For the last four months I have been interning at a local museum cataloging and documenting a collection of books in their possession. In fact, today was my last day of working on the collection, and although I have several weeks of reports and write-ups ahead of me (so I can’t really call my project “over”), I am already missing the opportunity to explore the volumes.
These books came into the museum’s possession at the same time as the historic building housing the museum; which is to say that the collection was received as a package deal on the terms of accepting the property. Now, if there was one mantra the professors redundantly reiterated repeatedly throughout my program, it was “No gift is free.” All donations come with a price, be it through donor expectations, upkeep costs, long-term preservation, care and maintenance, whathaveyou. Books almost doubly seem true to this statement, as their mixture of materials, hefty combined weight, and particular storage methods give rise to a number of preservation concerns and requirements.
These books are no exception–languishing in an air conditioned (but not temperature controlled) storage room, many suffer from centuries of dust build-up, insect damage, humidity and moisture, and, apparently at some point in the past, fire and smoke damage. That said, many of the textblocks are still in fine enough condition that I believe that they have a happy future ahead of them.