An innovative library condition survey

Any library, museum or archive should provide a stable collection which can be accessible to present and future generations. Since the last decades there has been an increasing awareness that the key to providing a stable collection is a stable environment [1]. As far as paper-based materials are concerned, mounting concerns of curators and conservators are for the acid paper. It is well known that the changes of the papermaking technologies over the period between 1850-1950 led to a dramatic unstable paper product, prone to a rapid degradation. Preservation programs and plans of libraries and archives have been generally based on collection surveys aimed at highlighting physical states and future needs of the objects. Such collection surveys performed so far involved mainly destructive and invasive techniques. However, the application of destructive and invasive methods is increasingly discouraged.

In this context, an innovative survey has been developed in collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Heritage of the University College of London (UK), and with the Istituzione Biblioteca Classense (Ravenna, Italy). This survey, combing recent findings in the field of paper characterisation and degradation, is aimed at investigating the current and future conservation state of an historical Italian collection housed in the numerous halls (Aula Magna, right figure) of the Classense Library (Ravenna, Italy).

About 300 books (left figures), dated between XIV and XX century, were analysed non-destructively and non-invasively using a combination of visual surveying techniques and NIR data. Chemical and physical properties (e.g., pH, DP, lignin content) will be available to characterise the collection. Further analyses of pH and DP data will allow to predict future conservation scenarios in different microclimatic conditions using damage functions recently modelled in the literature for historical paper [2].

[1] Cassar, M. Environmental Management: Guidelines for Museums and Galleries; Routledge: London, UK, 1995; ISBN 978-0-415-10559-0.

[2] Strlič, M.; Grossi, C.M.; Dillon, C.; Bell, N.; Fouseki, K.; Brimblecombe, P.; Menart, E.; Ntanos, K.; Lindsay, W.; Thickett, D.; et al. Damage function for historic paper. Part III: Isochrones and demography of collections. Herit. Sci. 2015, 3, 40.