used open shelf reference materials. [2] It has developed along with the field of conservation and carries out its work in accordance with the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice.

In addition to treatment, exhibition preparation, and preventative activities, the Barbara Goldsmith Conservation Lab special collections conservators serve as advisors, consultants, and liaisons to the Library's curatorial divisions by providing conservation recommendations and assisting in selecting collection materials for treatment. The Conservation lab also coordinates the care and treatment of the Library’s collections that are not treated in-house, including paintings, sculpture, murals, textiles, and objects.

In the mid-2000s the Goldsmith Conservation Laboratory added photographic conservation to complement the established book and paper conservation treatment activities. Thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the NYPL conducted an institution-wide survey to ascertain the scope of the NYPL's photographic holdings and how to best care for the diverse preservation needs of the entire collection. Over 130 photographic repositories were identified within the New York Public Library (NYPL) including branch libraries, research library divisions, and administrative departments.[3]

The Library has produced videos that illustrate some of the activities undertaken in the conservation lab.

Staff History

Conservators

Current staff:

Mary Oey, Head of Conservation
VACANT, Senior Book and Paper Conservator
VACANT, Senior Conservator for Exhibitions
Grace Owen-Weiss, Associate Conservator for Rare Books and Paper
Denise Stockman, Associate Conservator for Paper
Alex Bero, Associate Conservator for Books

Lab Assistants

Current staff:

VACANT, Conservation Technician

Conservation Interns

The Goldsmith Conservation Laboratory has welcomed graduate-level interns from among the ANAGPIC programs:

Year Name Program
2019 Cat Stephens NYUIFA
2011 Renee Wolcott WUDPAC
2008 Fletcher Durant UT

Facilities

In April 2010 NYPL opened the Library Services Center, a 145,000 square foot facility in Long Island City, Queens. The building, a state-of-the art complex, brings together the library divisions that acquire, prepare, preserve and distribute library materials. All spaces where special collections materials are processed, imaged, or preserved have controlled environments.

The Barbara Goldsmith Conservation Laboratory has custom-designed lab benches, light tables, and dedicated areas for wet conservation work, dirty work (leather and wood), examination, photographic documentation, and disaster recovery. It also features highly specialized equipment such as a light-bleaching apparatus. The suite includes a secure storage room for collection material awaiting treatment coordinated with the Library Registrar, a section of the Preservation Division.

References

"Barbara Goldsmith Conservation Lab," accessed June 6, 2017.

Banta, Melissa, Paul Messier, Andrew Robb, Brenda Bernier, and Robert Burton. "A Methodology for Surveying Photograph Collections." Harvard University Library Preservation White Paper. 2012. Accessed 10/26/2015. http://library.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/HLPS_Photograph_Survey_Methodology.pdf

Martinez, Jo Anne and Marc Reeves. "Collections Maintenance Activities at the New York Public Library, Research Libraries." The Book and Paper Group Annual 11 (1992).

"About The New York Public Library," accessed October 23, 2015, http://www.nypl.org/help/about-nypl

Stenstrom, Anna. "The Development of Interventive Conservation Treatment Techniques: Procedures for the Repair of Artifactual Library and Archival Materials." The Book and Paper Group Annual 16 (1997).

Further Reading & Viewing

Baker, Whitney, and Liz Dube. 2010. "Identifying Standard Practices in Research Library Book Conservation." Library Resources & Technical Services 54 (1): 21-39.

Etherington, Don. "Historical Background of Book Conservation: The Past Forty Years." Collection Management 31.1-2 (2007): 21-29. Taylor & Francis Online.

Coombs, Elizabeth I., “What Treatment Means: Interviewing Curators, Collectors, Dealers, Art Historians, and Conservators.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 22 (2003): 17-23.

Teper, Jennifer Hain, and Melissa Straw. “A Survey of Current Leather Conservation Practices.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 30 (2011): 131-151.

Social Media

Articles by Staff

Anderson, Priscilla and Sarah Reidell. “Adhesive Pre-Coated Repair Materials”. BPG Annual 28 (2009): 109, 111-113.

Arteni, Stefan and Sanchez-Posada De Arteni, Myriam. “Painter, manufacturer of artists' materials, and conservator: historical and aesthetic significance of their role in the survival of a painting.” In ICOM Committee for Conservation 6th triennial meeting, Ottawa, 21 - 25 September 1981. Preprints. ICOM, Paris (1981): 9.

Arteni, Stefan and Sanchez-Posada De Arteni, Myriam. “Color mixtures, a clue to the study of oil paintings.” In Fourth International Restorer Seminar, Veszprém, Hungary, 2-10 July 1983. Tímár-Balázsy, Ágnes (Editor). Központi Muzeumi Igazgatóság (Hungary), Budapest, Hungary (1984): 121-134.

Arteni, Stefan and Sanchez-Posada De Arteni, Myriam. “Glass sub-surface painting in Romania, 17th to 20th centuries.” In ICOM Committee for Conservation 7th triennial meeting: Copenhagen, 10-14 September 1984: preprints. Froment, Diana de (Editor). International Council of Museums, Paris, France (1984).

Arteni, Stefan and Sanchez-Posada De Arteni, Myriam. “Critical evaluation of data on the composition of ancient materials. Part I: structural components of the paint layer. Part II: paints and techniques.”In ICOM Committee for Conservation 7th triennial meeting: Copenhagen, 10-14 September 1984: preprints. Froment, Diana de (Editor). International Council of Museums, Paris, France (1984).

Arteni, Stefan and Sanchez-Posada De Arteni, Myriam.“From handcraft to mass production: notes on the manufacture of oil painting materials.” In ICOM Committee for Conservation 7th triennial meeting: Copenhagen, 10-14 September 1984: preprints. Froment, Diana de (Editor). International Council of Museums, Paris, France (1984).

Arteni, Stefan and Sanchez-Posada De Arteni, Myriam. “Materials of the artist: the survival of traditional grounding and priming methods for oil painting.” In ICOM Committee for Conservation 7th triennial meeting: Copenhagen, 10-14 September 1984: preprints. Froment, Diana de (Editor). International Council of Museums, Paris, France (1984).

Arteni, Stefan and Sanchez-Posada De Arteni, Myriam. “The secret of the masters: historical controversies and hypotheses.” In ICOM Committee for Conservation 7th triennial meeting: Copenhagen, 10-14 September 1984: preprints. Froment, Diana de (Editor). International Council of Museums, Paris, France (1984).

Sanchez Posada De Arteni, Myriam. "A short survey of the new exhibition department of the New York Public Library." In Fifth international restorer seminar, Volume 1. Eri, Istvan and Gabriella Sarkozy (editors). National Centre of Museums, Budapest, Hungary (1985): 41-48.

Arteni, Stefan and Sanchez-Posada De Arteni, Myriam. “Drawing materials and water-base mediums.” In Conservation, restoration of leather and wood: training of restorers: Sixth International Restorer Seminar, 1987 Veszprém, Hungary. Éri, István; and Sárközy, Gabriella (Editors). Központi Muzeumi Igazgatóság (Hungary), Budapest, Hungary (1988) pp. 449-456

Arteni, Stefan and Sanchez-Posada De Arteni, Myriam. “Peinture, restauration, et société.” In ICOM Committee for Conservation 8th triennial meeting: Sydney, Australia, 6-11 September 1987: preprints. Grimstad, Kirsten (Editor). The Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, California (1987): 525-531.

Sanchez-Posada De Arteni, Myriam. "Tales of Japan": a travelling exhibition of Japanese art from the New York Public Library.” In The conservation of Far Eastern art: preprints of the contributions to the Kyoto Congress, 19-23 September 1988. Mills, John S.; Smith, Perry; and Yamasaki, Kazuo (Editors). International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, London, United Kingdom (1988): 95-97.

Durant, Fletcher. “Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group 2010: Conservation in the 21st Century: Revisiting Past Practices and Their Evolution in Institutional Settings: Digitization-Driven Large-Scale Treatment Projects: Old Volumes with New Needs and Considerations.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 29 (2010): 91-92.

Haun, Werner, and Laura McCann. “Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group 2009: Library Collections Conservation 2.0-New Directions-New and/or Adaptive Materials, Methods and Technologies Used in the Conservation Treatment and Housing of Library Collections.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 28 (2009): 107-114.

Knipe, Penley, Nancy Ash, Scott Homolka, Stephanie Lussier, Sarah Reidell, and Kristen St. John. “BPG Discussion Groups: That Was Then, This is Now” AIC News Vol. 37, No. 3 (May 2012), p. 1, 3-5.

Martinez, Jo Ann and Marc Reeves. “Collections Maintenance Activities at the New York Public Library, Research Libraries.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 11 (1992).

McCann, Laura and Sarah Reidell. “Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group: Digitization Project Case Studies”. BPG Annual 27 (2008): 115-117.

Owen, Grace and Sarah Reidell. “Cast Composites: A System for Texturing Repair Materials in Book Conservation” Topics in Photographic Preservation 14 (2011): 250-262.

Owen, Grace, and Sarah Reidell. “Cast Composites: A System for Texturing Repair Materials in Book Conservation.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 29 (2010): 92-93; 98-105.

Reeves, Marc, Anna Stenstrom and Myriam Sanchez-Posada De Arteni. "Aspects of examination and treatment of parchment materials. Part 1: Design and construction of a magnetic mount microclimate system for the Towneley Lectionary miniatures Part 2: Notes on the eighteenth-century Mapa de la Sierra Gorda in the New York Public Library collections." In International conference on conservation and restoration of archive and library materials, Erice, Italy, CCSEM, 22-29 April 1996, preprints, vol. I, Roma, Istituto Centrale per la Patologia del Libro, 1996, p. 355-361.

Reeves, Marc and Anna Stenstrom. "The New York Public Library Preservation Database: online artifactual treatment documentation management system." In IADA preprints 1999: 9.e IADA-Kongress, København, 16-21 August, 1999 = 9th IADA-congress, Copenhagen, August 16-21, 1999. København: Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Conservation. 1999, p. 47-50.

Reidell, Sarah. "Indian Coloured Drawings: Modern Repair Techniques for an Album of 19th Century Paintings on Mica." The Book and Paper Group Annual 33 (2014): 71-81.

Reidell, Sarah. “Book and Paper Group Tips Session 2013: Contemporary Treatment-Tips and Techniques.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 32 (2013): 80-90.

Smith, Shelly. “Book and Paper Group Tips Session 2013: Contemporary Treatment-Tips and Techniques 'Action Bias'.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 32 (2013): 88-89.

Stenstrom, Anna. “The Development of Interventive Conservation Treatment Techniques: Procedures for the Repair of Artifactual Library and Archival Materials.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 16 (1997).

Stenstrom, Anna and Marc Reeves. “The Use of Fluid Dispensing Equipment in Conservation Treatment.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 23 (2004): 89-92.

Stockman, Denise. “Treatment Options for Oil Stains on Paper.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 26 (2007): 115-126.

Stockman, Denise. “Unilateral Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Studies of Oil Stains on Paper.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 28 (2009): 21.

Interviews & Media Appearances

Carlson, Jen. "NYPL Discusses That Old Book Smell," last modified April15, 2010, http://gothamist.com/2010/04/15/old_book_smell.php

Public Radio International: The World. "The sweet smell of literature" Hosted by Marco Werman, April 14, 2010, http://www.pri.org/stories/2010-04-14/sweet-smell-literature

Singer, Heidi. "From Vault to Exhibition Gallery: Conserving Library Treasures." The Huffington Post. N.p., 25 Oct. 2010. Web.

"The New York Public Library." Martha Stewart Living. Martha Stewart Living Television, n.d. Web.


Main Catalogs Page  • History of Conservation and Conservators
Conservation Laboratories and Studios
  1. http://www.nypl.org/help/about-nypl
  2. Martinez
  3. http://library.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/HLPS_Photograph_Survey_Methodology.pdf